Dedicating your life to serving the country is a noble feat, and yet, it is even more admirable to return home after service and continue to give back. Jerry Haffey Jr served in the United States Army from 2004 until 2007, of which he spent one year in Iraq, where he completed over 150 joint patrols and over 35 raids on enemy insurgents.
Despite his successes in the army, the realities of PTSD upon discharge from the military could not be escaped.
“I was unable to cope with the horrors of war. I was arrested for fighting because my mind was still in the war. Transitioning from the uniform was very difficult. I remember waking up in early 2008 with a new goal, to get myself healthy and happy. I was miserable, on the verge of taking my life but I sought out happiness with every possibility. I started attending individual therapy to deal with my trauma from the war. I next began to attend once a year retreats completely designed to find myself and my purpose. It was through this work and strong dedication that I learned to live with PTSD in a healthy way,” Jerry recalls.
Come 2019, Jerry was fortunate to complete a 65 hour spirituality life coach course, earning his certification as a life coach. He realized that it was his mission now to give back to others, spurring him to formally launch Fort Freedom, a non-profit organization designed to minimize Veterans suicide risk and assist them in finding their sense of purporse.
As a non-profit 501c3, Fort Freedom works to change the lives of US veterans by minimizing their suicide rate and rebuilding their sense of purpose. They offer several programs, including the “Honor” program, which lasts 14 days and serves as an introduction to lifestyle change. For those looking for a longer commitment, the “Freedom” program, which lasts 90 days, brings veterans significant change, encourages them to find themselves, and allows them to release their traumas.
“Some unique pieces of Fort Freedom are that the entire program is no cost to the veteran. Fort Freedom is funded by private donations from individuals throughout the country. Our program was built to blend a series of scientifically evidence based practices alongside spirituality based practices. This science meets spirit blend challenges every veteran from our four core aspects, mental, physical, emotional and spiritual. By sculpting a program around these four cores a veteran can truthfully transform their life,” Jerry outlines.
Creating a program that sits at the intersection of so many elements, scientific and spiritual alike, required a great deal of experience and research. Jerry, prior to starting Fort Freedom, had worked in the healthcare industry for 14 years. He worked as a part of a team that assisted with substance abuse and mental health issues, including launching a national company that provided care for over 15,000 patients.
“Due to my experience in this space I was able to convert certain skills into Veteran care. Also I couldn’t have done this project without Raul Galaviz. He is a Veteran and Army brother that I served with during my military time. He has been instrumental in standing up Fort Freedom and is currently standing side by side with every Veteran we have in our program. The motivation to start Fort Freedom came from my passion meeting my knowledge. The biggest success is seeing all the hard work of the team being displayed by changing Veterans’ lives. This visual transformation makes it all worth it.” Jerry says.
Passion is a big part of what Jerry does every day. When running a non-profit organization, this becomes especially important. While it runs very similar to any other business, Jerry does point out one distinct difference.
“When launching a non-profit, it should be your most passionate project. Due to this passion, it makes each decision and each moment that much more powerful and this will challenge your mind in a great way,” Jerry remarks.
In the next year, Jerry is looking forward to bringing Fort Freedom to its very own campus space. Currently, Fort Freedom can be found on a smaller sized property, and the expansion into one or two acres would allow a permanent home to provide more services to more veterans.