Joey Briggs always knew he wanted to serve. At 17, he committed to the Army through the Delayed Enlistment Program while still in high school at West Lincoln. During his time with the 82nd Airborne, Briggs deployed to Iraq for six months and to Afghanistan for 15 months.
Briggs’ desire to serve didn’t stop when he left the Army. He’s spearheading a new veterans group called Band of Brothers. The purpose is to connect local veterans with each other and with local resources to create an infrastructure of support.
Briggs has seen and felt the need to start the group for a long time, but hesitated.
“It was an internal struggle, thinking I wasn’t capable of heading up something like this, thinking it was too big for me to handle, not placing it all in God’s hands,” Briggs said. “Once I said ‘OK use me for what you’ve designed me for. What you’ve done in my life has prepared me for this.’ And the first step forward I took, He started opening doors.”
It was evident early on that Briggs was designed to lead. His teammates chose him as captain of their football team at West Lincoln. While in Army, he learned from bad and good leadership and saw how it affected himself and those around him. Instead of letting his leadership qualities dwindle, Briggs decided to answer the call.
“As soon as I got this underway, I got a position at work as a team trainer,” Briggs said. “The initial instructor course taught me how to get up in front of people and speak, how to develop programs and how to further develop my teaching skills. It will definitely make me a better leader for this group.”
Briggs has received support from Lincoln County Veterans Services. Its director, Alex Patton, said Briggs’ experience as a combat veteran gives him a unique perspective on the needs and struggles veterans face once they’ve transitioned back into civilian life.
“We’re all in on this because it’s so important,” Patton said. “There are veterans all over Lincoln County that suffer with PTSD that may not necessarily know it. They know they’re on their third marriage and they can’t keep a job and may have never been able to figure out what it is. Hopefully the word will spread and folks will come to this and realize that there are other people going through the same things.”
Connecting veterans with one another is big part of Band of Brothers. Briggs finds it hard to describe the connection service members have with one another to civilians. He explains that separation from those brothers and sisters can be tough on veterans. They not only go on months long deployments together, they train with the same people for almost as long. It can result in deep trust and strong relationships or as Briggs puts it, “a brotherhood forged under fire.”
When veterans come home, they no longer have a comparable support structure. They may deal with substance abuse and loneliness, and sometimes shame over what they’re going through.
“I’ve lost more friends once I got out and came back home than I did on the battlefield which is hard to believe because we got shot at a lot and we had a lot of casualties,” Briggs said. “To come back home and lose that fight here, when we’ve all together gone through so much, it didn’t sit right inside me. It has a lot to do with me wanting to do something about it for at least the people I can, around me in my own community.”
Band of Brothers won’t necessarily function solely as a PTSD support group. Any area of need will be accommodated through a referral for service or by fellow veterans being there to listen.
With the first meeting about a month away, Briggs isn’t sure what lies ahead for Band of Brothers. He sees himself as the moderator over a round table, open discussion format that’s not too formal. For now, he plans on monthly meetings, but that can change as the need arises.
“I don’t know the future, it could blow up way beyond my imagination or stay a small group,” Briggs said. “Either way, no matter how it ends up, if I’ve affected the life of one veteran, then I’ll consider it a success.”
Band of Brothers is open to any veteran regardless of combat experience or length of service.
The inaugural meeting is March 5 at 7:30 p.m. at Highland Drive Freewill Baptist Church located at 2810 Highland Drive in Lincolnton. The group will meet on the first Tuesday of each month at 7:30 p.m. thereafter.
For more information contact Joey Briggs at 704-860-7751 or at firstname.lastname@example.org
Or visit the group on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/VeteransConnectNC/