JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) — A Tri-Cities veteran is on a mission to ensure no veteran has to live on the streets.

Jimmy Keeton says his service in the ROTC, the National Guard and a deployment to Iraq during the Gulf War left him forever connected to his fellow soldiers.

“We’re closer than family,” Keeton said. “I don’t think most civilians understand it. When you trust the person to your left or right with your life, they trust you with theirs. It’s a bond, and it’s very special to me.”

When Keeton lost track of a fellow veteran and friend, he became worried.

Photo: WJHL

“And finally, we were talking to some family and friends who said he lives under a bridge over here by the river,” he said.

Keeton said that was a turning point.

“Never again,” he said. “It’s not going to happen on my watch. Anyone I serve with or anyone I was in charge of, they’re not going to be homeless.”

For Keeton, it was the start of his newest mission to help fellow veterans who may have hit hard times get the necessary help.

“They’re the ones that sustain our freedom,” he said. “They don’t deserve to be living like that.”

His goal now is to help veterans who are struggling to restart their lives in the Tri-Cities region.

“If they need to start over, the Tri-Cities is just as good as any place, if not better,” Keeton said. “The people here…they’re just amazing. Everyone I’ve met here, they’re just great people.”

Keeton has set up a Facebook group called “Alpha Assassins,” where veterans are connecting.

“We all stay in touch,” he said. “We check on each other quite regularly, if there’s anyone that needs anything. We try to try to reach out and just check on folks and make sure if there’s anything they need. We’re more than happy to help them.”

Keeton formed a golf tournament to raise money to support veterans. The Jimmy Keeton Classic Golf Tournament in 2022 benefited the Wounded Warrior Project. He said his tournament is successful because of veteran-friendly corporate sponsors like Bridgestone, Titleist, Holston Glass, and his employer Bristol Metals.

“We’re just trying to help people out that served.”