"I got the call saying they found the body," Arik Hayes said.
The 31-year-old Raleigh man says he keeps his grief and his anger over his father's death in check, but it is there.
"Of course there's anger, man," Hayes said. "Of course there's anger. My dad was 51. It's a tragic case of somebody slipping through the system, slipping through the system."
His father, Anthony Hayes, began his Army career at Fort Jackson in Columbia, S.C. then slipped into civilian life in California before moving to Winston Salem in 2003. That's when things started going downhill.
"He ended up having a nervous breakdown in 2005," Arik explained.
Diagnosed as bipolar, Hayes' life also broke down and within a few years, he was homeless. According to Arik, by 2009, his dad was on track to recovery.
Anthony stumbled over the holidays, and his family checked him into the VA Hospital in Fayetteville. It was the last time they'd see him alive. Arik says the hospital discharged his father against the family's wishes and just hours before someone arrived at the hospital to pick him up.
"We have people from our family saying we have people coming to pick him up, please don't discharge him until somebody comes and picks him up," Arik recalled. "And then have him discharged in a city he's not familiar with. No money [and] with a map saying get to this destination. Then we never see him again. And then four days ago, I heard that that definitely was him, and that it was his skeleton. There is anger."
Citing privacy laws, the VA only confirmed the most basic facts that Anthony was a patient and was discharged from the hospital on January 19, 2010.