by Anayeli Ruiz
BIG SPRING - They help the men and women that put their lives on the line, cope with the aftereffects of war. The vet program in Big Spring started off with a small group. That's now growing by leaps and bounds.
Three years ago Will Hoggard was contacted by West Texas Centers to start a peer support group for veterans in Big Spring. That is how he started "Bring Everyone in the Zone" and now he deals with almost 70 veterans in Big Spring.
"I'm a certified peer specialist which is just a fancy word for someone that has been there and done the same thing that other people have and we go in there and talk about things not in detail, we go in there and talk about things that have happened to us," Hoggard said.
Will is a veteran himself and knows how hard it is to deal with things when you come back from war.
"I have had two traumatic brain injuries. I suffer from PTSD and more TBI, I ran in to a lot of guys that had the same problems that I had and I thought I was crazy," Hoggard said.
After some training and peer counseling for himself, Will was able to learn to better cope with his issues and heal. Now, he wants to use those skills to help other veterans cope with life after the military. He says he especially wants to reach out to the younger generation of veterans who have seen too much too soon.
"They're at colleges and very young veterans and they are not quite ready to tell their story and get out and admit that they need some help," Hoggard said.
Will says at his meetings he has different era vets from the Korean War and even those who just arrived from overseas. With many people in Midland/Odessa showing interest, they had to find a way to get this peer group program to other areas of West Texas.
"Many people that called and said hey if you guys had a meeting in Midland or Odessa I could make it but with the price of gasoline now a days and the commute. It's easier for one person to travel than it is 10 or 15," Hoggard said.
That is why they are starting up peer groups all over the Basin, to hopefully reach out to these veterans.
"Come hear what other veterans have to say, come see what they have been through. It's easy to talk about I don't have any shoes until you talk about the man with no feet. Then all of a sudden, you still have a problem but there is a way to deal with it," Hoggard said.
Tuesday night was the second meeting for the group in Odessa. They hope to start the Midland group next Wednesday. They are also talking with Sweetwater to start another group there.