WARD, Ark.- A local veteran is taking action to make sure his brothers and sisters in arms get the care and support they need once they return home.
Mikel Brooks is passionate. He joined the army at the age of 17 with his mother's permission. The Bald Knob native served two tours in Iraq on the front lines, and as a combat engineer.
In 2007 he was wounded and had to retire. It was a hard pill to swallow for Brooks and sent him down a dark path.
"I was homeless," says Brooks. "I've had problems with addiction from the VA giving me too many pills.
Brooks beat those, but many of his comrades weren't able to overcome their struggles.
His focus now is to be a voice for the support and care veterans so desperately need. He plans to do this through his newly establish nonprofit, We Are the 22, which was named for the number of veterans who statistically commit suicide each day in our country.
"We have guys that are committing suicide because they're having to wait 3 or 4 months for a mental health evaluation," says Brooks.
The nonprofit will petition for a complete overhaul of the VA healthcare system by embarking on state to state rallies in the capitol cities.
"We need more transparency and accountability for the VA system, " says Brooks.
Dear to Brooks' heart is his plan to establish what he calls "Quick Reaction Angels." After losing several friends and fellow veterans to suicide, Brooks says it's an emergency response team that can show up in their darkest hour and provide the support they need.
"One veteran committing suicide from lack of hope is too many, " says Brooks. "We're regular veterans, regular people, regular citizens that simply have had enough of the veterans being left on the side of the road."
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