Front & Center: From Homeless to Hero

Navy veteran says she never allowed herself to become a victim of her circumstances

SAN ANTONIO – “You’ll never make me put this to my head again my mom said as she held the gun up in front of me. This is an example of the length she was willing to go to in order to cause emotional damage despite my undying love for her,” said Janae Sergio, U.S. Navy Veteran.

These are just words in a book but for Janae Sergio, they mean so much more.

“I come from a family like a broken family. I never met my father and my mom had three daughters by the age of 21 by three different dads. And so, she was a single mom trying to raise us,” said Sergio.

Sergio says her mother came from a broken family and projected the trauma onto her.

“So, I dealt with a lot of physical abuse and emotional abuse. Growing up around the age of 16, I was sexually assaulted and that was my first experience and my mom decided she didn’t want to deal with the situation. So, she took me to Hollywood, California, and she dropped me off at a homeless shelter in Hollywood where I had to spend the next two and a half years surviving as a teenager,” said Sergio.

She says nothing could have prepared her to survive the streets.

“It was like a drop in shelter. So, it wasn’t a stable place to stay. I had to come every night at 7:00 and get a bed. If I didn’t get a bed, I just had to walk the streets at night,” said Sergio.

Four homeless shelters later, Sergio was able to avoid sex trafficking and drug addiction.

In a constant state of fight or flight and regardless of her situation, she always thought of her mom.

“You know, it’s really sad because I still wanted her approval. And along the way, I kept hoping that she would come back and get me,” said Sergio.

She looked to the military as an escape and the start of a brand-new chapter.

“So, the Navy gave me promises of hope of something that was a 3-to-5-year plan instead of a day-by-day plan and so, I was like, you know what? I have nothing to lose. Let’s do it and so, I just went,” said Sergio.

Sergio was one of the first service members sent to war after 9-11. She finished her GED while deployed, conducting combat air operations in Afghanistan at the start of Operation Enduring Freedom.

“I felt like I finally had a purpose. I think, you know, most of my life I didn’t feel like I was really worth anything in this world,” said Sergio.

Sergio served for 8-years. She’s since built a 6-figure online boutique business, is now a published best-selling author and married with two daughters.

Sergio says she never allowed herself to become a victim of her circumstances. She hopes her message inspires others to never quit.

“At some point in your life, you’re going to have to realize that no one’s coming to save you and you’re going to have to step up and be your own hero,” said Sergio.

About the Authors:

Jonathan Cotto is a reporter for KSAT’s Good Morning San Antonio. He’s a bilingual award-winning news reporter and he joined KSAT in 2021. Before coming to San Antonio, Cotto was reporting along the U.S.-Mexico border in South Texas. He’s a veteran of the United States Navy.