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East Bay veteran’s next mission to aid homeless and ‘at-risk’ service members

Published Jun 12




would just like the community I grew up in to come together.” Hometown Heroes, a partnership between Bay Area News Group-East Bay and Comcast, celebrates people in the Bay Area who make a difference in their communities.

But when he returned to Pittsburg 7 years later, things had changed. Wilson saw homeless veterans in numbers he’d never before witnessed, and vowed to do something his father had instilled in him as a kid — he would make his community a better place.

So the following year, he started a brand new nonprofit, a coalition of veterans service providers called Delta Veterans Group, to aid Contra Costa County’s estimated four hundred homeless vets.

It’s about getting them the skills they need, Wilson said. Any veteran that’s served our country, we want to reach out to them and help them reach their goals.…

Born and raised in a blue-collar family in eastern Contra Costa County, Wilson joined the Army right out of high school. He specialized in military intelligence, intercepting radar transmissions for the special forces in the early 1990s, until a training exercise at Fort Bragg in North Carolina left him with severe leg injuries.

After finishing up his Army commitment and a swift stint as a letter carrier, Wilson spent the next 7 years serving veterans in VA Nv. FL and CA for the charitable organization Disabled American Veterans.

In 2012, he founded the Delta Veterans Group. By bringing together a number of local veterans service organizations, the all-volunteer nonprofit has already helped hundreds of at-risk returned veterans in the county apply for Veterans Affairs benefits, find work and education, and get the resources to become self-reliant.

Now, Wilson has his sights set on organizing Stand Down on the Delta, Contra Costa County’s first multiday, one-stop shop for homeless and at-risk veterans, modeled after other stand downs in Pleasanton, Boulder Creek and Dixon. About three hundred veterans are expected to flock to the county fairgrounds in Antioch Sept. 11-15 for medical and dental care, education and employment assistance, and help with housing.

It’s a big undertaking, Wilson said. We’re trying to build that foundation for that veteran so he can give back to the community.…

Wilson hopes to one day have a permanent brick-and-mortar resource center for the county’s veterans. Several veterans, he stated face a backlog of months or longer just to get an appointment with the VA and do not have several medical options in the area, which can be a complicated prospect for veterans who do not have reliable transportation or are dealing with mental health issues.

You’re looking at veterans coming back with serious PTSD, and they see going to Concord as a accurate burden, Wilson said. These are men and women who served our country, and we as grateful People from United States have the obligation to serve them as well.

One of the veterans whose life was transformed by Wilson’s mission is George Brown, a 21-year Army veteran who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Brown, who returned home to Brentwood in 2013, stated his transition was trying, but with Wilson’s help, he was able to find out what benefits he was entitled to and avoid the isolation that a lot of returned vets feel upon re-entering society with battlefield wounds and little or no job experience.

J.R. and the were diligent with my paperwork and benefits and helped me every step of the way, Brown said. They played a key role. If I did not have them on the other end of the phone, I would’ve been lost.

Brown was so moved by the help he decided to become a service officer for the nonprofit. For the past year, he’s also served as a board member.

The military is not equipped for any gentle of liaison for medical, Brown said. It’s a two-hour briefing, and then you are sent out on your own. It’s a sad thing… The transition takes a long time, so we need to have people there to sort those things out.

Wilson’s work has the backing of the Antioch, Oakley and Pittsburg city councils. Antioch Councilwoman Monica Wilson is not only a supporter of the cause but a Delta Veterans Group board member.

I’ve seen it grow from a few people to a group of organizations that provide help for veterans to get connected to the right resources, Monica Wilson said. I’ve been watching hard work and dedication. He gives so much of his time and energy and does not ask for any money for it.

Councilwoman Wilson stated the upcoming stand down event will have a significant impact on eastern Contra Costa County, where resources for veterans are thin.

The five-day event will have tents providing temporary shelter, health screenings, DMV services, haircuts, legal aid, fresh food and pet care. The Contra Costa District Attorney’s Office will be on hand to work with veterans who may have fraud> records preventing them from obtaining work.

Planning for Stand Down on the Delta started 2 years ago, and although it is been a lot of work, J.R. Wilson would not have it any other way.

It’s about giving back, he said. That’s my own therapy.…

Contact Jeremy Thomas at 925-847-2184. Follow him at Twitter.com/jet_bang .

GERALD J.R. WILSON Hometown: Antioch Age: 43 Claim to fame: Army veteran specializing in military intelligence, 1990-94. Founder of nonprofit Delta Veterans Group in 2012. Organizer of Contra Costa County’s first-ever Stand Down event for homeless and at-risk veterans.

Quote: I would not call myself a hero. I would just like the community I grew up in to come together. Hometown Heroes, a partnership between Bay Area News Group-East Bay and Comcast, celebrates people in the Bay Area who make a difference in their communities.

STAND DOWN CONTRA COSTA COUNTY The Delta Veterans Group’s Stand Down event will take place at the Contra Costa County Fairgrounds in Antioch from Sept. 11-15. The nonprofit is in need of about 2,200 volunteer hrs. to run the event, which is expected to draw about three hundred homeless and at-risk veterans for health care, temporary housing assistance and education. To sign up or find out more, visit www.deltaveteransgroup.org. Print…


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