Iowa Veteran Working to Create Empowerment Center to Help Fellow Veterans

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DES MOINES, Iowa -- State leaders gathered Wednesday for the annual Veterans Day at the Capitol to discuss issues affecting Iowa veterans.

Along with state leaders, 20 organizations set up tables in the rotunda to share what kinds of services offered to veterans.

Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds gave an update on the state's Home Base Iowa initiative, which connects veterans with careers in Iowa.

So far, 36 communities have signed up for the program and more than ten others are in the works.

Reynolds said the initiative has helped 1,700 veterans find jobs since 2013. The goal is to help more than 7,500 veterans.

But one local veteran says those services aren't enough. Ronnie Murray is launching a project that will offer something the veteran affairs hospital cannot.

Ronnie Murray is launching a project that will offer something the veteran affairs hospital cannot.

After serving in the Air Force, Murray said depression and PTSD took ahold of his life.

“I found myself actually in a spot that was so dark I didn’t care if I ever woke up … ever,” Murray said.

Spared by veteran service organizations, he realized others continue to fight a mental war.

“I have dug a little deeper and thought a little harder, and we are going to win this war,” Murray said.

It's been almost a year since Army veteran Richard Miles was found dead in Des Moines’ Water Works Park.

An autopsy showed that Miles took his own life. His family said Miles suffered from PTSD and was denied long-term treatment from the Iowa VA hospital.

In an effort to prevent another veteran suicide, Murray is launching what he calls the Empowerment Center to give veterans hope.

“I don’t think we can depend on the hospital for everything. I believe the veterans that have been blessed to navigate their way through the darkness have a responsibility to reach back and help other veterans,” Murray said.

The empowerment center will be a central hub that will be run by veterans for veterans, offering peer support and serving as a dispatch for veteran resources.

“We would be able to help guide you to other services we veterans actually used to get to the position where we are, being able to see the light. That’s all we can do -- show you how we got there,” Murray said.

Murray hopes the center will also take pressure off the overly crowded Iowa VA hospital.

“The veterans who put their life on the line ... they need the community to help make them well in any way possible,” Murray said.

Murray is already working to get a grant for the center, and he is still looking for a place to set up the organization. Murray said he hopes to have the Empowerment Center ready by August.