After fighting for freedom, new struggle returning to everyday life
While coming home from a tour of duty may be exciting beyond words for our military men and women, trying to adjust back to a normal life can be a struggle.
A Jackson township police officer and Marine veteran is looking to change that.
John Roth formed Recalibrate to support military members transitioning from active duty to civilian life in Ocean County.
"There's a need in Ocean County. We have the highest number of veterans in the state in our county — about 40,000 — and there's a problem, an epidemic that everyone knows about. We lose 22 veterans a day to suicide," Roth said. "Peers are needed to support each other."
His nonprofit offers a helping hand to his peers.
"We're not done serving each other. We have to continue to serve one another," Roth said. "The struggles that you're going through, someone else has experienced that before, so you're not alone, you're not doing it by yourself...there's thousands of us here to help you and lift you back up."
Roth says the transition back home affects each military vet differently, but for many it can be a struggle finding a job, going back to school or supporting their family.
"That transition is kind of rough for some of them. Either they resort to alcohol or they just go down this slippery slope where they can't get back up," Roth said. "They need someone to say, 'Hey, you have the right tools, you're a leader, you're going to be great in society —you just need to change things up and we'll get you there.'"
Recalibrate also seeks to raise public awareness of these struggles.
"I think it's just being a stand-up person and being aware that these individuals have put their lives on the line and they deserve respect like everyone else, if not more," MHA Director Rachael O'Dea said. "Put yourself out there and say, 'Hey, how are you doing?' and be willing to be that listening ear at all times."
Veterans can open up through peer support group sessions offered in collaboration with the Ocean County Mental Health Association at their office, 25 South Shore Drive in Toms River at 6:30 p.m. on the third Wednesday of the month.
"We just feel (at MHA) that our veterans and law enforcement are just our everyday heroes and they should not be forgotten," MHA Director Rachael O'Dea said. "Anyway that we can step up and help promote services, we're going to do it."
Roth says at these peer support groups any topic of discussion is open.
"It's a non-clinical group, it's all peer stuff, it's laid back. If anyone wants to say anything, it's just a bunch of guys and girls talking, going through their daily struggles," Roth said. "We talk about everything, from the VA to just day-to-day things, it could be relationships or how people are reacting to you or to a certain way you hold yourself."
All military members are welcome to join Recalibrate.
"You don't have to have a mental disorder to be in our group, you just have to be a veteran and talk about it," Roth said.
Roth is also hoping to raise public awareness about veterans struggles and eliminate the stigma associated with military members suffering with PTSD or TBI who are being shunned in public or at work.
There are still plenty of valuable life lessons our military members can teach us coming home as well.
"Just leading by example and living your day as a great leader, father, husband, brother, sister, mother...by your actions is still how you represent the military," Roth said.
Recalibrate is offering free monthly gym workouts for military group members at Apache Cross-Fitness in Toms River.
A fishing trip for members is also in the works.
OC MHA offers evening support groups for mental health and substance abuse Monday to Friday at their office.
To learn more about Recalibrate or get involved, check out the group on Facebook or call them at 732-854-4077 and watch the video below.