After 22 years serving his country, Harry Bowen is now helping his fellow veterans in Cochise County. But every now and then, the helpers need some help too. But in this community, assistance for a veteran — or a group that aids vets — is never far away.
Enter Paul Price and the organization he serves, Arizona Army Security Agency Association. Price and Bowen had booths near each other during the annual Fourth of July event at Veterans Memorial Park, when Price reminded Bowen that AZASAA gives out money each year to local veterans groups.
“We try to donate to three or four veterans groups each year, depending on how much we have available in our treasury at the end of the year,” Price said during a recent interview.
Veterans groups are invited to give a presentation to the AZASAA board outlining how the funds will be used.
This year, Price and his group gave out $2,000 to four different local veterans organizations, including $500 to Bowen’s group, Cochise Serving Veterans. That money will go toward supporting veterans who need help paying rent or utility bills, Bowen said.
Bowen, who is also a member of AZASAA, started Cochise Serving Veterans in 2013 and the group achieved 501©3 status in 2017. The primary function of the group has been its annual resource fair, where they bring in dozens of different service providers for veterans to fill any need they might have, from medical or dental services to assistance with housing or Social Security.
“The idea is to get them as much help and support as we can,” Bowen said.
The group formed, in part, because another group, Boots for the Troops, was no longer active, which “left a void,” he added.
They invite job providers, on the condition that they have positions available that a veteran can start in right away. Last year, 11 vets walked away from the fair with jobs, he said.
Bowen said when they started a few years ago, behavioral services were the least-sought services.
“Now, they are the most-requested service,” he said. “Finally, the veterans are starting to acknowledge they do have issues that they need to address, and it’s becoming more accepted.”
During the first resource fair, the group was able to provide homes and jobs for two homeless veterans, and provided other services for two additional homeless veterans. A total of 30 vets got help at that first fair, he said.
At the group’s most recent resource fair last month, 87 veterans received assistance, Bowen said, including 22 females.
“The thing we found most interesting this year: we had veterans from Benson, Bisbee, Douglas, Willcox, Whetstone, Fort Huachuca, Huachuca City and Nogales,” Bowen said. “We didn’t do that before. We’ve been slowly but surely working up. From a demographic standpoint, we felt really good.”
In the past, they have served homeless veterns from as far away as Phoenix who came down knowing the group would help.
Bowen said Cochise Serving Veterans also helps with physical services. Recently, two veterans were unable to do their own yard work. They had weeds and grass up to Bowen’s waist.
The group organized and got it cleaned up, he said. In the future, local landscaping company Grasshopper is going to help be their “labor pool,” Bowen said.
Bowen said it’s important for him to help others after his time serving the country.
“For 22 years, someone always had my back,” he said. “When I got out, I realized I didn’t see that same level of support.”
He said the response has made the effort worthwhile.
“One vet who came to the resource fair told me, ‘It’s nice to know there are people who care about us,’ ” he said. “It’s not about us. It’s not about egos, it’s about helping vets.”
Price and AZASAA Treasurer Dave Waldmann agreed.
“Not many people know about us; we stay in the background,” Price said.
Waldmann added, “Harry is hands-on, and we help him fill the hands.”