The Young Veterans of Denton is a recently formed organization that aims to build a group of local veterans to help veterans and participate in community service.
The first meeting was held on Sept. 18 at Golden Boy Coffee Co. with six people attending, including the two organizers of the group, Jonathan Brown and UNT alumnus Michael Wolman.
“I’ve done some different things in Denton where you just try to get traction and you find yourself sort of sitting there talking to an empty room for a couple of months,” Wolman said. “So, I think that getting a couple extra folks out there probably shows that there’s a want to have this kind of community, which I think is really encouraging.”
The Young Veterans of Denton has plans to participate in the upcoming Denton Turkey Trot as their first community service event and to get the word out about their organization, Wolman said.
“I’ve had my own mental health troubles,” Brown said. “A really big motivator for me is just being able to have a support system for other veterans. And without it being like, any kind of formal ‘I’ve got to go to group,’ or anything like that. I just want a community of guys that you can call up and be like, ‘Hey, man, how’s it going?’ or ‘Hey man? I’m going through this. What’s your advice?’ That was my main thing that I was looking for.”Overall, the Young Veterans of Denton plan to have one meeting a month as well as one community service event a month, Brown said, and will work on advertising to reach out to potential new members.
Originally Brown had been searching on social media for a group of younger veterans to connect with in Denton. He couldn’t find one that fit for him, so he reached out to Wolman on Reddit, and they decided to organize the group together.
“Not that there aren’t [veteran] groups out there already,” Wolman said. “I’d say that the pre-9/11 veterans have probably stood up more for formal communities, and they’re just a little bit further along than we are, which makes sense, but that’s what we decided to do with that bit of a shortfall in the community.”
However, Wolman said they are welcome to any veterans joining the group and anybody who wants that sense of community.
“As a veteran, I don’t really hang out with many people,” engineering sophomore Dan Garza said. “I wouldn’t say we’re reclusive, we just keep our words to ourselves. In our culture, bottom line, we’re kind of controversial the way we speak our thoughts because in the military, it’s just straightforward. Somewhat aggressive. And you can’t really do that in the real civilian world. I think [the organization’s] really cool because it’s somewhere we can actually be ourselves where we can actually come back to what we are used to, to what we were molded into.”
Other community service projects the veteran group plans to get involved with in the future includes helping senior citizen veterans or veteran widows with their homes, local food bank organizations, trail restoration work and other service opportunities that are suggested by members of the group, Brown and Wolman said.
Plans for the group also include collaborating and partnering with organizations in Denton and at UNT for a range of community projects if the opportunity arises, Wolman said.
“I know pretty much everybody that joins the military has kind of a servant’s heart and a lot of us miss out on that after we get out,” Brown said. “We want to be there for each other. There’s obviously some pretty well-known mental health issues among veterans and we want to create a support system for each other. And then we also want to do things for all of Denton, and then some older veterans that need help. We want to help them out as well.”
The Young Veterans of Denton has a Facebook page and can be reached at the email email@example.com.
“What really felt cool for me was a lot of the guys that came had something to bring to the table as far as like points of contact with good community organizations or they’ve got more veteran friends, and they just wanted to come get a feel for it before they invited all their buddies out,” Brown said. “So hopefully, we can keep growing from there.”
Featured Image: Founder Jonathan Brown listens to the new members of Denton Young Veterans, a community group created to provided support in various ways to veterans around Denton, Texas. Image by Bertha Smith