In "A Deeper Look: The Poverty Divide in Arkansas," airing Monday, June 27, Taylor LoBue shares his experiences as a war veteran. Since returning from service, Taylor has become an advocate for fellow veterans through the organization, Veterans Impact – Central Arkansas Veterans Mental Health Council. Read on to learn more information about this program and how you, too, can become involved in and help improve the lives of veterans.
"I always kind of had the feeling that I wanted to serve," says war veteran, Taylor LoBue, regarding his decision to join the United States Army. After enlisting, he was assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division, with whom he spent a year in Afghanistan.
After returning, Taylor felt overwhelmed and decided to process out of the military. Yet, even after reaching home, Taylor struggled to adjust to life outside of the military.
Coupled with the culture shock of returning to the states, Taylor didn't know what to do and didn't know about the programs and resources that could help him.
Following a medical diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), Taylor moved back to Arkansas where he could receive more support from friends and family. He entered an inpatient PTSD program at the Central Arkansas Veterans Healthcare System, which proved to help tremendously. In addition, Taylor credits advocacy and volunteering as forces that helped him turn his life around: "What really has turned me around and kept me down the right path is my volunteer work, advocating for other veterans. That has given me a new sense of purpose. Yeah, it has given me a new mission."
Taylor now serves as the national legislative chairman for the state of Arkansas for the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), as well as the chairman of Veterans Impact – Central Arkansas Veterans Mental Health Council (Veterans Impact).
Veterans Impact is an organization open to veterans, their families and fellow community members that is focused on tackling the issues facing veterans: "You've got a lot of people in the veteran community that have served and have mental health issues and are having trouble holding down a job having trouble supporting their family…."
Taylor understands the toll that self-medicating can have on veterans returning from war and the importance of working to help end these issues: "Self-medication is very common and the self-medication makes it more difficult to hold down a job you're spending your money on drugs or alcohol rather than buying groceries or paying bills."
As a mental health council, Veterans Impact represents veterans by reaching out to local mental health programs and providing feedback to those groups about their programs, as well as providing veterans with information about these services. In addition to their work with local facilities, Veterans Impact has seven goals that it seeks to accomplish:
- Greatly reduce veteran suicides
- Improve Veterans Affairs (VA) mental health services
- Increase understanding of veteran services
- Promote best use of those services
- Get veterans involved in their treatment
- Voice veteran and family feedback to VA
- Create a perpetual community network
Veterans Impact also seeks to find volunteers and provide them with information about opportunities that benefit veterans. One of the ways that the group aims to do this is through social media, where they have a Facebook page to post and share different ways that people can help. Through his work with Veterans Impact, Taylor remains committed to providing hope and help to veterans that need it: "I feel like if we get the veteran community … under the poverty line that’s out there struggling … back into recreation and community service again, I think everything will be a lot better."
Monday, June 27, 2016
Veterans Impact meetings are held on the first Wednesday of each month at 3 p.m. in Room 151 of the Arkansas State Capitol.
For information about volunteering with the group, visit veteransimpact.org or join their Facebook group, Veterans Impact Volunteer Network (Central Arkansas).
Author Bailey Pickens is a Hendrix College student and AETN Production Department Intern.