On Saturday, March 22nd a veteran’s music benefit was held in Blanco County. The benefit was the fulfillment of a dream by organizer Harvey Trahan. Although the benefit did fulfill a dream for Trahan, it is not an end. Rather, it is a beginning. The Military Veteran Peer Network is off to an exciting start in Blanco County! Military Veteran Peer Network Coordinator Gene Hooper said, “this event raised approximately $400 cash and another $700 in commitments. About 50-100 people attended the event, and all proceeds will go to benefit the Military Veteran Peer Network. The event was very successful.”
Harvey Trahan is the son of a WWII veteran. Trahan said one night awhile back he had a dream. In the dream he was a child, and he asked his dad when his dad would stop drinking. His father answered, “I will never stop drinking. I saw too much horror in the war.” Trahan awoke from his dream in a cold sweat. His first thought was, “I’ve got to help vets!”
The idea of a benefit for veterans begin to take shape in his mind. According to Trahan, “one day I was talking to Lesley [Griffin] at the Courthouse. We were talking about my idea of a veterans benefit. Two ladies overheard our conversation and told us they worked for the Veterans Services.” Trahan believes that meeting these ladies was no accident. They supplied him with information about Veterans Services and his plan for a veterans benefit began to unfold. Trahan also held several planning meetings with the American Legion group in Blanco County.
The date of the benefit was set for March 22nd, and Blanco County resident and Event Coordinator Cornelia England began to gather corporate sponsors for the event. Christine and Frank Bushong donated the beautiful Carriage Hills Ranch as a venue. England also secured sponsorships from Lone Star Capital Bank, Dirt Works Excavation & Grading Services, and Git R Dug. There were others who helped. Jim Raby, local businessman and owner of Rivalry Screen Printing & Graphics pledged that Jim Raby and The Good Whiskey Band would provide musical entertainment for the event free of charge. According to England, “they did an outstanding job. There is no better music to be heard anywhere.”
Others who helped sponsor the event included Real Ale Brewery, Dennis Moore of Buggy Barn Museum, and Hill Country Liquor. Trahan said that Dustin Welch also donated his time and talents to the event. According to Trahan, Welch performed an inspirational collection of “soldier songs and voices.” Welch performed during the first part of the benefit and Jim Raby and The Good Whiskey Band played throughout the evening. Trahan added, “We had a good country dance.” England and Trahan were both, “so very thankful for the show of support and to everyone who helped.” Trahan added that he looks forward to enlisting the aid of more volunteers and to meeting more Blanco County veterans who need help.
Military Veteran Peer Network Coordinator Gene Hooper also attended the veterans benefit. Hooper was pleased with the turn-out for the benefit and the money that was raised to support Blanco County veterans. According to Hooper and Trahan, “all monies raised stay in Blanco County.”
A Gulf War veteran, Gene Hooper serves as Military Veteran Peer Network Coordinator and directs the activities for veterans in Hayes, Comal, Kendall, and Blanco Counties. According to Hooper, “the network has recently kicked off in Blanco County. Right now in Blanco we have two veterans who are participating in the program and one volunteer for them. Hayes County has over 30 volunteers for 35 vets and families.” Hooper added, “ the Mission [of Military Veteran Peer Network] is to connect Texas vets to resources and active group peer activities through peer networks and a family. The network is based on peer to peer connections. The work is done by volunteers. Eighty percent of our program volunteers are vets, whereby these volunteers are able to help other veterans. Some of our volunteer vets have had Post Traumatic Syndrome Disorder (PTSD), Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), or other military acquired impairments.”
“All volunteers are welcome, including those who have not served in the military.” Hooper emphasized, “anyone who has a heart for vets can help.” Hooper added, “twenty percent of our volunteers are coordinators. These people serve as role models of the program success. To be successful vets must learn to cope with disabilities through activities with other vets. When these vets become healthy they become role models, and they may serve as volunteers also. So the goal is to get better for you and to help others. Everyone wins.” Hooper added, “there is sometimes a disconnect with VA because many people there are clinical with no combat experience of their own. The difference is having head versus heart knowledge. Vets relate well to other vets because they can see that they’ve been there and have overcome. There is a difference between head versus heart knowledge, and the veterans know this.”
Hooper emphasized, “support is critical because when vets are discharged they lose their structure, family, and purpose. Just imagine losing your structure, your job, and your family all at once. This loss is very profound and fundamental. Veterans are together 24/7, and they literally hold each other’s lives in their hands…there is no stronger bond except parent to child. They are truly family.”
Hooper told the Blanco County News that the Military Veteran Peer Network was started by Vietnam vets about three years ago. The story began when three vets were hospitalized together for treatment. During the course of medical care they began discussing their respective treatments. All three realized the only way to wellness was through peer to peer connection. They believed they were not getting this through the Veterans’ Administration.
The small group began holding meetings. As the group grew they petitioned to the State of Texas for funds to create a network. This network started under the umbrella of the Samaritans Center in Travis County, Austin, Texas. Military Veteran Peer Network has expanded to include the Dallas and Houston networks. Approximately 200 peer coordinators provide support to veterans in 200 counties in TX.
Trahan believes it was no accident that Military Veterans Peer Network came to Blanco at the exact time he was given a vision to hold a benefit for Blanco County veterans. In fact, Trahan said the timing was, “serendipitous, or God given.” Coordinator Hooper sees a bright future ahead, “whereby Blanco County will build a volunteer group to support our Blanco County vets. We do this county by county. The program is a very cost effective tool for community wellness. Because it [the network] reduces the burden on VA and the tax base it operates at no cost, by volunteers. We want to broaden our scope and reach as many vets as possible in Blanco County.”
Contact info for Gene Hooper is: 512.938.9024 (cell) and his office number is: 512.392.7155, #1297. Hooper’s office in located in San Marcos, and he asked for help in contacting those who want to serve as volunteers or know of veterans who need help in Blanco County.
Trahan added there is a wealth of information on the hillcountry.org website. He said that veteran services are only one of several programs serviced by the Mental Help Developmental Disabilities Centers (MHDD). Other services include: mental health, substance abuse, early childhood intervention, and individual developmental disability.” He urged Blanco County residents to go online and find ways to help those who need it.
Trahan is a member of the Zydeco Blanco Band. He told the Blanco County News there will be another benefit for veterans in Johnson City similar to the Blanco event held in March. The second benefit will be held at Pecan Street Brewery on April 12th. Zydeco Blanco Band will donate the music for the benefit, and Trahan invites “everyone to come out and support our local veterans. We want to create an awareness of the presence of the Military Veterans Peer Network in Blanco County.”