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New campus in Crossroads to connect veterans, community

Posted at 3:34 PM, Nov 01, 2018
and last updated 2018-11-01 17:53:27-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A new community campus geared toward serving veterans and their families is coming to the Crossroads Arts District.

The space is also designed to bring veterans and the community together. 

Joe Williams is behind the idea, but years ago, he had an entirely different life and career planned for himself. Williams was going to spend 20 years in the U.S. Marine Corps before a terrible ankle injury left him hanging up his uniform early. 

"I remember sitting in my colonel's office and sitting with my colonel and orthopedic surgeon and Navy doctor and them saying, 'Your Marine Corps career is over, you're never running again and we're not sure if you'll be able to walk right ever again,'" Williams said. 

At the time, Williams said he couldn't handle the realities of his injury, and he later had to seek treatment after attempting to kill himself in 2009. During his treatment, Williams was introduced to art therapy and realized he had found his passion.

Now, he's made it his mission to help other struggling veterans find theirs. 

"You know, I've seen a lot of other veterans that are just kind of out there floating around like I was and not sure what to do or where they want to go," Williams said. 

While studying at the Kansas City Art Institute, Williams founded Operation Art, a nonprofit that provides art programs and resources to veterans with any interest. That organization has now grown into the After Action Network, which will soon open in the Crossroads. 

"You know, what we do is go through our network of what we have at After Action Network with our community providers, and we pair the veterans up with the best fit," Williams said. 

What started as a website is growing into a destination. Whether it's a job, housing or hobby, veterans will be able to connect with the right people at the new community campus. 

"We're really just trying to use the activities that civilians and people do in everyday life, but getting veterans into those as well just so they can feel back to being normal and part of the community again," Williams said. 

Construction inside the building is set to begin next week. Williams said he hopes to open After Action Network at the beginning of December.