As the 10-year anniversary of the invasion into Iraq approaches, more is being done in Charlotte to make sure veterans are getting the help they need. Eyewitness News found one organization that’s working to make Charlotte a national model for veteran services.
As hundreds packed a ballroom Tuesday for a veterans’ summit, they learned Charlotte falls short when it comes to helping veterans returning home from war. Veteran organization Charlotte Bridge Home was created two years ago, and it recently conducted a study that found very few local organizations are helping veterans.
So the group came up with a plan to help veterans find jobs, education and housing.
"What we're trying to do is to make sure there is some continuity between when they left and when they get to a new community. We want to be that continuity. If they need employment, we're going to connect them with those employers who are looking to hire veterans. If they need education, we are going to connect them with help they need," said Paul Passaro, the program director of Charlotte Bridge Home.
To help bridge the gap from war to Charlotte, the nonprofit has partnered with community organizations.
Major Tara Dixon was impressed with the work Charlotte Bridge Home was doing and said she wished the same opportunities were given to her when she got back from her two tours in Iraq. She said those were services she never knew existed.
Like many veterans, Dixon struggled for years with PTSD. It took her nine months of counseling to overcome. Even now, she said the sounds of a helicopter trigger flashbacks.
Dixon said without organizations like Charlotte Bridge Home, many veterans would choose to fight it alone.
"You feel like, if I can't get through this, than rather than being an embarrassment I'll just end my life," Dixon said.
As part of making Charlotte a national model of a supportive community, the group will document the work done this year and meet again in 2014 to see how far they've come.
According to Charlotte Bridge Home's website, there are 55,000 veterans in Mecklenburg County. The group found more than 6,000 of those were deployed after 9/11.
For more information about the organization, click here.