by Mark-Ellis Bennett
Veterans Helping Veterans of Western North Carolina is a new organization created to help local veterans successfully reintegrate into civilian life. Matt Shepley said he founded the group because he recognized the need to prevent veterans’ homelessness and address issues with post-traumatic stress disorder, rather than waiting for veterans who require care to become homeless. “By addressing it up-front we can help heal Iraq and Afghanistan veterans instead of waiting for all these undercurrents of feelings to come up to the surface as we did with the Vietnam veterans,” says Shepley.
Veterans Helping Veterans of WNC held its Pints 4 Patriots fundraiser at Highland Brewing Company on Thursday, May 29. Shepley said the event raised about $2,000. The nonprofit operates under its parent organization, Veterans Helping Veterans of America, based in Durham.
Brian Turner, a candidate for N.C. House, District 116, attended the event. He said over the past year he has become acquainted with Shepley and some of his Veterans Helping Veterans associates. “I think anything we are doing in the community to help veterans is something that should be supported. I’m happy to be out here doing so because this cause is a good one,” he said.
After joining the Marine Corps, Shepley was stationed at Camp Lejeune. “I was an operational specialist and finance technician, which gave me skills for helping vets. Because I didn’t see combat, I’m in a better state of mind to be able to actually help vets with their issues.”
Shepley says that even though he was never engaged in combat, just being enlisted with the Marine Corps left him with “baggage” that makes him wonder if he’ll ever be able to fully transition back into society as a “normal citizen.” From this perspective, Shepley says he appreciates the magnitude of the issues for veterans with PTSD.
“Veterans don’t go to war to continue it; we go to create peace,” says Shepley. “We want to get it over with quickly and efficiently with as little collateral damage as possible. Once politics and businesses with corporate interests that benefit from the blood and sweat of our veterans get involved, then you have a much longer, drawn out war because money becomes a motivating factor. War is quite possibly the biggest business our country has,” Shepley says.