The Depot

JAVC Fills the Gaps for Veterans

Over the past decade, giving a hand up and not a handout has assisted more than 3,000 veterans in a Northern Arizona county.

"I just like helping people,” said Jerry Ambrose Veterans Council (JAVC) Executive Director/President Dorn Patrick Farrell. "I don’t think anybody should be held down because they don't know where the resources are."

Based in Kingman, Mohave County, Arizona, the registered 501(c)3 organization is run by veterans for veterans, with programs focusing on direct individual assistance, veteran resource fairs, veteran treatment courts and its most current project, Operation 6: Transitional Housing for homeless and at risk of homelessness veterans.

"We fill the gaps," Farrell said. "A lot of programs just provide (veterans) housing and then forget about them. We figure out what their barriers are and then we work on removing those barriers. Then we work on making sure they have all the benefits they’re entitled to  ̶  if they can’t work, we’ll find them housing to make sure that they’re comfortable that way. But if they can work, we work on helping to find them a job. We're with them anywhere from a month to two years just depending on how many their needs are."

To help fill those gaps, JAVC works with a spectrum of federal, state and local agencies and organizations, local businesses, communities, individuals and volunteers to coordinate and provide veterans with the services they've earned. 

"The organizations that we work with and our volunteers, the different Arizona Departments of Veteran Services, the Arizona Stand Down Alliance, Veterans Affairs  ̶   we get grants from all over the place and that's what makes the difference," Farrell said. "We're working with everybody. It takes a village to do what we do, and I can't emphasize enough how everybody's part helps. There's nobody that volunteers or contributes that isn't needed."

One of JAVC's earliest projects opened its doors in 2014: a VA Community Based Outpatient Clinic in Kingman to bring primary care services to area veterans. Farrell also works with Continuum of Care and with HUD-VASH  ̶  a joint U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and Department of Veterans Affairs rent assistance and case management program  ̶  to increase the number of vouchers made available to the county, demonstrating need by assisting with point in time surveys and through stand downs and veterans resource fairs. 

"Mohave County has been a leader in my opinion in getting homeless veterans housing," Farrell said. "The HUD-VASH program in Kingman just put in 48 in the Veterans Village project. We have helped about 50 veterans get housing over 10 years, but we are now the recipient of a VA grant to get 25 more homeless veterans off the streets. We're taking a whack out of it. But there's a lot more homeless veterans out there."

JAVC also has a program specifically designed to meet the needs of female veterans.

"Right now, one out of nine veterans coming out of the service is female," Farrell said. "They’re more likely to be exposed to military sexual trauma and post traumatic stress disorder, with one out of every three experiencing that issue. They also often have children with them, and that's an issue as well; how do you deal with your own problems, MST or PTSD and have kids and probably divorced, can't find housing, can't find good work or reasonable daycare. It's not fun out there for the women. We're trying to do everything we can to help them."

JAVC also assists the resource team for Mohave County Veterans Courts, a problem-solving court with the objective of serving military veterans struggling with addiction, serious mental illness and/or recurring disorders.

"There's probably over 200 veterans that have graduated from VTC in Kingman, Lake Havasu and Bullhead City," Farrell said. "They received the help they need rather than going to jail and having that on their records. Instead of being out there getting into trouble, they're working on getting jobs and returning value to the community and they're no longer considered second class citizens, let's put it that way. They're contributing members of the community."

JAVC's programs are driven by the needs of veterans, Farrell said.

"What we do comes from the veterans we talk to," Farrell said. "Listen to their stories, it'll tear your heart out. Their needs and their wants  ­̶  we looked around and we found where we could get most of them, that we could provide them or get them somewhere they could be referred to."

A U.S. Navy Vietnam veteran, Farrell served on the flight deck as an avionics technician from 1968 to 1971 with the 14th Fighter Squadron on the USS John F. Kennedy.

"I signed up as soon as I could, as soon as I turned 18,” Farrell said. “My dad was in World War II in the U.S. Army Air Forces. I thought it was the honorable thing to do because we were at war. It was a great country – it still is no matter what anybody says."

Farrell's service taught him to, "lead, follow, or get out of the way," he said, traits that served him well in his post-military career with the U.S. Postal Service. After retiring from the postal service, Farrell and his wife Casey moved to Kingman. When he got bored with retirement, Farrell got a job working as a veterans' representative for Arizona Department of Economic Services.

"I saw that there were a lot of gaps for our veterans and there's a lot of information for available services that they just weren't aware of," Farrell said. "So when I got out of the DES, I joined the JAVC and we fill the gaps. There's a lot of gaps out there. We have built ourselves up from being a real small organization to when we get done with our building, we’ll be a multimillion-dollar organization."

The brainchild of two former marines – Jerry Ambrose and Gene Crego  ­̶  JAVC began in 2010 as the Kingman Veterans Council. Four months after the council was formed, Jerry Ambrose died and Crego requested the organization's name be changed to honor him.

Farrell was the first president elected and has been the only president of the JAVC following Ambrose's death. He has also served as president of the Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter #975, AZ State Vietnam Veterans of America vice president, Incarcerated Veterans program coordinator, chapter service officer for the Disabled American Veterans, and belongs to the VFW, American Legion and Elks. In 2015 he was inducted into the Arizona Veterans Hall of Fame.

"I am nothing without all of the volunteers that we have and the organizations that we work with," Farrell said. "I’m just lucky in that I get to take the credit. I don’t do much.

"I would ask that people appreciate what our veterans have done. They don't ask much, just what they're entitled to and what they've earned. Saying 'thank you for your service' every once in a while is pretty cool and if they're Vietnam veterans, please say 'welcome home.'"

Dan Kyle a Sailor Turned Actor

Transitioning from military to civilian life often takes people in unexpected directions; for one former U.S. Navy aviation electronics technician, post-service life has included spending time as a zombie, an orc, cop and even as a soldier.

“It’s fun,” said actor Dan Kyle. “I always had this thing about wanting to entertain people and I loved movies growing up – when I was in high school, I was always encouraged to go out for drama, but usually the kids that went out for drama were the weird kids, so I never took that initial step. Then later in life you find out you’re one of those weird kids.”

Born to a military family – his father served with the Navy in Korea and his grandfather with the Army in World War I  ̶  Kyle enlisted in the Navy apprenticeship program after Iraq invaded Kuwait the summer before he graduated from high school. He ended up in Norfolk, VA attached to the then newest aircraft carrier USS George Washington and he made third class petty officer before heading home to Oregon.

For eighteen years, Kyle worked as a union iron worker. One summer when work was slow, a good friend who was hired to do uniforms and firearms for films and video games invited him to work as an extra.

“He said, ‘Come to the set and I’ll dress you up and get you into your GI uniform and you just stand around and eat,’” Kyle said. “I also have a couple of firearms from WWII, registered with the ATF, and a Thompson machine gun that was my grandfather’s and safety and blank adapted. He said, ‘Bring out the gun and I’ll pay you.’”

As his experience on set increased, Kyle’s interest in acting grew.

“I was thinking I want to be the guy who is in front of the camera,” Kyle said. “I started taking some private lessons with a really good friend of mine and from there slowly progressed into finding work on my own because I wasn’t represented at the time with an agent. Want ads, open calls, stuff that you can get your foot in the door where casting directors can see you: you have to build a resume.”

Kyle said his military experience strengthened his transition to a career in front of the camera.

“A lot of times people ask me what life was like on a carrier with over 6,000 personnel and 90 aircraft and on a big ship how does it work,” Kyle said. “Everybody has a specific job that we have to do in order for that ship and that community to function. From the commanding officer to the executive officer and everybody on that ship has to work efficiently and at 100 percent, work as a group, as a team to get the tasks done.

“There’s similarity on set, everybody’s got a job to do, from lighting to actors to hair and makeup to people who make the food and the goal is to make this machine run smoothly and as efficiently and as quickly and safely as possible. And it’s basically the same thing in life, whatever you’re doing.”

Known for his work in the crime series South of Heaven: Episode 3 – The Long Walk Home and as a cyborg talker in Z Nation, Kyle’s work spans a range of genres including commercial, thrillers, horror, fantasy, comedy-musical and adventure.

“It was transition from military life and military bearing to my union iron work and eventually all that stuff transitioned to my acting,” Kyle said. “In the military, what do you do? You train and you train, and when you’re sick of that you train some more – so when that time comes and you get called up or there’s an emergency situation, you know what to do. You are there at the right place at the right time and you’re ready. That’s basically what acting is too. You work and you work until that training is done and when it’s time, I know how to work because I’ve done all this other work where I never got cast or where I never got a call back – but I did the work, so now I get the call and I’m ready to go.”

Though the COVID-19 shutdown slowed things for the industry, Kyle said projects that were postponed last year are shooting now and the past few weeks have been busy. Postproduction work has resumed on several projects, including Jason Rising: A Friday the 13th fan film expected to be released later this year.

“I'm playing Jason Vorhees, the main bad guy,” Kyle said. “Last year I also worked on my own role, a mini-biography/documentary that we’re finishing up on the relationship between body building and acting and how the body building and the acting cross. It’s only about 7 minutes long and it was a lot of work being the executive producer. That’ll be coming out later this year.”

The more challenging the real or imagined character, Kyle said, the more he wants to play it.

“Monsters are fun, you can get away with your own take on it,” Kyle said. “Well, what does an Orc do? What does an orc do swinging an axe? Getting together with the people making the prosthetics and the writer along with your (own) vision, it becomes a team of people working together to bring this character to life and that’s the challenge that I like.

“With real people from history, the challenge is how did that experience feel and how am I going to be that in a way that is realistic. I’ll never know, a lot of us will never know what certain combat is like or to be scarred or disabled because of war, but as an actor we try to get as close as we can because it’s an honor and a privilege to play some of those characters and you want to do it right.”

DK McDonald is an award-winning Arizona-based writer. She comes from a multi-generational military family, spanning all branches of service. She is also a former Army spouse.