Breaking News
More () »

Saluting the heroes helping veterans in crisis

The Arkansas Veterans Coalition is an organization that unites other organizations to solve problems and provide aid to veterans in need.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Arkansas Veterans Coalition Director Mark Diggs defines the organization's most urgent mission as helping former servicemembers going through a crisis even while surrounded by plenty of well-meaning support.

"What we're trying to do is build a fence at the top of that cliff so they don't fall off or get pushed off," the semi-retired Diggs said. "We come to the point where we have a family member, a mother or brother, or an individual veteran and [they] say 'I'm desperately hurting.' We can quickly and immediately address that need."

Diggs heads up the coalition as it works to bring together different veteran organizations to solve problems. It's not glorious work, and largely behind the scenes, but he said they are experts at "spanning silos."

"By having a coalition, we bring all of these organizations together," Diggs said. "Then we're working together to span those and leverage each other's resources. That's why it becomes a really powerful organization."

It's the perfect job for a semi-retired Vietnam Army vet who went on to become an original "tech bro." A trophy in his Little Rock home office for Entrepreneur of the Year attests to his skills. 

Pictures in the White House Rose Garden with former president Bill Clinton and other pictures with two Arkansas governors show how he used his knowledge of the Pentagon and how the technology worked to make important connections over the years.

And so now, Diggs leads a board of other well-connected leaders from other organizations, consolidating one bureaucracy to tame a more famous one, like the Department of Veterans Affairs. 

"It's extremely complex," Diggs said. "Organizations are beginning to cooperate through the coalition and work together so that they're in effect, a one-stop shop."

Diggs said a lot of their success comes from advocating for veterans in rural areas, separated from resources. They also offer a place for spouses and families to turn. 

Individual organizations all have their specialties.

The Arkansas Veterans Coalition gets them to team up.

"What you want to do is leverage off of each other," Diggs said. "The common goal is unity of effort, and if there's a unity of effort, and you have an organization that's putting all the pieces together, this coalition is extremely important."

Before You Leave, Check This Out