WILLIAMSON COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) — A local non-profit says the “build it and they will come” mentality is failing our veterans when it comes to programs for post-traumatic stress disorder.
Instead, Code VI Veteran Integration says it plans to meet veterans where they are, organizing what it calls “tribes” in Central Texas communities to create fellowship and promote healing.
KXAN met with three generations of soldiers, brought together by the gap they see in care.
“I wasn’t drafted, I wanted to go. So I went. I was a helicopter pilot. An attack helicopter pilot, two tours in Vietnam. I stayed in the Army for 24 years total,” Edward Donovan said.
Years later, with 9/11 as the breaking point, it was a lack of feeling heard that nearly ended everything.
“I realized I didn’t like civilian life. I had no identity. People didn’t understand me, I didn’t understand them,” Donovan said. “So I decided, well, I’ll quit. I was going to commit suicide. I didn’t want to deal with it anymore.”
A counselor brought him back to who he is. Donovan now plans to provide help for others through Code VI Veteran Integration’s boots on the ground approach.
“I get the most enjoyment I can get in my life by helping veterans find themselves. Not helping them, giving them the assistance they need to step out, get in the community and get reintegrated. And that’s our mission for this program. Our mission is not to sit down and wait for them to come to us, our mission is to go out into the community,” Donovan said.
Resources will include peer-support services, spiritual guidance and access to licensed therapists. Code VI Veteran Integration is a veteran peer-support partner for Easterseals Central Texas.
“We’re going to be deep-rooted in the communities, we’ll be sort of tribes that we’re setting up. And, I mean if we have to get somebody out of their house, we’re going to do it. Because we know that the issues are there. And we want to make sure these veterans have the community that they need,” veteran Aaron Cabrera said.
“And it’s not going to be all about PTSD. Because nobody wants to talk about that all day. So it’s going to be about fun and we’re going to do BBQs and just community kind of events as well.”
Jim Cochrun, founder of the program, says, “It comes from looking at what doesn’t work.”
According to the VA, half of all veterans diagnosed with PTSD are not in any sort of treatment.
“Where are they? Our job is to go and find them,” Cochrun said.
The veteran said for about three years, he thought about the program they’re about to launch the first week of November.
“I was the chairman of another non-profit that did have a beautiful building and did some great work. And there was nobody there. And we were there 5 days a week,” Cochrun said. “I was baffled. Why is nobody coming? Where are they?”
Cochrun said it’s not good enough to sit back in a building, drinking coffee.
“It’s not about us. It’s about that veteran sitting on his couch, playing Xbox, having vodka for breakfast. Having no relationship with his wife and his kids. That’s our target,” he said. “We challenge our veterans and our families to find that identity. To find that new purpose. Because you know what they do matter, and they do have a purpose. They just haven’t figured it out yet.”
Cochrun said asking for help, especially for veterans, can feel like admitting weakness. With Code VI Veteran Integration’s program, he says there will be a hand there to pull fellow brothers and sisters into a community without anyone needing to ask for it.
“Something has to change. And we are products of change,” Donovan said.
Weekly trust-building events will be held in Jarrell, Georgetown, Round Rock, Hutto and Taylor in Williamson County before expanding to other counties. To get involved, visit Code VI Veteran Integration’s website.