NORTH LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Imagine losing four friends in one week to suicide. That’s what happened to a group of veterans in central Arkansas determined to do everything they can to make sure other vets are taken care of and valued.
The team at Veterans Villages of America, Inc. says it has seen how the pandemic has made life worse for area veterans.
They offer household items, clothing, vehicles and now food at no cost to anyone with a military ID, things some say a number of veterans desperately need.
“Veterans are going without food out here, without shelter, without clothing,” retired Army Colonel Mike Ross said.
Ross, who served for 37 years, says veterans don’t often ask for help because of the stigma or their pride.
“Because in the military, it’s like, ‘Suck it up, buttercup,’” he explained.
But he says if a veteran can relate to the helping hand, they just might reach for it.
“Most of the veterans are one paycheck away from bankruptcy,” Ross said.
These former combat soldiers are refusing to see veterans suffer.
“There will be other veterans in here you can connect with,” Mark Diggs, Founding Director of Veterans Villages of America, Inc., said. “If there’s other issues you need help with, we want to hear about it.”
These volunteers know what it’s like to lose a struggling brother or sister in arms.
“Last year, we had four individuals that we knew personally, that we worked with here, committed suicide in one week,” Diggs said.
“We have a responsibility as Americans to take care of our veterans,” Ross said. “Not just say thank you, but take care of them.”
The organization’s new food pantry opens next Wednesday, February 10, from 8 a.m. until noon.
Those in need of assistance who can’t make it during those hours can just give them a call and they would be happy to help.
Volunteers are also acutely aware of the growing rates of suicide among veterans and say they want to make sure people know there are resources available to help, including VeteransCrisisLine.net.