On the road again: Tony Jones embarks on a ride to raise awareness of veteran suicide
October 11, 2017
Just yesterday, Tony Jones of Fort Pierre, S.D., hit the trail once again in his quest to raise awareness about the challenges veterans face. His message is poignant: In America, 50,000 veterans are homeless with another 1.4 million others at risk of the same fate. What's worse, 27 veterans commit` suicide each day.
"Enough is enough; I'm tired of nobody listening to me on this important issue," said Jones, who will embark on a two-week journey from Fort Pierre to Fort Meade, South Dakota in honor of the nation's veterans. "Last summer, I rode 1,600 miles to Washington, D.C. and spoke to thousands of people along the way, but it seems like the people in Washington, D.C. didn't take me seriously. I'm hitting the trail once again because I have a voice for these veterans, and I'm not going to stop until their voices are heard."
One year ago, Jones arrived in Washington, D.C. after a long solo trail ride from South Dakota to the nation's capital. Along the way, he gave speeches on veterans issues, sat around the fire listening to stories of broken families and hurting war veterans and discovered that the veterans themselves have the solution to their ongoing problems.
Jones said, "The veterans told me over and over again that they don't want more money. They don't want more lip service. They don't want more programs or more bureaucracy. They simply want access to healthcare when they need it without having to be waitlisted to receive care for their wartime injuries. They want employment. The Veterans Affairs hospitals should be employed from top to bottom with veterans. Whether it's a secretary or janitor position, hire a veteran, and let them get to work."
Jones praised Senator Mike Rounds (R-SD) and President Donald Trump for their support of the veterans in recent months.
In August, President Trump signed an emergency spending bill that will add $2 billion to fund the Veterans Medical Care Program. The VA Choice and Quality Employment Act also adds another $1.8 billion to core VA health programs, according to TIME Magazine.
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"Today is another milestone in our work to transform the VA where we are doing record-setting business," said Trump, in a statement following his signature of the bill.
In September, Senator Rounds wrote about his work on the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which included a 2.1 percent pay raise for members of the armed forces.
"I was pleased that this year's NDAA contains 13 provisions I offered, including a bill to help the families of wounded warriors," said Rounds. "Unfortunately, in many cases, wounded warriors require around-the-clock care long after their service to our country. It oftentimes falls on family members to act as caregivers. My measure that was included in the NDAA would require that the Department of Veterans Affairs caregiver program be added to the list of statutorily-mandated counseling items for military members transitioning into civilian life."
While some progress has been made recently to improve veteran affairs, Jones isn't giving up until the issue is resolved and the crisis of so many veterans committing suicide has been eliminated.
"We bend over backwards to help someone overseas, but we continually ignore the people who sacrifice everything to protect our freedoms right here in the United States," he said. "That's not right, and what does that say about us as a country? These veterans deserve so much, and we do need to help people around the world, but we have no right to do that while we ignore people hurting in our own country."
As Jones travels the 200 miles to Fort Meade, he's hoping people will gather upon his arrival to discuss the issue, brainstorm possible solutions and raise awareness about what veterans are truly facing post-combat.
Last year, Jones dedicated his trail ride to the veterans and raised money to fund the Semper Fi Fund, which provides immediate financial assistance and lifetime support to post 9/11 wounded, critically ill and injured members of all branches of the U.S. Armed Forces, and their families, ensuring that they have the resources they need during their recovery and transition back to their communities. Learn more about the Semper Fi Fund by going to semperfifund.org.
This year, Jones is hoping to raise funds and awareness for another veteran's support group, Save A Warrior. According to the organization, Save A Warrior has changed countless lives through its "War Detox" program, which supports the healing from Post-Traumatic Stress (PTS). The organization specialize in connecting active duty military, returning veterans, and first responders who are experiencing psychological trauma. To learn more, visit saveawarrior.org.
"When I arrived in Washington, D.C. last year, Save A Warrior President and Founder Jake Clark flew in to speak on my behalf," said Jones. "It was an honor for him to be there to discuss veteran suicides and how their organization is working to stop the nationwide epidemic.
"It's time to raise hell and make a difference," said Jones. "I want our elected politicians to know we aren't going to take it anymore. This isn't about politics. It's about people. It's about responsibility. It's about taking the time to do good. It's about reuniting America and solving her problems one at a time, and this time it's to ensure that the men and women who fought and fight to ensure our freedom and their families and the families who lost their fathers, mothers, sons and daughters, are taken care of as well. It's about doing our duty as citizens and more importantly, just saying 'thank you and we haven't forgotten you.' This is why we ride!"
To follow Jones in his journey across South Dakota, check out Cowboys Ride For Veterans Awareness on Facebook, and join him in Fort Meade as he speaks on behalf of America's veterans of war.