Cowboy Tony Jones from South Dakota said he is on a mission, a mission to give veterans a voice.
Jones took to horseback from Texas on June 22 and has been traveling across the country speaking to as many veterans as he can. The final stop on his journey will be Washington, D.C.
According to americanaddictioncenters.org, about 20 veterans commit suicide a day, and nearly three quarters are not under VA care.
Jones wants to change this statistic.
Four years ago Jones took his first ride, a 1,500 mile, four-month, 41-day trip to speak with veterans and learn what they feel their biggest issues and concerns were.
Jones said people thought he was just raising awareness for veterans, but according to him, it was more than that. More importantly, he wanted to find solutions to solve their problems.
“I don’t believe in bringing awareness to anything you don’t have the solutions for,” Jones said.
As part of his ride, Jones said he knew he wanted to go through West Virginia because of the population of veterans in the state. Recently Jones made a stop in Ripley where he met and spoke with veterans such as Vaughn Anderson, with Operation Jackson County Veterans. Jones was able to tour one of the tiny home projects built to help struggling veterans get back on their feet.
The 2020 Miss Ripley Fourth of July queen Courtney Winter was also on hand to welcome Jones to the City of Ripley.
“That young girl gave me hope,” Jones said. “She is a great example for others her age.”
On his current trek, Jones said he continues to speak with veterans at every stop. He listens to their concerns and believes he has come up with solutions to some of the problems they currently face. For one, Jones feels VA clinics should actually be run by veterans with veteran workers. One of his big concerns is for veterans who try to get help but get frustrated and give up. He feels there should always be a live operator instead of a machine to answer phone calls regarding veterans’ issues and appointments.
Too many times Jones said he has seen veterans who felt they were not able to get the help they needed due to hoops they were made to jump through.
He also said it is important for veterans to be given jobs with other veterans. According to Jones, by having veterans work together they will be able to help each other through a healing process.
Jones agrees that his mission is important, but when it comes to him as a person, he has a different view.
“What I’m doing is important,” Jones said, “But, myself, I just ride a horse.”
This time his goal is to reach those in Washington D.C. who have the power to make the changes necessary. Although he admits he doesn’t know how long it will take him to get there, he said, “It’s not about when you get there, it’s who you meet along the way.”