IDAHO FALLS, Idaho (KIDK/KXPI) - Veterans helping veterans. KIDK Eyewitness News 3 anchor Todd Kunz found a local group that makes sure no man or woman is left behind off the battlefield once they return home from service.
Jesse Williams, Jake Versteeg, and Roy Miller are local veterans. They all served active duty roughly 9 to 12 years and have all medically retired from the Army and Navy for various injuries or post traumatic stress disorder. They know there are other veterans wearing similar boots. That's why they are a part of the non-profit service group Phoenix Quick Response Force.
Phoenix QRF was founded in 2014 by a local female veteran.
"She got a bunch of us veterans together just to drink coffee and you know, shoot the bull, and hang out with each other. And that's how we all came to be," said Versteeg.
Now they are best of friends, but it's much more than that. They are veterans helping veterans, providing services, purpose, and direction, sometimes in crisis.
"Started seeing a lot of big issues," said Williams.
This group deploys, as they call it, to help other local veterans overcome those issues. One of the common ones, they say, is alcoholism. It can be used as a way to escape some form of PTSD and that can often lead to isolation, which can be a precursor to the biggest problem, suicide.
"A lot of other veterans taking their own lives, but a lot of times it's easier just to call another vet. And so that is why we maintain our duty phone," said Williams.
"24 hour suicide crisis hotline, that's manned 24/7," said Versteeg, holding up the cell phone.
Serving in the group has given them purpose.
"It gave me a mission in life again. I feel good about myself. I made great friends," said Miller.
"Hurting my family, and I needed a change and I found that here. I found my niche after the military here and this is where I belong," said Versteeg.
"I don't like the way I feel when I'm not serving something and this does that. One of the ethos items that we live by is 'no man left behind.' It doesn't end on the battlefield," said Williams.
Time to Pay It Forward.
"Veterans feel a lot more comfortable discussing issues and family life and family issues with another veteran because we feel that they've been there, done that as well. When I came to this group, and we decided to uh… Hello?” said Versteeg to a man suddenly walking into the room.
"Jake,” said the man.
"Yes, sir,” replied Versteeg.
"Roy and Jesse, how are you guys?" said the man.
"Good, how are you?" they replied in unison.
"Good, my name's Kory (Carling) and I'm with Mountain America Credit Union. And your organization has provided such a much-needed service for our veterans by veterans, that you've attracted the attention of the community. And so I'm here today to Pay It Forward and give you guys $500 in cash,” said Carling, pulling cash out of an envelope.
"Wow!” said Versteeg.
"That I know you guys can use to continue the services for our community. So we'd like to thank you for all that you guys do,” said Carling.
"Thank you so much!" said Versteeg, as they all shook hands.
"We appreciate it," said Carling.
"Thank you very much," said Versteeg.
"Thank you," said Williams.
"You bet," said Carling.
"Thank you," said Miller.
"This is incredible. I can't tell you how much we appreciate this," said Williams.
"Wow. Yeah, that is," said Versteeg, with a loss for words.
"This will go a long, long way towards being able to continue our mission," said Williams.
"Yeah," agreed Miller.
"Yes, sir," said Versteeg.
"Awesome," said Carling.
"Pay It Forward" airs the second Wednesday of every month. If you know of a nonprofit organization or someone who deserves to be recognized for their contributions to the area, click on "News" then "Pay It Forward" under the menu stack at the top left of our homepage. Fill out the submission form, or send an email to KIDK Eyewitness News 3 anchor Todd Kunz at firstname.lastname@example.org.