TAMPA, Fla. — Giving back to those who have given so much for our country. A Tampa veteran who served 24 years in the Army wanted to help other vets struggling with mental health issues.
So he created a unique organization that's helping hundreds of men and women across the country.
Ellsworth 'Tony' Williams has seen firsthand how veterans can struggle. Years ago, he interned at the James A. Haley VA, where he realized most of the counselors were not veterans.
"So I said 'Hmm, why can't veterans counsel veterans?' And it just sounded right because I feel like we gotta be in the fight, we also got to be a part of the rescue and not just the ones receiving the services," Williams said.
Eight years ago he created a nonprofit called Veterans Counseling Veterans to make sure those who served our country, and their families are getting the care they need.
"We come with the embedded trust factor. That's something that a lot of people don't have. When you come down and say 'I'm a veteran,' they already trust you. That helps out a lot," Williams said.
Dr. Carlos Garcia served in the Marine Corps and now works with Tony counseling veterans.
"When you're someone who has had some of those experiences yourself, you can really understand the veteran and some of their issues from a very different perspective from a very different place," Garcia said.
The primary mission of Veterans Counseling Veterans is suicide prevention. A mission that Tony says is more important than ever.
"When we save a veteran, we're not just saving that soldier, but also the family from dealing with that kind of experience and other veterans who may follow suit with that veteran who may die by suicide," Williams said.
Dr. Garcia agrees. "Every day that I wake up and I realize that anywhere between 15-20 veterans will die today from suicide. It is an absolute inspiration to get out here and work harder to do everything that I can to make sure that we are changing the conversation around mental health."
A challenge this organization is taking on each and every day. The organization also has a fundraising golf tournament coming up. Click here for more information.