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What Veterans Day means in Mesa

Gulf War veteran David Campbell, right, and Travis Anderson, director of the Mesa Veterans Resource Center and a Army veteran, with post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury trained service dog Caleb. (Sally Harrison/Special to MyNewsMesa.com)

Veterans Day is a time set aside for the nation to recognize and honor the lives of those who have served in the military, and their accomplishments.

Gulf War veteran David Campbell, left, and Travis Anderson, director of the Mesa Veterans Resource Center and a Army veteran, stand in front of the Mesa facility with post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury trained service dog Caleb. (Sally Harrison/Special to MyNewsMesa.com)

Gulf War veteran David Campbell, served as a combat engineer in that conflict.

“Our job was to go through and take out minefields, blow up anything that needed to be blown up,” Campbell said. “We were attached to a recon tank platoon, so there was 13 tanks and four APCs and we were inside Iraq three days before the war started.”

Campbell’s group was tasked with taking prisoners and clearing the way for the military to come through and fight safely, and saw a lot of action in the days that led up to the beginning of the war.

“Our job was to go through and blow up everything Iraqi after the battle, after we took over so that they couldn’t use it against someone else later,” Campbell said.

Congressman Andy Biggs presents a certificate of recognition from the U.S. Congress to Army veteran David Campbell, who received the Mesa Chamber of Commerce Volunteer of the Year Award. (Ted Wendel/MyNewsMesa.com)

Three days in, he woke up in a hospital, and the events that transpired that brought him there compelled him to get out of the military a year later.

Now, Campbell helps those in crisis who are looking for answers, assisting the Mesa Veterans Resource Center (MVRC) in their efforts.

“I go in and I help them get to that next level in healing,” Campbell said.

The MVRC offers assistance and a number of services to local veterans who may need it, and involves veterans in its operation.

“When there is a veteran in crisis, after hours what we are trying to do is create a system; instead of showing up with a bunch of weapons pointed at them, which is another trigger, takes them even higher on that stress level,” Campbell said. “If I can talk to him, send in someone like me and Caleb which deescalates the whole situation.”

U.S. Army veteran David Campbell and his service dog, Caleb, received the Mesa Chamber Volunteer of the Year Award. (Ted Wendel/MyNewsMesa.com)

Campbell’s intent is to use this inroad with the veteran to direct them to whatever help they might need.

“Whether it be, detox, inpatient, outpatient, psychiatric, someone you can trust to talk to… you name it I’ve done it all, and a lot of it works if you are willing to trust,” Campbell said. “We’re trying to change the situation so that there is no more suicide by cop.”

Campbell does this after hours of operation for the MVRC, though if he is needed even when the center is open he can be called in, so that he can try to save lives where possible.

He is accompanied by post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury trained service dog Caleb in these situations.

“What he does is open up the door for me to do my work,” Campbell said. “All the focus is on him, and I can just relax the situation.”

Caleb also helps Campbell, giving him confidence to do what he sets out to throughout the day, and everywhere Campbell goes he brings Caleb with him.

Campbell believes that God brought him to the MVRC he is now working with, because they are willing to do what it takes to figure out how to heal the veterans they help.

“It’s not just the veterans; it’s the wives, the spouses that have to put up with us, it’s the kids that see it and deal with it; so, we are affecting the entire family, which then affects the entire community,” Campbell said. “They understand that, and they are willing to do the work that it takes. They’re not going to talk about what needs to be done; we’re actually going to do it, and I am just so grateful that God brought me here.”

For Veterans Day, Campbell suggests that citizens approach those that have served, and instead of thanking them for their service, acknowledge that what they did was to benefit all those who inhabit the nation.

“Go out to a parade; I’m going to be in one of the parades and I encourage everyone to go out and watch the parades, show your support,” Campbell said. “Show your patriotism toward our veterans, they need to see this, they need to see you out there… And instead of saying thank you for your service, say thank you for your sacrifice to us. It brings them into the conversation, which is where it needs to be.”

Mesa Veterans Resource Center

Travis Anderson, director of the MVRC, said the center is a one-stop shop for veterans.

An Army veteran himself who served two tours as a cavalry scout during Operation Enduring Freedom, Anderson said that “when I got out of service, you know we kind of get the runaround.”

Different resources are available, but veterans might be sent to numerous locations, and endure long wait times to gain access to them.

“Here, we kind of eliminated the wait time process, and we’re more hands on,” Anderson said. “So, all the resources you are able to get here under one roof, versus going all over the Valley, having to wait several weeks or months just to receive services.”

Some of the services provided include education, resume writing assistance, providing clothing for job interviews, financial planning help and more.

Anderson has oversight of the facility and all those involved with it.

“For this month we’ve partnered with Mesa PD and Mesa Fire Department, and they are doing a clothing drive for our dress for success program,” Anderson said.

The MVRC is also participating in today’s Veterans Day parade in downtown Mesa, with a booth set up to make people aware of the center, partnering with Mesa Leadership to collect donations for a meditation park for veterans that is planned to be constructed near the center.

“The goal for that is to create a safe space for veterans to go,” Anderson said. “We want to give them a place where they can go and relax, and have ease of mind without all the distractions.”

It will be right in the back of the building, so that if the veterans need services as well they will not have far to go.

“We’re hoping to have it done by March or April of next year,” Anderson said. “It’s already been approved through the city, and Mesa Community College, and the Chamber is playing a big part in that as well.”

Anderson suggested that people on Veterans Day “just shake a veteran’s hand, tell them thank you. Not just, like David said, say thank you for your service; thank you for the sacrifice, for what we did. Because you know, we go over there to fight the enemy and to make our country safe, and we don’t get the gratitude and the thanks that we deserve.”

He added that people should show support to any of the veteran events and parades.

To find out more about the MVRC, visit http://www.mesaunitedway.org/mesa-veterans-resource-center/ or their Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/MesaVRC/.

– Mesa resident Kian Hagerman is a Mesa Community College journalism intern for MyNewsMesa.com.

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