top of page

Paying it Forward ~ Mental Health Peer Support


Greetings, Veteran, and welcome to the Tribe!  My name is Dayton, and I am the mother of a fallen Marine.  Are you struggling?  The most important message I can share with you is are not alone...I am here to listen.


And as a Mental Health Peer Specialist (MHPS) it is my privilege to offer tele-health Peer Support to Veterans at no cost


In October 2016 I was deployed as a FEMA Reservist, Disaster Survivor Assistance (DSA) Specialist, to South Carolina in response to Hurricane Matthew.  The following month I returned home in a wheelchair from injuries I incurred from an MVA.  To this day, I continue to recover from the physical injuries as well as the neurological and psychological injuries resulting from the TBI.  After spending nearly a year completing over 5 hours of daily brain exercises, I entered the MSW program at the University of Texas at Arlington in the Fall of 2019 for two reasons:  to increase cognitive stimulus thereby creating new neural pathways and healing in my brain; and to accomplish my vision and mission that began in 2010 to serve Veterans.


On 11 February 2008 my eldest son  was killed in a hit-and-run less than 90 days returning home from his 3rd tour in Iraq.  This tragedy propelled me on a journey of healing and an early retirement in December 2010 from a fulfilling and successful career as a Senior Project Manager at IBM.  While my son had only been home a short time, I was very aware that he was not yet ‘all the way home’.  Over the next decade I would meet countless veterans and family members who would report the same experience…the same story…and this is how my vision of serving Veterans began.

Recovery Story

My sobriety date is 15 December 1984. After I became sober, I was able begin another journey of healing and recovery; the impact of living with a bipolar disorder. Is recovery possible?  Absolutely!  And it is my desire to support Veterans in their journey to wholeness, wellness, well-being, and recovery.

So, what is Peer Support ?

                                                    An illustration...


A man falls into a hole so deep he can’t get out. A doctor walks by, and the man calls for help. The doctor writes a prescription, tosses it into the hole, and walks on. A priest walks by, and the man tries again. The priest writes a prayer, tosses it into the hole, and walks on. Finally, a friend walks by, and again the man asks for help. To his surprise, the friend jumps in with him. “Why did you do that?” the man asks. “Now we’re both in the hole.” “Yes,” the friend responds. “But I’ve been in this hole before, and I know the way out.”

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.  SAMHSA News, September/October 2004, Volume 12, Number 5

~ Marla Rae

Pay it Forward

It all began after receiving Peer Support from JJ.  One day JJ asked me if I had considered offering Peer Support.  Having gotten to know me, and recognizing it was very much aligned with the work I wanted to do after I received my Master's of Social Work, it was a valid question.  Hmmm...I was intrigued.  But it wasn't until I met Dr. Nancy McGruder, Assistance Director, New Maverick Orientation & Transition Programs, during my MSW internship with UTA's Military and Veteran Services that I took action.  Dr. McGruder is an extraordinary Administrator and a phenomenal human being; just being in her presence is inspiring.   So when she said 'write your job description with MAVS', I was compelled to listen.  And as the words would continuously emerge in my consciousness over the next couple of months, an idea began to form and a proposal was created.  By the way, if you are looking for Peer Support, you can sign-up with JJ through Hey Peers.  JJ is absolutely phenomenal, highly empathic and models recovery in an extraordinary manner. 

As I began to research the various training facilities for Mental Health Peer Specialist certification, I was especially impressed with the Connection Center at SA Clubhouse.  After Kiley Clark awarded me a scholarship for the Mental Health Peer Support Training, I was ecstatic.  I spent six days with the most amazing facilitators I have ever had the privilege of learning from: David, Ruben, Yoana and Mark.  My education continued under the excellent supervision of Eli, and once I completed my internship I received my MHPS certification from the Texas Certification Board.  While I was completing my training, I received confirmation from James Kumm, Executive Director Military and Veteran Services at The University of Texas at Arlington, that my proposal was accepted and I would be able to offer Peer Support to military-connected students at UTA; everything was falling into place.  By the way, under James' leadership, The University of Texas at Arlington was voted #1 Best for Vets Colleges 2020 by Military Times.  If you are a Veteran, or Military-Connected, and are wanting to begin/return to college, please contact James and his Team.  They are amazing and passionately committed to our Veterans!

My vision of offering pro-bono services on a part-time basis to Veterans was finally within reach!  But then...something happened...providing Peer Support through the UTA Military and Veteran Services department was no longer an option.  But, that is not the end of the story as a space for a new beginning was being created. 

James is on the Board of VetStarts which is a phenomenal organization that provides unique support and services to Veterans and was voted 2020 Arlington Texas Chamber Non-Profit of the Year. In partnership with the Halftime Institute, Vince Leone, Founder and U.S. Army Veteran, "tailored a world-class curriculum specifically for the needs of our military".

Sixteen days after James sent an introductory letter to Vince, I received a warm "Welcome to the VetStarts Team!".  If you have read my book, I talk about a scenario that was 'a God deal'.  Once again, another moment presents the extraordinary.  I am awake and I am listening. 

It's time to serve those who have so faithfully served us and I am ready.  Are you?  Sign up for tele-health Peer Support  by calling 409-795-8566.  Let's talk soon!  Blessings for a beautiful NOW...


honoring those who made this possible; paying it forward


"Speaking with Dayton about my challenges, successes, opportunities, and worries greatly improved my ability to process them. I don’t like to talk about my feelings, but even from our first interaction I freely expressed myself. I felt like I could talk free of judgement and be heard from a place of understanding. It really felt like “my time,” a concept that I rarely experience due to school, work and raising children."

David Rash, II ~ United States Marine Corps Veteran

"Dayton Williams has stood as a positive asset to not only Veterans attending the University of Texas at Arlington, but the overall student population as a whole. Always with a encouraging word when you find yourself in a bind and stressed out over an assignment or school in general. She has the ability to know what to say and when to say it (and it’s not what you want to hear or fluff sometimes) and that’s what I will miss the most. If you’re fortunate to have her as a Peer Supporter, do not hold back because she is truly one of the purest hearts and open ears you will ever encounter."

Derron Gadison, United States Army, SFC(R)

bottom of page