Returning home from war is one of the biggest challenges a veteran faces. In the MTV News special "Choose or Lose & Kanye West Present: Homecoming" — which airs tonight (Monday, July 28) at 10 p.m. ET — Kanye West and MTV's Sway Calloway surprise three veterans with visits to their homes. Kanye and Sway listen to their stories, thank them for their contributions to the country, and then help the vets confront their challenges, including debt and adjusting to civilian life.
"There are hundreds of thousands of veterans who have fallen through the cracks," Kanye says in the show. "I wanted to hear their stories."
West is visibly moved by the veterans' stories. "This past year I suffered a lot of losses," he says, referring primarily to the death of his mother, Donda. (The MC's Dr. Donda West Foundation and MTV are providing most of the money for the gifts to the veterans.) "I know my music inspires people, but you can always do more."
One vet, 25-year-old Tirann Laws from Oklahoma City, suffers from post-tramautic stress disorder and has found himself in debt and having difficulty holding down a job. He says he wants to return to school. West and MTV offer him that opportunity -- but as grateful as Laws is, Kanye also finds himself changed by the experience. "You make me want to improve myself," West says. "We thought I'd come in and be an inspiration to you and lift your spirits, but actually you're inspirational to me because I'm going through a lot of losses."
Next up, Kanye meets with aspiring rapper Lorenzo Zarate, 24, at his home in Austin, Texas. Zarate's wife has a baby on the way, and the couple say they are just weeks away from being forced to leave their home. During the visit, Kanye and Zarate find common ground in Zarate's home studio — "I remember those days," Kanye reminisces — and he plays a bit of "Can't Tell Me Nothing" on Zarate's keyboard. Then the gifts are revealed: paying six months' rent, a new microphone, a week of studio time and an internship at a local radio station.
Like Zarate, 24-year-old Shameeka Gray of Charlotte, North Carolina, came back from war and found herself in tremendous debt, but must devote most of her time to caring for her young son. Kanye related to Gray over the subject of death; she said it was when someone in her company died that she realized she could die too.
Kanye said, "Sometimes it's definitely easier to not even accept death and just act like you're in a bad dream and you could wake up from it." Gray's gift is paying off her credit card debt, and setting up a college-tuition fund for her son.
Profiles for all three vets (Shameeka Gray, Tirann Laws and Lorenzo Zarate) are available on the Choose or Lose site, where viewers can also interact with the veterans and find ways to take action on these issues and share their own thoughts on the subject.