The nonprofit organization Bring Everyone in the Zone celebrated 10 years of providing peer support for soldiers and veterans, during a celebration at the organization’s Killeen location Saturday.
Bring Everyone in the Zone provides peer support counseling services to soldiers, veterans and their families who are suffering from post-traumatic stress, traumatic brain injury, military sexual trauma and other traumatic events in their lives.
Maureen Jouett, the organization’s executive director and training/resource manager, said the group got its start in 2008 by three Vietnam veterans who were in the Central Texas Veterans Healthcare System’s post-traumatic stress disorder inpatient facility in Waco, and Veterans Affairs psychologist Dr. Wayne Gregory.
“Those three Vietnam veterans, 45 years after Vietnam were still messed up and they decided they didn’t want the current war (veterans) 45 years from now still suffering,” Jouett said. “They went before the state of Texas Legislature and had the needs of returning veterans included in the state’s strategic plan in 2008.”
Jouett said this led to a contract with the state, which hired them to train facilitators and to conduct peer support one-on-one throughout the state and a contract with the local Central Counties Services to provide peer support coordination.
The group also assists individuals with their physical needs, too.
“We found out early on that we had a hard time taking care of people’s psychological needs if their physiological needs are not met so we started offering financial assistance,” Jouett said.
Jouett said there are currently 150 peer groups across the state assisting at least 1,000 service members, veterans and families in the last year. They also provide services to first responders and law enforcement officers.
Killeen resident Khariah Erhenede, a 12-year-old volunteer, has been helping the organization during the summer.
“I think it’s awesome, I think it’s the best thing you could do,” Erhenede said. “I know a bunch of people who’ve come here and most of their bills are getting paid now, homeless people are getting homes, so I think this helps veterans a lot.”
One of those veterans helped by the services provided by Bring Everyone in the Zone was Lindsey Jones. She served in the U.S. Army from 2010 to 2015 as an ammunition specialist assigned to the 1st Air Cavalry Brigade at Fort Hood and did two deployments to Afghanistan.
Jones was dealing with personal problems that arose from a broken marriage, a loss in the family and the combat stresses of being deployed. She said she became a functioning alcoholic which led to her being charged by the Army with driving while intoxicated, reckless driving and deadly conduct, shortly before her service contract expired. Because she was close to leaving the service the charges were referred to federal court which led to her arrest. She eventually separated from the service with the charges pending in court and hired a lawyer. That’s when she heard about Bring Everyone in the Zone.
“I got my lawyer and he talked to me about the Veterans Court program,” Jones said.
Veterans Court program is designed to help combat veterans who have a with clear link between their military service, mental health, traumatic brain injury, substance abuse and their legal troubles. These veterans are directed to programs like the ones provided by Bring Everyone in the Zone and are given a court-ordered treatment plan. Successful completion of the treatment plan helps veterans avoid a criminal record or jail time.
“I knew I needed help, so I did it and graduated,” Jones said. “They start out with the treatment plan, have to go to the Veterans Affairs, get your medications, come to the screening and eventually get a job or go to school.”
Jones said they provide the help you need but then help to get you back on your feet in the world.
“They helped me get a job and I’m about to graduate this December with my business degree, and I just started a new degree in substance abuse counseling,” Jones said.
Jones attributes the counseling services she received by the group for her life turnaround.
“They definitely helped me with a lot of issues including trusting people and just functioning,” Jones said. “I have my confidence back.”
As part of the 10th anniversary event, Bring Everyone in the Zone provided food and allowed other organizations to set up informational booths.
Representatives from the Customs and Border Protection, Killeen Parks and Recreation, Harker Heights Vet Center, Help Heal Veterans, Killeen Fire and Police Departments and others were there.
Bring Everyone in the Zone is at 204 Priest Drive. For more information, go to www.bringeveryoneinthezone.org.