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Veterans in Florida deliver turkeys, hope to vets in need

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Posted at 11:46 AM, Nov 23, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-24 17:02:50-05

TAMPA, Fla. — A Thanksgiving meal with a turkey and all the trimming is going to veterans, delivered by veterans.

But the person getting it isn’t your typical vet. They’re someone who has found themselves in trouble with the law. And U.S. Marine veteran Lenny Woods said they are someone who needs compassion and help.

"We don’t get the right medication we need when we get out of the military, we don’t get there guidance we need or the help that we need," said Woods, a mentor with the Hillsborough County Veterans Treatment Court.

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That’s where the Veterans Treatment Court comes in. Instead of jail time, veterans who commit low-level offenses can go through this specialty court that provides treatment from the V.A. and support from mentors like DJ Reyes. Reyes has been mentoring Michael, a Navy veteran, for more than two years.

"Checking on him, encouraging him, making sure he stays on his treatments," said Reyes.

Michael is one of nearly two dozen vets getting a full Thanksgiving meal and gift cards to buy any extra food. Idlewild Baptist Church has donated boxes of food and toiletries to each vet in the program.

"We love our veterans. We love the service they’ve done for us on our behalf, and we want to let them know how much they’re loved by God and loved by us as well," said Yerusha Bunag, local mission director with Idlewild Baptist Church.

Hillsborough County’s Veterans Treatment Court is one of the most successful VTC's in the nation, with more than 900 veterans graduating from the program. And it's all thanks to the mentor veterans who are devoted to making sure no soldier is left behind.

"Even though we only deliver the holiday meals during Thanksgiving and Christmas, it's every day that we show them that we care," said Reyes.

Wendi Lane at WFTS first reported this story.