“I’ve never had that kind of support”: nonprofit Operation Barnabas is helping veterans

ORANGE PARK, Fla. — In light of Memorial Day, we’re spotlighting a special non-profit that’s helping veterans get back on their feet by providing the help they need.

It’s called Operation Barnabas, and it helped turn Tommy Gravely’s life around.

Gravely served in the United States Marine Corps from 2007 to 2011.

“It’s your country, you know. It’s your home,” he said. “Fight for what you feel is right.” Recently, his life took a turn when he went to jail for a domestic violence charge. “Having a violent charge like that is something I worry about, finding places to live and jobs and things like that,” he explained.

The nonprofit Operation Barnabas stepped in. “They pretty much helped me with everything I needed: housing, food, Uber rides, they’re raising money to get my eye surgery, they helped me actually get insurance,” Gravely explained.

The word Barnabas means son of encouragement, and that’s what his mentor Josh Anderson is there to do. “If I need anything at all or need somebody to talk to, he’s always there,” Gravely said. “I’ve never had that kind of support. It’s amazing.”

Right now, Gravely can’t see due to cataracts. So, he leans on fellow veteran, Shelton Cook.

“He’s definitely more family to me now than a lot of people I’ve met,” Cook said. “As a veteran, we love to help our American people and you know, not only is he an American, he’s a veteran,” Cook added. “And it brings joy to my life that I’m still able to assist in someone’s life in a positive way.”

Cook and Gravely are staying at the Stay Suites of America hotel. Operation Barnabas has 10 rooms available here for veterans.

Right now, eight vets are there to turn their lives around. “If it wasn’t for them, I’d probably be back in jail right now - or homeless,” Gravely said.

Both of them hope to pay forward the help they’ve received. “I’m hoping to get a good job [and] get back on my feet and maybe start being a mentor and start helping other veterans,” Gravely added. You can learn more about Operation Barnabas at their website here.