Week of Valor: Veterans & military members are Jacksonville community’s backbone

A dedication ceremony was held Friday at a Cecil Field Chapel kicking off the Week of Valor

Kent Justice here. As we head into what the city of Jacksonville has called the Week of Valor, Sunday’s “This Week in Jacksonville” will focus on issues facing veterans.

I am passionate, as you know, about covering our military and the veterans in our community.

Among my guests will be Erin Fletcher, the warrior care network director at Wounded Warrior Project (WWP). I’m also speaking with Lawrence Chandler, a U.S. Army veteran who lives in Mandarin and participated in a program that just received an additional $25 million investment. WWP expanded mental health treatment to include substance use disorder -- something Chandler told me changed and saved his life.

“They encouraged me to enter their Home Base program in Boston, their two-week intensive program, and it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my life, besides for marrying my wife,” Chandler said. “It really changed my life from, I came from pretty dark perspective before I ever linked up with Wounded Warrior Project.”

“The Warrior Care Network helped me be present with my family again and enjoy life,” he continued.

I’ll also speak with retired Army Col. Bill Cousins. This veteran has been a leader in Jacksonville’s Navy League. It’s unprecedented!

“I’m not sure, I could be the only Army guy who’s ever been president of a Navy League Council, but I was born in a Navy town and raised there in Norfolk, Virginia,” Cousins said. “A lot of my family were Navy, so I speak the language.”

“You know, the Army (and) Navy have a lot of differences,” he continued. “However, we do have one goal in common and that is the defense of the United States of America.”

TWIJ is also focusing on an event coming up to train faith leaders about the needs of military members. Retired Brigadier Gen. Mike Fleming from the Steven A. Cohen Military Family Clinic at Centerstone tells me, “I really feel like the veterans and their families turn to faith leaders for help and guidance and we want to provide training and awareness to these faith leaders to allow them to help and do more for their veterans and military families in their house of worship.”

Joining Fleming is the Rev. Eric Wester, chaplain with the Department of Veterans Affairs.

You can watch the full interviews with all of our guests on This Week in Jacksonville at 9 a.m. Sunday on Channel 4 and at noon Sunday on CW17.