When awareness didn't work, veteran advocate took action

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Since that 2015 display, Arthur says they've helped hundreds of veterans through their patrol program and beyond. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Since that 2015 display, Arthur says they've helped hundreds of veterans through their patrol program and beyond. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
Army veteran Danny Millegan is just one of the success stories. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Army veteran Danny Millegan is just one of the success stories. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
In May of 2015, Michael Lewis Arthur Meyer climbed a light pole in Surprise to advocate for veteran Army Ranger Edwin "Alex" Cordero, who wound up homeless and in crisis the day after he was discharged from the military. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) In May of 2015, Michael Lewis Arthur Meyer climbed a light pole in Surprise to advocate for veteran Army Ranger Edwin "Alex" Cordero, who wound up homeless and in crisis the day after he was discharged from the military. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
Bravo Base is made possible thanks in part to the generosity of HMS Fasteners. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Bravo Base is made possible thanks in part to the generosity of HMS Fasteners. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
TUCSON, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -

A highly publicized act of civil disobedience to call attention to veteran suicides has led to a grassroots movement that the creator says is saving lives.

In May of 2015, veteran advocate and the founder of Veterans on Patrol Michael Lewis Arthur Meyer climbed a light pole in Surprise to advocate for veteran Army Ranger Edwin "Alex" Cordero, who wound up homeless and in crisis the day after he was discharged from the military.

"I climbed that light pole because he signed a blank check for us and he got railroaded by the system, left out there, abandoned all alone," he said.

These days, the advocate and VOP Founder, who goes by Lewis Arthur, is spending less time on light poles.

"We got tired of fighting veteran suicide just through awareness. We can throw all the big banners up. I can carry 22 ribbons every day. We aren't saving any lives. We were just making people aware," said Arthur. "We moved from awareness to actual action."

Since that 2015 display, Arthur says they've helped hundreds of veterans through their patrol program and beyond.

"We've extracted over 500 homeless individuals off the streets. We've either got them into shelters, got them into housing, got them into recovery centers or the biggest one is reuniting them with their families," he said.

Army veteran Danny Millegan is just one of the success stories.

"At that point when they found me, you know it was basically the bottom of the bottom then, living under oleander bushes," he said. "I'm in a studio apartment now, and it's going good."

VOP, which is made up of volunteers, also created a suicide prevention program which Arthur says has saved 84 lives so far.

"These are 84 instances where you've had a veteran who threatened suicide within the last two years and our teams have mobilized to pick that veteran up, get them out here with us and give that vet a purpose," Arthur said.

Perhaps one of the most visible programs developed in the last two years is Bravo Base - "Camp Conklin" located in Tucson.

"One of the places we needed to get to, the chronic homeless veterans that were 20 to 30 years in this desert, was a safe place for them to sleep and allow them to transition into four walls," said Arthur.

At Bravo Base, former service members are fed, clothed, housed, provided support and help to access the services they're entitled to whether that's housing or medical benefits.

"We're averaging about three veterans receiving housing a week and it's taking them about a week to receive housing," Army veteran and Bravo Base tenant Sean North said.

They sleep in tents, have access to an outdoor shower and the place is run like a military installation, which is on purpose.

"That's what we know, what we're used to," said North.

Bravo Base is made possible thanks in part to the generosity of HMS Fasteners.

"This place is the oldest bolt and fastener shop in the U.S.," said HMS Fasteners General Manager Alan Argabrite.

They provide the land the camp is on free of charge and workers like veteran Argabrite even volunteer.

"For me, Bravo Base has been a bit of a help for myself because it allows me to open up and help other people," said Argabrite.

Everything they have has been donated and veterans pay nothing but receive so much.

"It's 100 percent turn around, what these people do. It's amazing," Millegan said.

Amazing services, created as a result of a flawed system, that has failed too many of those who've served.

"We went out here to make sure no more Alex Cordero's are going to happen, that we can catch them if they fall, that we don't have to climb light poles and get arrested for the awareness of the problem," Arthur said adding, "that we can build camps, take them in and start solving the problem."

Reached by phone on Tuesday, Cordero says if it weren't for Arthur, he'd still be homeless.

"I appreciate everything Lewis did. He means well and I wish more people would be like him," said Cordero.

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