James “Cliff” Lee and Paul Gregg are two veterans who have had enough, as they watch the reported veteran suicide numbers rise to a record high, and are heading to the concert halls to spread awareness and reach those in need throughout the Southwest.
"We can't sit back and watch anymore," said Lee. Both men are veterans, with combined experienced ranging from the Gulf War to present-day Afghanistan and Iraq.
With the support of PhD Radio to launch their efforts at the beginning of April to reach veterans who have slipped through the cracks in society and to raise public awareness about the situation. "If we have to do it one-by-one, we are going to try to help these Americans and get them support," said Lee. "We want to encourage everyone to Never, Never QUIT", said Gregg.
They focused first, on Florida, Louisiana and South East regions, hitting 23 cities in the first couple months by joining established music concerts venues."We think music is the best way to reach this target demographic,” said Gregg. They have worked with Florida-based bands, such as Dropshot, Generator, Cj Orazi, Together In Exile, FILTH, and near 100 more abroad. "The bands have been so supportive," said Lee.
Their mission is to raise awareness that 23 vets commit suicide every day; homelessness is still a veteran problem; and to educate people about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Each week, the men try to feature a veteran on their social sites that they reached, telling their story. Most people ask to remain anonymous and wish to live in the shadows. "Too often, those shadows are cardboard boxes on the streets away from their communities," said Lee.
The men are helping through awareness, educating communities about these vets and by letting these vets know they are not forgotten.
Additionally, they guide veterans to established support systems. "We can help veterans that contact us directly find the help that they need because of our own experiences,” said Gregg.
They are currently in the works to establish a search and rescue program in Jacksonville Florida. Going thru the woods to find homeless Veterans and help however possible.
Also, the two have partnered with the producers of “Battlefield of the Mind: The War on PTSD and Veteran Homelessness,” Fran Strine and Aaron Lewis (Staind) to spread the word about this informational documentary. The film can be viewed in its in entirety at https://vimeo.com/57215970.
Their long-term goal is to build a Veterans retreat around the Orlando area and make it a friendly, safe place where veterans can come to decompress. "We also want to be able to provide a link to the VA system from the retreat in case some of the vets haven't enrolled yet or don't know about their benefits," said Lee.
Less than one percent of our nation currently serves in the military and during Vietnam 9.7 percent served. These are the veterans that Lee and Gregg are trying to reach. Reporting methods to identify deceased as a veteran differ from state to state, therefore, the correct number of actual veteran suicides is believed to be higher than the VHA’s 2012 report noted. There are an estimated 21 million veterans in the United States, but fewer than 10 million are registered with the VHA, according to a Congressional Research Report produced this year.
Currently, with a few donations on the books- the men are paying out of their own pockets to get to each location and reach as many veterans, as possible.
Veterans who need to talk or anyone who wants to support this cause with time or resources, can contact them at 2vetsOAM@gmail.com.