Smith Anderson Proud Champion of Veterans Life Center Since Its Inception, with Attorneys Serving on Board


Attorneys from Smith Anderson, some veterans themselves, are walking alongside their fellow vets on their paths to renewed resilience and self-reliance. Kirk Warner, a retired U.S. Army Colonel, is the vice chair of the Veterans Life Center board of directors, and its incoming chair. His colleague, David Hayden, also a retired U.S. Army Colonel, is the VLC board’s past chair and current secretary, while Mike Mitchell is the VLC’s incoming vice chair.

The trio were speakers at a recent fundraiser in Raleigh that raised more than $400,000 for the organization that included a salute to four-star Gen. Dan McNeill, an advocate for veterans. This money will help the 100-bed residential center in Butner continue its mission of helping 21st century veterans successfully return to civilian life.

Since its opening in 2020, the VLC has witnessed the struggles of hundreds of veterans scarred from homelessness, PTSD, addiction and war. The VLC’s mission is to provide a supportive home—for up to two years—for veterans facing financial and social difficulties. The VLC is the only center of its kind in the U.S. and its vision includes establishing centers in other states across the country.

"The VLC is leading the way in providing a structured environment for 21st century veterans who are capable of reentering the workforce with additional education, training, and mentoring," said Mike, adding that the VLC has strong leadership in its Executive Director, John Turner, and receives important financial support from the North Carolina legislature. The center also had the assistance of a $7.8 million HUD Community Development Block Grant, which was the largest ever awarded in North Carolina at that time.

"It is not simply providing housing," Mike said. "It is not a rehab center. Residents at the VLC have made a commitment to themselves and the organization that they will fulfill the program’s requirements and will dedicate themselves to the work necessary to become productive employees and stable family members."

Gen. McNeill called the center a "rally point for veterans who have lost contact with their squad" —a place for veterans to regroup and motivate each other to action as they did while in the service.

"We owe it to these veterans and their families to do what we can to help them return to society, to be proud of their service and grateful for those willing to help them in that successful transition," said David, adding that several veterans at the center have told him they would not be alive today if they had not found the VLC.

David’s involvement with the VLC reaches back to its initial planning and development. He served as the master of ceremonies for its 2017 groundbreaking and delivered the opening remarks at the center’s 2020 inaugural ceremony.

“I have seen veterans in the program turn their troubled lives around, return to their families and friends, continue their education, obtain degrees, start new businesses, buy homes and develop the skills to overcome those things that had held them back from a normal transition after their military service to this country,” David said.

Mary Jane Taylor’s son is an Army veteran who completed the VLC’s residential program after serving in Iraq, where, she said, he saw “people bombed, burning, friends blown up."

"He started taking Percocet, because the drugs took away the nightmares,” Mary explains in a video on the VLC’s website. “And it just kept getting worse and worse.”

Her veteran son received the help he needed at the VLC, including psychiatric care. “The bright star in all of this, he has coping mechanisms because of the Veterans Life Center,” Mary Jane said. “It is phenomenal what they can do and have done. It gave me my son back.”

Since Smith Anderson’s founding more than 110 years ago, support of and commitment to our military members and their families serving our country has been a foundational trait of who we are and what we stand for. Smith Anderson attorneys and staff have served in every major U.S. military conflict from WWI to today, and six of the firm’s lawyers are serving or have served in the Judge Advocate General’s (JAG) Corps.

Learn more about the VLC here.


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