Nonprofit group reaching out to military veterans
By Jason A. Smith
Colin White of McDonough doesn’t like to elaborate on the dangers he faced while serving in the U.S. Army while in Vietnam. Instead, the former sergeant in the 1st Air Cavalry Division simply prefers to say that he and his fellow soldiers “fought the enemy.”
Veterans 4 Veterans, a local nonprofit support group is shown at the Eagles Nest personal-care home in Decatur where, during December, they took Christmas packages and spent time with some of the residents. Special photo
What does get
him talking, however, is the reaction he and his fellow servicemen
received when they returned home.
“I served two tours, from 1969 to 1971,” says White, 64. “When we came home from the war, we felt like America turned their back on us. We were spit on. The American government turned their back on us, and a lot of us had issues.”
White recently helped to launch a nonprofit support group called American Veterans 4 Veterans. Members of the group share a desire to reach out to their peers to help them deal with struggles related to their time in military service.
Until recently, the group had been struggling to find a place to meet. However, says White, that changed when the City of Hampton invited the veterans to share space in the Train Depot, at no cost.
American Veterans 4 Veterans meets at the Depot on Thursdays from 6:30-8 p.m.
“We’re getting new members every week,” says White. “We feel very blessed to have a facility where we can have our meetings and help our veterans.”
Others who helped get the group off the ground last summer include Vietnam veterans James Henderson, Wayne Best and Weyman Stroud. White says the four men had been seeking out organizations designed to assist veterans, with little success.
“We were involved in a couple other groups,” says White. “They were all about the same. They would talk, talk, talk. But, we left the meetings feeling empty, like we didn’t accomplish anything. We weren’t getting what we really needed. We were just getting lip service.”
About six months ago, White, Henderson, Best and Stroud collectively spearheaded American Veterans 4 Veterans. The group provides assistance to veterans, some of whom have not signed up for VA services.
Others, says White, have endured struggles with their families, alcohol or drugs since exiting the service.
“This was the main reason why we formed this group,” he says. “We just felt like, with our experience, we could lend a helping hand.”
The recent holiday season enabled American Veterans 4 Veterans reach out to area residents who have served in the military. Members of the group put together 53 Christmas packages and took them to the Eagle’s Nest personal-care home, which is operated by the Veterans Administration Hos-pital in Decatur.
“Being in the jungle, being in combat, being on the other side of the earth, Christmas is one of the worst days in a soldier’s life,” says White. “It can be the loneliest day of the year. Just being a veteran and not being around your family on a holiday is pretty tough. We wanted to do something to reach out to veterans, to let them know that not everybody has forgotten them.”
An average of 12-15 people attend American Veterans 4 Veterans’ meetings each month. White is hopeful that community support will help the group to reach more people.
“We depend on contributions,” he says. “We get it from the group, and we need to get it from the community and local businesses.”
For more information, call Colin White at 404-374-2909 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.