“The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war . . . shall be directly proportional as to how they perceive the veterans of earlier wars were treated and appreciated by their nation.”-George Washington
So how have we in Collier County responded to our Veteran sons and daughters who have returned home? Under the leadership of Dale A. Mullin, Wounded Warriors of Collier County (WWCC) was begun with the vision that “No Veteran is Left Behind”.
The mission of WWCC is to ensure that Veterans who return home to our county are provided needed assistance in meeting essential needs including education, safe housing, and mental health.
In an effort to provide a hand up, not a handout, WWCC created Warrior Homes, a program providing affordable, transitional, and permanent housing to local Veterans.
The first Warrior Home, Alpha House, officially opened its doors on January 15, 2020 with an outpouring of local support. Alpha House residents are primarily referred by Collier County Veterans Treatment Court, David Lawrence Center, and St. Matthews House.
First, the Veteran is housed because safe shelter is a basic human need. When the Veteran is ready to tackle other issues, services are sought out in the community. Alpha House works closely with other community services including formal providers like doctors, therapists, or recovery networks, and informal supports, like helping a Veteran reconnect with family, friends, or faith groups.
Our Veteran sons and daughters have often returned home with both visible and invisible wounds. The visible wounds are the physical and medical issues associated with their combat and military service. The invisible wounds are the mental health and cognitive issues primarily associated with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI).
These injuries are similar to chronic physical injuries, often persisting long after military service ends. PTSD is usually associated with combat experiences that have created lasting and debilitating anxiety, depression, and other mental illnesses.
TBI is usually associated with blast injuries that may result in serious cognitive and emotional problems. Equally, and at times even more debilitating, drug and alcohol addiction are an all too frequent coping response to these wounds.
“WWCC has provided me an amazing opportunity to restart my life again,” said Alpha House resident, Merle Anderson. “ Alpha House is critical to Veterans needs and I cannot express my thanks enough.”
As Dr. Tom Collins, licensed psychologist and WWCC Board Director has noted, “Alpha House is unlike any other transitional housing program I have encountered in my many years serving active duty service members and Veteran populations. Our Alpha House Veterans are a family, a brotherhood. They are fiercely loyal and supportive of each other with a deep appreciation for rules, discipline, and achievement. They work together to help each other and their neighborhood.”
Dale Mullin proudly states, “Alpha House has saved Veteran lives by providing Veterans the assistance they need with dignity and respect. These Veterans are not chronically homeless individuals. They want to succeed as individuals, but they also want to give back to other Veterans and to our community.”
And, with Alpha House assistance, they are.