Episode 172 Joshua Wilson America’s Warrior Partnership

This transcript is from episode 172 with guest Joshua Wilson.

Scott DeLuzio   00:00:00    Thanks for tuning into the Drive On Podcast, where we’re focused on giving hope and strength to the entire military community. Whether you’re a veteran, active duty, guard, reserve, or family member, this podcast will share inspirational stories and resources that are useful to you. I’m your host, Scott DeLuzio. Now let’s get on with the show. Hey, everyone, welcome back to the Drive On Podcast. Today, my guest is Joshua Wilson. Joshua is a Marine veteran who now works for America’s Warrior Partnership. For anyone who’s not familiar with America’s Warrior Partnership, their mission is to partner with communities to prevent veteran suicide. That’s a cause that’s worth fighting for as far as I’m concerned. I’m glad to have Joshua on today to talk about America’s Warrior Partnership and everything that they’re doing and the different partnerships that they have and community organizations that they work with. Welcome to the show. Joshua, I’m glad that you’re here to join me today.  

Joshua Wilson    00:01:01    It’s a pleasure and I appreciate you having me.  

Scott DeLuzio     00:01:06    Yeah, absolutely. Why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself before we get into America’s Warrior Partnership and tell us about yourself and your background a little bit? That way we know who Joshua is and who we’re talking to about. 

Joshua Wilson    00:01:21    I am from rural Georgia.  If anyone out there is familiar with Eatonton, Georgia, it’s the dairy capital of Georgia. It’s where the Color Purple was founded. Alice Walker and the Uncle Remus stories. So it’s very country. I left to go to the Marine Corps from that area on my 18th birthday. I had four pretty awesome years with the Marine Corps. I toured on the 26, and I was able to go to al-Asad Iraq for a while during that. I also spent some time in Djibouti Africa assisting with operations in that area, and the Eastern horn in Somalia. We had a pretty cool pirate patch out of that one. It was a good time. My role in the Marine Corps was aviation ordnance, bombs, missiles, rockets, flares, and most importantly, I spent a lot of time with the 50 Cal weapon system.  

Joshua Wilson     00:02:19    I loved that job and had a really good time with the Marine Corps.  I used the benefits that I got from the Marine Corps to go to college. I was the first person in my family to go to college successfully, and then have leftover GI Bill to attend, MBA and law school.  I think it was around that point when I started to become pretty interested in veterans’ benefits because they say they changed my life. In many ways, they changed my social class. They open up the world for me, both literally being in the military and traveling the world. Then after, by providing me with opportunities to really grow.  I was grateful to the Marine Corps and to the country.  I started to seek out other veterans to find out what they were doing so that I could help her so that I could learn from them.  

Joshua Wilson    00:03:06    There were people who mentored me and I wanted to pay it back. I worked as a lawyer for a while in Georgia, not doing military-related work.  I worked as a public defender for a handful of years and one of my partners, Jennifer Crosser, her husband is Scott Carlson. He’s a US Army veteran who was at the time managing our Warrior Surf program to technical program. All our cases and community stuff goes through this technical program. So he was doing it at America’s Warrior Partnership. He said “if you want to take a break from advocating for energy people, you should try advocating for veterans. We do a lot of that here, all across the board, just come talk to us”  I thought, well, I’m enjoying what I’m doing, but it is tiring work. Public defenders have a pretty known burnout.  

Joshua Wilson     00:04:04    It kinda reminds me of the Marine Corps in a way the Marine Corps for young enlisted men has about a 25% retention rate. So three out of four Marines after their first four or five years, they get out. The Marine Corps is making veterans left and right.  I like to think other jobs that are high stress tend to have a similar turnaround as the public defenders have high turnover as well.  It’s kind of interesting. I’m a glutton for punishment. They might say it’s rewarding work serving the constitution as a military man was really cool cause it’s all execution. Then serving as a lawyer is really cool, because it’s all interpretation. The constitution being that bedrock that brings us together. It’s pretty cool.  

Joshua Wilson  00:04:46    But I digress regardless. I started to think more about helping veterans. So I joined in with America’s Warrior Partnership and I met with our CEO, Jim Lorraine and he explained a lot of different things to me. It was a lot to process. But what I gathered from that initial meeting was we need to connect veterans better to resources that exist. We need to make people aware of the successes that veterans have, the things that they do. I was an example of that, someone who had a very different outlook, if you were to estimate my success as being like rule bottom of my near the bottom of my high school class,  I had no prospect of college had no idea what existed outside of Eaton to now I was postured to be able to do good things. With America’s Warrior Partnership, I’ve been able to, as Jim says to me, when it comes to helping somebody, even if they’re a veteran or not, you’ve got to treat them holistically.  

Joshua Wilson    00:05:51    You have to establish a relationship with them. Veterans don’t have great relationships with their veteran service officers. My veteran service officer was an hour and a half away from me. I was ruling the country. I don’t spend a lot of money on gas. We share cars in the country. So how am I actually going to get to this person regularly? Now I was being evaluated for tinnitus when I was young. I had hearing loss as well, but eventually going to Dublin, Georgia from Milledgeville just enough, a pain in the butt that I said, what can we do to stop me having these appointments? Because the gas is killing me. They said, well, you can sign this waiver. So that’s a limitation of my potential benefits I would’ve got from disability. I’ve got 70% loss in one ear, 30%, and the other now I think in my case, the ringing in the ears tonight is probably pretty fair.  

Joshua Wilson    00:06:53    I don’t have a better personal relationship with the VA because of that. But I do think that there are millions of veterans who have difficulty getting their VSO into their VA. There is nowhere for them to go online. There’s nowhere for them to call where they can connect with real people. So Jim kinda pointed this out as well. He said, when you take care of veterans holistically, you think about the things that matter the most, and this is going to be your employment and your finances. You have to have a job. It’s good that you’re growing and you have to have finances. You have to have healthcare. You have to have housing. You need solid transportation. You need some sort of spiritual anchor. It could be through fellowship and friendship and bonding brotherhood. It doesn’t have to necessarily be a traditional religious approach, but you need community.  

Joshua Wilson    00:07:51    Then you also need some sort of recreation. That’s the holistic wheel. That is the basis of our model. That every person is specifically the veterans that we serve need to have access to these things. Now, in most areas, you will have a local community that serves veterans and this local community might be if you’re in Atlanta, Georgia, the Warrior Alliance, you can go to them and connect with them. If you’re looking for a better way to use your GI bill, connect you with Georgia state university’s military office. That they have for students, you might go to them and say, I really need help upgrading my disability to wish they will call that local VSO and say, Hey, what’s the status of this claim? VSO may circle back with the VA, maybe the VA is denied a claim because they haven’t fully looked at a disability that you’re claiming.  

Joshua Wilson    00:08:48    This happened with Vietnam vets. The law changed to incorporate the pathways around Vietnam to include more Naval and coast guard members who are more likely to be there. The VA is not necessarily going to retroactively approve disability for Vietnam guys. Can you imagine the amount of money? It’s a tough conflict of interest. The VA needs to operate and save money. Because we’re a partnership we can come in and advocate and say, this person qualifies. We have proof and we’ve got the systems in place because we are working on pushing these cases to motivate the veteran service officer, to educate, to collaborate. That’s our model: connect, educate, advocate, collaborate. So connect veterans to resources and connect resources to veterans, educate the community about what exists, educate the veterans on how they can get those resources.  

Joshua Wilson   00:09:48    This is not just about disability benefits in the VA. This is also about your state benefits, access to state parks. You can get a tag for that. You can get a LinkedIn premium for a year. You can get free concert tickets from vet ticks. You can get discounts from businesses all over both local and national. Who’s organizing it? Who’s keeping up with it? The difficulty is you can’t just post a list because these discounts, these freebies, these resources, they change all the time. So one of the difficulties with that is that it has to be a live group of individuals. That gets us to the first part of America’s Warrior Partnership. The network connects local organizations to national resources. If you reach out to one of our licensed clinical social workers at the network, which you can do, if you go to America’s Warrior Partnership.org and you click need help, you fill out a form, you tell them what you’re looking for.  

Joshua Wilson    00:10:45    They will connect you both to your community. So if you’re in Atlanta, there is the Warrior Alliance. But if the warrior Alliance can’t cover, there’s a gap. We just don’t have lawyers. That’s a super common thing. We will reach out to maybe a national organization, maybe that’s pro bono, or maybe a pro bono law firm in your area and say, Hey, can you help? The idea is not just to replace the VA because they are the heart of the benefits they are paid for by tax dollars. They are congressionally chartered, but to motivate them to do better, to expand the connection that veterans have with the other organizations and different organizations, do different things for different folks, and also to expand the audience. We’re not just serving veterans, but we are serving spouses. We are serving caregivers. We do services for children and dependents to include the whole family so that we really increase our impact.  

Joshua Wilson     00:11:49    Now, the way it works is you improve the quality of life of veterans holistically. Our theory is that we will reduce veteran suicide. I mean, if the news headline was Russia or China or Iran, or, or anybody is killing 22 American troops a day, people would be ready to go to war to nuke that place. If suicide is doing that to us, then we need to have that sort of same rigor and anger toward healing and helping that’s our philosophy. We have a network which keeps up with what veterans need. You can access that via our website. You can also call into the network at one eight, six, six, eight WP beds. You can use that tool to find those resources, healthcare, transportation, finance, spirituality, recreation, and housing. You can also connect as a community leader with our community integration team. Our goal is to reach and create local communities all over the United States.  

Joshua Wilson    00:13:03    We’ve already got established, community partners. Now I mentioned the word Alliance in Atlanta, for Georgia, that’s what I think of, but it could also be an upstate warrior solution and South Carolina in Greenville. It can also be I believe it’s a 2, 1, 1 San Diego bit and the west coast, or there’s a New York group or an Indiana Group.  We have a great group in the panhandle.  We have one in Arizona for the native American population is the DNA NAS mob partnership. So we are expanding everywhere that we can to create real relationships on the ground. Then we have a series of initiatives. I won’t go and read off each initiative, in long depth, but I’ll give you the short version. So our initiatives are operation deep dive. That’s our research arm to prevent veteran suicide.  

Joshua Wilson    00:14:06    It’s a partnership with pharmaceutical providers, university providers, and private think tank individuals, Ph.D. types to go and connect to the communities and speak to the families of victims of suicide and find out what factors are repeating themselves and evaluate that. Put the scientific method to the test and discover if there are more direct ways to prevent veteran suicide. We also have the corporate veteran initiatives. That’s my program.  The corporate veteran initiative is a free and confidential way for military employees to bolster and strengthen their military affairs program. If you’re working at a company and you would like them to have more job accommodations for you at work, you could call me about that.  I reach out to their HR team and explain to them, you know what we know, and it could be a simple thing such as connecting with the free federal group that provides recommendations for job accommodations.  

Joshua Wilson   00:15:09    You can put mirrors up on computers that help people who have stress reactions when people are behind them or noise-canceling headphones for people who might have tinnitus.  There’s all sorts of organizations that provide these things to companies for free. So I help connect them to that. If you’re looking for volunteering, you want to deliver care packages to your community, start something locally. Maybe you want to sponsor a transition bed. Those are the things that I do with the corporate veteran initiative. You can also as an individual reach out to AWP, but if you come to the corporate veteran initiative, we can do that for you as an individual employee. We also work with human resources and management staff to create military affairs initiatives. It might be a recognition of veterans.  

Joshua Wilson   00:16:00    It might be working with an organization like PsychArmor to increase the awareness that the supervisors have in the organization. If you want to recruit veterans, but your veteran recruiter doesn’t know the branches don’t know what an MOS is. They need training so that they can actually do that. So that’s also part of what we do, whether it’s recognition for the company or recognition for the veteran, whether it’s building out better benefits for the military-connected employees, or just letting them know that they exist,  whether it’s just increasing awareness of our partners. This is something a lot of the companies like through the corporate veteran initiative. They love to hear, Hey Josh, what is going on right now? Well, these are the people who are really killing it and volunteering. These are the companies that you should reach out to their ERG leader.  These are the communities where we think need the most help.  

Joshua Wilson    00:16:53    These are the ones that are thriving. So part of America’s Warrior Partnership, when you zoom out is us finding out how we can operationalize the entire country to help veterans because veterans are mass-produced. As people constantly get out of the military and their success is sort of the success of America. We consider that synonymous because, when veterans lead in their community when they thrive in their community, that really just means the American people are thriving. I know that was a mouthful now, but that was sort of like a big bucket of AWP and how we partner with communities to prevent veteran suicide and improve the quality of life a better.  

Scott DeLuzio     00:17:36    I love that holistic approach that you take. If you just focus on one issue here and there, and just kind of cherry-pick the ones that you want to focus on, if it’s not looking at the big picture. If you’re just focused on the mental health side of things, but not the financial side of things,  the job security, that type of thing, that could be a big part of what is going on with that individual. So looking at everything,  holistically, taking a look at the whole big picture is a huge part of what needs to happen. So one of the reasons why I love to have people from organizations like America’s Warrior Partnership is because there are veterans who have 

Scott DeLuzio    00:18:30    They completely write off the VA because they had this one bad experience with the VA. But like you were saying, the VA is responsible for more than just mental health treatment there. They’re responsible for the GI Bill for the disability benefits and all these other things. That has a huge impact on the financial aspect of things. There’s plenty of stories of veterans not getting the help that they need from the VA, including the financial aspect. Oftentimes they just stop looking for help after they get to that point where they just feel like they’re not being taken seriously or that they aren’t getting the help. Yesterday I read a post on social media about a Marine Corps veteran who took his life last week.  

Scott DeLuzio     00:19:31    His name was Steven Osborne and the post included the suicide note that this, individual wrote, which I’m not going to read now, if anyone wants to read, I’m sure you could find it online,  but the gist of it was that he just lost hope in the system at, at the VA and,  and just wanted the suffering that he was experiencing to stop. Could you imagine if he knew that there were other options out there? If this type of information was just there for him,  he still might be with us and there might still be that glimmer of hope that he might have. He might still be fighting on another day and not just fighting just to survive, but thriving too. Taking care of all the things in his life that maybe we’re not as optimal as it could have been.  

Scott DeLuzio    00:20:26    He could still be with us and I’m sure there like you said there’s 22 a day they probably have similar stories to that.  they may not make big news headlines or whatever, but they’re still individuals. They’re still people with families,  neighbors and coworkers and friends, and people who cared about them. They just kind of felt like they lost all hope.  I really do like having organizations like America’s Warrior Partnership on the show because it gives that one more option, that one more reason to keep digging, keep trying to find that thing that’s gonna work for them. The way you guys do it, that holistic approach,  focusing on that community and figuring out what is going on with those people in that area, in that community, and on the individual level I think is a smart approach.  

Scott DeLuzio   00:21:29    I think it’s one that’s worth sharing with the people who are listening out there. So I’m really happy to have people like you. Part of this partnership that you have is to educate the veterans about the opportunities that are available to them. How are you connecting with these veterans?  How are you first off coming across them and making that connection, and, then, what is it that you’re doing to help educate them about the opportunities that are available to them?  

Joshua Wilson   00:22:05   We can talk about how we do outreach and sort of how we do holistic care, from the point of view of helping the veterans. When you go to America’s Warrior Partnership.org, you see the link need help when you call the phone number, you have that, but you know what? Veterans have lots of websites that they can find if they Google,” I need help.”  They have lots of phone numbers, right? That is not enough. I always promote that because people have to be able to reach you, but proactive outreach means consistently advocating and considering strategically. How am I going to connect? We do this all the time in the company. That’s my specialty, the corporate veteran initiative. We always talk about,” do you have a referral program where if your veteran brings in another veteran”. You incentivize them and it could be a lunch, a plaque, a note, anything just to get started.  

Joshua Wilson    00:23:11    Are you recognizing the veterans in your company? One company we work with, AGS, has a wall of heroes. It’s really cool. You go down this one hall, it’s all the pictures of people. Some metals and some things that just show their service so that everyone can see that they’re working with people who did really something awesome. They did something really great for the country.  That encourages connection. The idea is to motivate veterans, to feel accepted, to feel like you are supportive. There’s a reason. So people get out of the military and they think I want to go work for Boeing, Northrop, Grumman, Booz Allen. We are military, and we love them. We want to be supportive. We are in a time right now where people have really strong opinions about everything. You don’t want to risk working for an employer that has a strong opinion against the military or going to a healthcare provider talking about post-traumatic stress, who has a strong bias against the military.  

Joshua Wilson     00:24:10   I think it’s natural for people from the military community to just seek out people who advertise it. That’s one of the things that we do with outreach. We talk in my case, but in other cases, to the community leaders and we say, do you celebrate veterans day? Memorial Day? How do you celebrate it? Do you respect veterans every day? How do you connect? Are you putting up signage? Are you sending volunteers in the streets? Do you have publicly posted numbers for your beds? Are you connecting to vets? To circle back to the companies, because once again, that’s my area of expertise. Do you have your veterans in the company meeting for an ERG? If it’s just led by some supervisor, just one guy, then that’s not in veterans, we have purpose. We lead. We lead in ways that you don’t leave in the civilian world.  

Joshua Wilson   00:25:02    The lowest ranks among us were responsible for extraordinary events that occurred in combat and logistics and operations. And so veterans will tune out if they are not engaged. This is also true of military spouses who manage their children’s education in a household and the entire operation, the household, and usually a job and a traveling job. I mean, military spouses were doing remote work long before the rest of us. They know they know what’s going on and they stay with companies longer. They’re great employees. So that’s part of the outreach, it’s awareness, about what we bring to the community. A slight detour. I worked with a group on the side as a volunteer cause a lot of us might work with one nonprofit, but we volunteer at heart. That’s why we do it.  

Joshua Wilson supports veterans running for office. We obviously support anyone. Who’s a good candidate, veterans know a lot about sacrifice. It’s built-in us, so think about the fact that if a veteran loses to another candidate, my opinion is the veteran or military person is more likely to say, I lost to somebody better. That’s good for America. I just don’t see that level of understanding about what sacrifice means for the country coming for somebody who didn’t experience that brotherhood. It’s a bit of a bias, but it is what it is. That’s why I serve veterans. That’s a similar sort of organizational loyalty that you see with veterans and companies. It doesn’t mean that we don’t care about individuals, of course, but it means that we understand the bigger picture because we experience things by will, by choice, by MOS, by deployment that have forced us to see outside of our own selves.  

Joshua Wilson     00:27:00    I think that that is central to being a veteran, it’s central, to volunteer and essential to service. The philosophy that we have at AWP is that the more veterans that we help, the more they will want to help. Let’s talk about holistic care because if this fits an outreach. We’ll just call them military spouses. A military spouse has an issue that has to do with employment, but you dig a little deeper and you find out that the military spouse is actually overworked at home and can’t keep a job because the military spouse is also a caregiver and military spouse. His partner has a traumatic brain injury. If these things remain untreated, this isn’t just an employment case. This is a disability case. It’s a financial case. It’s a quality life case. If these things are left on a touch, then it can ripple out into the people that they know.  

Joshua Wilson    00:27:55    Then to the people that they met. So our point of view is if you address anything that people ask for, then you will get down to that root issue and you’ll be able to connect. The good news is there, regardless of AWP being someone who’s trying to bring military services together, these military services already exist all over the United States. There are people who help in all of these areas. They’re just not necessarily connected. So our goal is to sort of create a connective tissue and a safe, neutral space where people can come together, which is why every year we have a symposium. Anybody who wants to help the military or be part of the military can reach out to us and connect with us and come to the symposium. It’s like a conference style. There’s there’s classes that are interactive discussions.  

Joshua Wilson    00:28:46    There’s a little bit of entertainment, but it’s mostly focused around clinical assistance and how you can serve better. We all work pretty hard to take notes, to change cards, to find out who’s doing what and where and how. And that just makes our networks that much bigger because the network in sort of the business sense is like, oh, these are just people who can help you do things in the veteran sense. These are people who are boots on the ground, helping veterans. I would say it’s a much more tangible impact, but once again, I’m biased. This is my area of work. So holistic care is important because it uncovers other things. Even if it wasn’t a military spouse, there are plenty of individuals who are seeking recreation. It’s because they may need therapy, actual therapy. If they’re seeking a job, they may need occupational therapy. If they’re seeking finances, they may need resume assistance or more information. Maybe they have other than honorable discharge. They can’t use the GI bill. Maybe that can be appealed. I mean, a GI Bill non-existing and then you advocate for it and it does exist. That’s a life-changer. That’s something that we are learning to do faster and better as an organization because we’re a team. So that’s pretty cool.  

Scott DeLuzio     00:30:08    It is cool. There’s some things you mentioned there that in my mind, I didn’t even make the connection until you just brought those up. How the person, maybe the military spouse couldn’t keep a job, but because maybe they’re also a caregiver and they’re dealing with their spouse at home and it’s just causing all that extra stress and tension. When you start thinking about the big picture and looking at all the little pieces that are connecting together and how they’re causing one of those pieces to kind of fall off, it really starts to make sense. And you start to think about some of these issues that the veterans are having and their families, in a much different way. You’re not just sitting there, like in the cartoons when the water starts leaking into the boat.  

Scott DeLuzio     00:31:08    They’re like trying to quickly jump in and hit the one that’s leaking right now. Then the one that’s leaking harder. They’re just jumping around all over the place. You’re not doing that. You’re trying to figure out like, okay, let’s get this boat out of the water so we can repair it and then put it back in the water so that it can float.  That’s kind of what it seems like to me. What you guys are trying to do by having this community approach, this network of organizations and individuals who are out there trying to help the veterans in the veteran community.  

Joshua Wilson    00:31:47    I think that’s a pretty colorful and accurate explanation. I mean, frankly, if you look at it, whether it’s the VA, they all have obvious issues like the VA although, the VA is the source of the vast majority of the tangible benefits. That is what we discuss, your GI bill, your disability, your pension, your healthcare. That VA facility and those benefits are the core. So you’re right. If somebody says OD to hell with it, that is a huge chunk of their quality of life that they improve that they’re just missing out on. So the VA, I consider them to be critical, whether you like them or not. They are critical. Our approach is to advocate where we need to advocate where we need and connect where we need to and be strategic about it.  

Joshua Wilson    00:32:45    So that when you do connect with the VA, you get streamlined in the process enough that you get the base benefit, then we can branch out from there because the VA’s biggest problem is numbers. It’s bureaucracy. That’s probably what I should have said earlier. So if you want to cut it, that’s what I would cut out. But I would just say the VA’s biggest problem is that they have so many people to deal with. I mean, they’re like their own country. I mean, really, and truly when you think about how many people they have to deal with, and that means that they proceduralize, everybody, they compartmentalize the military. Your haul to two months from now, like it’s just a machine and machines don’t necessarily fit what we need is relationships.  

Scott DeLuzio   00:33:31    And that goes to your point, too. You’re not trying to automate these processes. You’re trying to get some real connections with people. When you have an organization like the VA who is just so massive with the number of people that are trying to help, if they don’t try to automate stuff there’s no way that they’re going to be able to do the job that they’re supposed to do. The amount of manpower that would be required to do all of that would just be just astronomical. So it would be a very hard thing to do, but then when you lump in organizations like yours, where America’s Warrior Partnership is making those connections. It’s actually strengthening that system, that core system that you’re talking about by allowing some of those other issues that maybe the VA isn’t equipped to handle. It allows those things to be addressed and compliment what they offer.  

Joshua Wilson   00:34:37    I think that you kinda hit the nail on the head there was a second. The VA has this situation where they don’t have enough manpower to have a relationship with all of us.  But neither does America’s Warrior Partnership. What we have is a system for bringing people together. That’s really the key because we’re a small organization. We have less than a hundred employees.  I’m not sure about our number; it’s probably less than 60. I’m pretty sure. But our organization is not huge. Our organization is like the military because so many of us are veterans. It just compartmentalizes very well. Like the corporate veteran, initiative serves companies all over the country. They all funneled through me.  

Joshua Wilson    00:35:38    It’s all about process management. When a company needs to do volunteering, I’m going to find a volunteering organization that can help them. What’s cool about it is, there’s already the mechanisms in place. We’re just connecting the synopsis here. I mean, for example, you say, Hey, Josh, I want to volunteer by mentoring with veterans. I say you can sign up as an ETF sponsor. You don’t even necessarily need to go through your employer to do that. We can set you up right now. You can start mentoring veterans who are transitioning to your area. You might say, I want to do it as a company. We can also do the same thing, but now we need an ETS representative to say, all right, this is how we’re going to build it out for your company. That works the same way all across the board.  

Joshua Wilson   00:36:23    It’s not just volunteering. Community engagement is no different. If you try to build a community on your own,  you’re not going to do anything. But if you say, Hey, I’m going to go to this city and I’m going to speak to the political influencers and the chamber of commerce and the VFW leadership. And maybe some of the veteran outreach leadership, if they have it, I’m going to try to bring these folks together. Now you have the manpower that the VA didn’t have. The idea is that we all have to sort of pitch in because if Americans were a partnership and the VA and the VFW and the USO and the chamber and the universities and the hospital and healthcare system are thinking about veterans in a proactive way, then now they can work together. Set aside a little bit of their time or resources, put it into that pot meaningfully. Now we have a bigger impact. So that’s kind of the dream. Like now you’re seeing that sort of strategy that we have behind it.  

Scott DeLuzio   00:37:18    It makes complete sense.  I really think that that is a great way of doing things and coming together as a community, from all these different aspects of the community. It puts them together to work together and use their resources for the betterment of the veteran community. What are some of the plans that you have for the future in terms of growing this network in the community, and even other things that you might be planning on in the future?  

Joshua Wilson   00:37:53     Future-wise just kind of like spreading it out. I’ll talk about my own program first for the corporate veteran initiative. Our plan is to grow to the extent that we have a full-scale national network of military-friendly employers that we can refer our veterans to that we can help share the stories with. We can connect the military, connect employees to resources.  But the idea is that with CVI, we want to grow enough to where if a company is starting a new military affairs program, we’ve got a whole list of people. Hey, these are people who already got it going on, reach out to them, get connected, and need to outsource party programs. That’s fine because we understand that military veterans and military affairs initiatives and companies, they take employee time.  

Joshua Wilson    00:38:46    If you’ve got a company of 10 people and two veterans, you don’t necessarily need a full-scale military first program. Those two guys can just give them an hour a week to meet in the coffee shop. Then you can also connect them to AWP, bam, right? They can get everything that they need and they can reach out and have a phone call with me, once a month, Hey, what’s going on with you? That way it’s outsourced that way. You don’t have to do it at home. Now, if you have to hire an HR person to manage military benefits and manage military employee resource groups, it can be quite costly. So we want to help smaller organizations by helping them outsource. We want to get to the point that larger organizations are invested in mentoring, smaller organizations so that everybody has a military affairs program.  

Joshua Wilson     00:39:29    We want everybody legally compliant.  That means that they are paying all of their reservists. We want everybody hiring veterans, not just for part-time jobs. A lot of people want to hire veterans for part-time jobs. We want full-time quality employment for veterans that match the skill and expertise. So that’s really the end goal is to make some of those things happen all over the country. Operation deep dive their goal. I think very specifically is to get the number of veterans suicides down to provide research that tangibly shows what works so that we can drive it all the way down to zero.  I think other initiatives like community integration, I think we want to build enough of a network that anywhere a military member transitions to, or a spouse or caregiver, or anywhere they transition, they’ve got human beings near them. They can speak to shake their hand and say, Hey, I’d like to have a helping hand or I’d like to give back. And that increases community. So that’s the end goal. or maybe not. There’s never really an end when you try to improve quality of life like this, frankly. but our immediate goal is to get stronger, in our various programs so that we can really knock a dent in veteran suicide, and we can really uplift veterans and improve their quality of life.  

Scott DeLuzio   00:40:52    I think that’s a great goal to have because I’ve mentioned this on the podcast before, but, when I started the podcast, it was with a goal of helping to reduce the amount of veteran suicides that are out there. I’m not having any kind of delusions about me, my capability says one single individual, I’m not going to by myself. I’m not bringing that number down to zero. if I could bring it down one or two like that by myself, that would be wonderful. But with a community of people, like what you’re putting together here, that community of people who are there actively trying to better the lives of the veterans. I think it is going to help really move the needle,  in that downward direction, down towards zero, because that’s what’s needed is the people who are working together actively trying to help the veterans in their communities,  and offering the services and that holistic approach that they really need. I think that the key here is getting the group of people together. That’s exactly what it seems like America’s Warrior Partnership is doing.  

Joshua Wilson    00:42:14    I’ll tell you this, as a practical example in the future. If I speak to a veteran who wants to tell their story.I could say, listen, I know a guy who tells stories. You’ve got a great one to tell, or maybe someone who just needs someone to talk to. That happens a lot, but they’re not ready for therapy. I’m not gonna force it on them. Hey, you know what, there’s a person it’s not therapy, but there’s a person you can talk to get your story out there, which ironically enough, many therapists will prescribe telling your story in various ways as a part of the treatment. So whatever works. Whatever can move the needle forward to make people happier. I’m down to give it a shot. Of course, when it comes to serious treatment, I do want to be clear, licensed clinical social workers do handle that. It’s not just a free for all, but inevitably when you’re referring to veterans before you get them connected to a counselor, you’re going to talk to them and you’re going to find out that maybe they don’t even want a counselor. Then you say, you know what, I’m a vet too, what can I do to help? So there’s also a little bit of that that makes it less clinical, less like the VA mechanisms, and more community-based.  

Scott DeLuzio   00:43:21    Yeah, absolutely. Other people who are out there, if there are people who look like they want to share their story and they have the story that potentially could benefit the overall, the greater military community, they want to get that story out there. That’s just not sure where to start, where to send them my way, because I love having veterans with different perspectives to come on the show, talk about their, their stories. If they’re not ready to have that story go out there to the world or whatever, there’s other things that they could do to, and even in terms of keeping some of that stuff to themselves with journaling and writing these things down or sharing it in a different format right.  

Scott DeLuzio   00:44:11    Where they can still share it. But it doesn’t necessarily have to get out there to the world. Literally, anybody can listen to it until they’re ready for it. That’s something that I did,  when I wrote my book it started off as me just kind of writing down some notes in a notebook and just kind of journaling things. Then it wasn’t until years later that I actually put it in a paper. An actual book format. I wasn’t quite ready for it at that point. I was just writing that stuff down.  I’m so glad that I did because there’s some details as I go back to some of those old notes that time has kind of erased from my memory. I am glad that I have some of those memories written down.

Scott DeLuzio    00:45:00    That is something that happened. I do remember that now,  but then looking back at that. If I was just sitting here now, I might not remember it the same way. There’s so many different ways of doing things and I’m always happy to help get people started in the right direction. I had someone who was on the podcast a couple of weeks ago, and she had never really told her story to anybody. Even some of her close relatives and stuff. She hadn’t told some of the story, but just never really felt all that comfortable. She came on the podcast and she told her whole story, and it was an incredible story.  I’m glad that she came on and shared it. Now she was telling me, this kind of felt like therapy to me.  I want to share it with more people. I want to tell more people all about it. that type of thing is, it could just be that,  breaking the ice and getting that that’s, that journey started. I’m happy to be here for people like that.  

Scott DeLuzio   00:46:10    So as a nonprofit organization, I’m sure that you guys are always looking for support one way or another. First off, what type of help are you guys looking for in terms of donations, financial support, volunteers, and other things like that? Where can people go to get involved? I know you mentioned the website before, maybe you can mention that again. If there’s any other places that people can go to get involved with America’s Warrior Partnership and, and try to help out.  

Joshua Wilson    00:46:48    So you can check us out at America’s Warrior Partnership.org. If you are a veteran caregiver, spouse, or family member, the need help button is on the top right. And if you would like to donate the donate button is also slightly to the right of that button. You can reach out to me individually at J Wilson at America’s Warrior Partnership.org, if you need assistance, but don’t have a computer, you can call 1-866- AWP-VETS. And if you’re interested in reaching me personally, you can send me that email, and I will respond and we’ll find out how we can get you connected. Specifically, we are looking for veterans who are interested in telling their stories, who have overcome disabilities, and would like to share stories with us. And also we have resources to connect everyone to.  

Joshua Wilson     00:47:43    So, yeah, take advantage of us, connect with us, and reach out to me if you are a business owner, entrepreneur, or if you’re a company. I’d love to let you know how the corporate veteran initiative can help you. Once again, we are free and confidential to all, military-connected individuals. And in my case, employees, because I work with companies and we’re happy to have you if you want to, to work with us. We do take volunteers as well. Scott, it’s not an issue at all. We’re happy to get you engaged either with us or with the community because we have social worker teams, we love social work interns. If they are accredited and all that, we’ll get them connected to our network. We’ve pretty much got every type of volunteering you can imagine either with us or a partner,  either locally or digitally. So just let me know.  

Scott DeLuzio   00:48:34    And that’s great too because it seems like this is a one-stop-shop kind of thing, where, where if there’s someone who’s out there looking to help veterans, they just don’t know where to start.  That seems like there’s an opportunity potentially with America’s Warrior Partnership to get involved in and start really making a difference in veterans’ lives. So I really appreciate that you first came on the show to share this. I really do appreciate that this organization even exists because it’s really important to connect all these pieces together and, and really come together and help the veteran community. Joshua, it’s been a pleasure speaking with you today. Thank you again for taking the time to join me and sharing America’s Warrior Partnership with us. Are there any last closing things that you wanna share about America’s Warrior Partnership or the initiatives that you guys are involved with or even in any last messages that you might have for the veterans out there who are listening?  

Joshua Wilson   00:49:47    Yes, I did not do this, but I probably should have. I’d like to let everybody know that if you’re also interested in more information about some of the programs that you see on the website that I may not have covered, or if you’d like more information about Operation Deep Dive and how you can participate. If you know someone who has been a victim of suicide, feel free to reach out to, to me once again, at J Wilson America’s Warrior Partnership, we can definitely discuss, the other programs as well.  

Scott DeLuzio     00:50:19    Absolutely. Yeah. And I will have links to everything that you shared in the show notes today. When someone is listening to this episode, if you want to reach out, check out the website, get in contact with America’s Warrior Partnership, check out the show notes. We’ll have links to all of that stuff, including social media links and all that kind of stuff, too. So you can get connected with them wherever it is that you already are. And in that way, we can help grow this network and community of people who are out there advocating for, for veterans. Thanks again, Joshua for joining us today.  

Joshua Wilson    00:50:54    Thanks for having me.  

Scott DeLuzio    00:50:56    Thanks for listening to the Drive On Podcast. If you want to check out more episodes or learn more about the show, you can visit our website DriveOnPodcast.com. We’re also on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube at Drive On Podcast.

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