With suicide rates and addiction plaguing veterans across the country, David Ragan wanted to find a way to help.
So he founded Veterans Promise four years ago. Now, the Dickson City nonprofit shines a light on the problems that all veterans face and connects veterans and their families to the help they need. And with Veteran’s Day around the corner, Ragan talks about the group and how they help in the community.
Q: Why did Veterans Promise open?
A: Veterans Promise was founded in November of 2016 due to the rise in veteran suicide and drug and alcohol addiction. Our promise is to advocate, educate and raise awareness for all veterans. We will offer outreach for PTSD, suicide prevention, drug and alcohol education and support to veterans and their families in our community. We will leave no stone unturned, no matter how big or small, to accomplish our mission. Advocacy is the first step in conquering the battle here on the home front. We will do whatever it takes to keep the promise.
Veterans Promise goals have expanded to not only helping veterans in recovery but also helping with job placement, hardship grants, help with resources for senior veterans and many other tasks.
Q: What kind of help do you offer?
A: Tasks we perform include hardship grants for veterans and their families; monthly candlelight vigils for our fallen; family support in times of loss and crisis; drug and alcohol addictions prevention, peer to peer; referral services of VA assets and another veteran nonprofit organizations; advocating on veterans’ and their family’s behalf; peer-to-peer family support; and AA/NA and PTSD groups (who meet) in our building.
Q: Is veteran suicide a problem in this area?
A: On our Wall of Heroes in our building, there are many local veterans whom have succumbed to their own hands. We at Veterans Promise believe that one loss signifies a problem. This problem we believe is a problem at all local, state and national levels and all of those levels play a role in reducing these terrible losses.
We bring awareness to veteran suicide and veteran drug and alcohol with our community-based Shine the Light candlelight vigils in honor of our fallen heroes that survived the war but could not survive the peace here on the homefront. We do this every month on the 22nd .
Q: Do you think people are more aware of veterans and the challenges they face?
A: Veterans issues are always a hot topic, as they should be. Due to the most recent conflicts in the world, I think America is very supportive towards our veterans. I think more than ever, our veterans are truly getting the resources and attention to our needs. But in saying all of that, we still much more work to do. I feel the key to truly address the issues at hand is to bring all the resources together — nonprofits, VA resources and government resources. This should be done with a whatever it takes attitude. We need to remember we are not in competition but all teammates moving towards a goal to reduce losses and improve the quality of life of our veterans and their families.
From my personal experience as a veteran and also working with veterans, we are always looking for validity in all things. For most of us we have in some ways been failed in some way by the system. So transparency is a very important thing to us. Also when civilians ask questions like, “Did you kill anyone over there,” It really is a bad question to ask. If veterans want to share that information, they will share it on their own terms. Also veterans love our country, our National Anthem and our great flag. These are the very things that make us want to serve our great nation. So we take it very personal when we see these things disrespected. Old Glory is the very thing that separates us those who have proudly served and sacrificed from everyone else when we are laid to rest. We will protect it at all costs.
Q: With Veterans Day just around the corner, what can people do to honor veterans and show their support?
A: Veterans Day here in Northeast PA is one of my personal favorite days of the year, between the community gatherings … to the restaurants giving free meals. But most importantly, it’s about the brother and sisterhood amongst all of us that have proudly served.
People can honor veterans in many ways. Free meals and or discount services are great but the best way is a handshake and a “thank you for your service,” especially from children. When kids say thank you to us it tells even more so that America is grateful for our service. It tells us that their parents are teaching them to honor and love our country flag and service members.
We at Veterans Promise believe in the following quote: Every day is “Veterans Day.” To learn more, visit veteranspromisenepa.org.