The mission of the Augusta Warrior Project (AWP) is to connect warriors and their families in the greater Augusta area with the resources that will improve their lives. Take a look at what it's meant to a post-Vietnam vet and a US Navy vet who didn't see combat.
Steven Waller served in the Navy from 2002-2006. "I didn't feel needed, I didn't feel wanted anywhere...with anything...I came back home and still was expected to be a man, be an adult...but my mind still wasn't there. And, when I came here, I have a great sense of feeling of helping other people. I feel good for helping them. I feel like I am somebody because I started this organization to help people," he says.
Not all wounds are visible. That's what Steven finally had to accept before he could reach out for help after his post-service life began to fall apart. He even lived on the streets for a year and a half. "My pride kept me from going to the VA- and I didn't know there was a lot of things I qualified for," Steven says.
Larry Millstead sees it all the time. "They don't reach out to the VA because they don't see themselves as a veteran...because they didn't deploy to a combat region or they don't have a physical wound; you know, not all wounds are physical and not all warriors are wounded. There can be those that just need a little bit of motivation, of pick me up to say, 'hey, here's a helping hand. let's get you back on your feet and see which direction you want to go in," he says.
Opening a branch of the AWP in Aiken was a natural fit for Larry and the Aiken Tech Student Veterans founder, Steven Waller. As an advocate, Larry can guide veterans returning to campus. He understands that the transition can be extremely hard. "Whether it's education, housing, employment, healthcare, family relationships... we can link them to the community organization, the state or federal organization that will assist them with that particular need that's going on in their life," Larry says.
Neil Reed was in the service in the late 1970's, but he qualified for services through the AWP. Thanks to this Aiken Warrior Project office, he has direction and a support system. "There are a lot of good people just through a couple of little circumstances and they're lost... and I was one of those people," he says.
Now, Neil's on the path to a new career, after what he calls a "series of misadventures" left him homeless. "But through going to school here and having very good instructors, and Larry, you know I picked myself up and have been able to move forward... but it's scary, it's very, very scary," he says.
For more information on the Telethon befitting the Augusta Warrior Project WJBF News Channel 6 is hosting Tuesday, click here. For more information on the Augusta Warrior Project, click here.
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