MESA, AZ - “I see myself in every single one of them; when I’m talking to a veteran that's got a gun and wants to end it all, I see the person that spoke to me when I was ready to do it,” said Gulf War veteran David Campbell.
His reality is far from glamorous. An explosion in Kuwait nearly killed him, and left him without a heartbeat for more than three minutes.
After coming home, he lost a leg in a car crash on the Loop 101.
The pain from his prosthetic leg he wears is a constant reminder of adversity and of course the challenges that lie ahead.
“I want to save as many as we can,” said Campbell, who wants to save men and women like himself: those who, visibly or not, carry the scars of war.
Campbell now assists the Mesa Police Department’s crisis team, which takes a different approach to calls of people going through hard times than a typical police officer.
“Instead of showing up with weapons when they don’t have any other options right now, let’s create a system where you send in a veteran that’s been there [and] done that,” said Campbell. "There was a time when I wanted to end my life, when I felt there was no one to trust."
When 911 operators receive a call about a veteran who may be experiencing symptoms of post-traumatic stress or other crises, Campbell gets the call.
“I deal with Korean war veterans, Vietnam veterans, Afghanistan, Special Ops,” he said.
Campbell and the individual may have served in different branches or different wars, but he says there's still a shared bond.
“For a veteran to try and tell you anything, what I’ve been through, and expect you not to either laugh or cry, it’s scary, so we’re judging ourselves, no one is going to understand,” said Campbell.
But at the scene of a recent fire where one veteran lost everything, Campbell did understand.
“This particular veteran didn’t want police there, he didn’t want fire, he was upset,” said Will Biascaechea, a Mesa police officer.
Biascoechea says that’s when they called in Campbell.
“He came out, He started talking to him, his whole demeanor changed, we got him some help, we got him a hotel, got him a car, got him some clothes and food,” said Biacaechea. "[Campbell had] a huge impact."
Campbell says it all starts with building trust, something he finally found and hopes to share with more like him.
“It just takes compassion and somebody to listen--it’s something we can all do,” said Campbell.
Campbell's participation is part of a new partnership between Mesa police and the Veteran Resouce Center of Mesa. Those wishing to donate to help with its funding can do so through the center.