PHOENIX - Andrew Jones is a hero. He dedicated seven years of his life to protect us. In 1999, Jones enlisted in the Marines. During his time in the military, he did a tour in Iraq.
“I got home from Iraq in late 2003 and immediately started experiencing the symptoms of PTSD,” said Jones.
The military veteran had trouble sleeping and would often wake up screaming from nightmares. His lowest point came a few years later.
“In 2007, I found myself in a closet with a gun to my head,” he said. “I was ready to end it all right there.”
Fortunately, he was able to get help and, with the support of his family, he is doing much better. He is also helping other veterans who suffer from PTSD.
“If I can come out of the darkness, anybody can come out of the darkness,” said Jones.
Having conquered his inner demons, Jones is now working with a nonprofit called The Ripple Effect. The organization helps veterans reintegrate into society after returning from combat.
“We are definitely seeing an impact and helping people,” said Jones.
The organization was founded by Wendy Shackley a couple years ago. Shackley lost her son, Joel McNeil, to suicide after he returned from the war.
“There’s a numbness that goes beyond anything you can imagine,” said Shackley.
A self-described “mama wolf,” she wanted to insure veterans had hope.
“Hope to me is ‘Helping Others Process Emotions,’” said Shackley.
The goal is to work with veterans and their families. Part of that involves a mentor program of veterans helping veterans
“It’s good to have somebody who knows what to do,” said Shackley.
Convinced her son would still be alive today if he had someone who knew what he went through, she is hoping to get veterans to volunteer.
“It’s one person at a time, that’s what The Ripple Effect is," said Shackley. “Then one tells another and another and another.”
So far, they are helping about 25 veterans but would like to help more. If you would like to volunteer or donate, you can go to The Ripple Effect’s website.
The organization also holds several suicide prevention workshops along with educational seminars. There is a list of upcoming events on the website.