Veterans unemployment, mental health calls skyrocket due to COVID-19; FitOps is here to help

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PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — Everyday, 22 veterans lose a very difficult battle they’re fighting and take their own lives.

The coronavirus pandemic is magnifying the challenges which were already present, now causing millions of veterans to file for unemployment and turn to mental health lines to help.

“It just compounds the effect that things like PTSD and depression have on our veterans.  It could lead them down this destructive path,” said Command Sergeant Major John Wayne Troxell.

Troxell served as the Senior Enlisted Advisor to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

After 38 years of active duty, he’s ready to put an end to veterans suicide.

“Our ultimate goal is to get that ultimate number of veterans who are committing suicide to zero and getting our veterans to work so they have that same kind of self-worth that they had on active duty, and they can continue to be productive members of society,” Troxell tells WMBD.

He recently joined to Fit-Ops foundation, an organization who is offering fellowship and employment for United States veterans through the power of fitness.

Founder Matt Hesse says if you know a veteran, check up on them this Memorial Day and tell them that you love them.

“Family members who have veterans in their family, there are signs when you see risks coming.  Be watchful of it,” Hesse said.

Hesse and Troxell say there is light on the other side.

That will things may be tough now, veterans are some of the strongest men and women in the world.

They want to offer hope for anyone who needs it.

“The good thing is, a lot of veterans are prepared for adapting and overcoming situations like this,” Hesse said.

“To that person out there, reach out to someone.  We are standing by to help you.  To all of us, we have to reach out to those we think might be vulnerable and get there and make sure they know they’re being loved,” Troxell said.

“COVID is affecting everyone’s mental health, but I think the challenge for the veteran community specifically, they’re already pre-disposed to challenges and high-pressure situations.  Despite us all being at home, it’s a new kind of pressure,” Hesse said.

If you’re interested in becoming a personal trainer through FitOps, you can find the link here to apply.

Troxell says veterans want appreciation, not sympathy.

“When someone is suffering from PTSD, depression, or had a traumatic brain injury, the key thing they’re looking for is not so much someone pitying them, it’s to understand them,” Troxell said.

Hesse says the coronavirus pandemic has created new challenges for veterans.

“The bigger risk for veterans now, they’re isolated at home, they don’t have the resources.  Some of the veterans who are receiving mental health check-ins at the VA, going to a hospital right now is also high-risk,” Hesse said.

Hesse says employing veterans is one of the best choices a business owner can make.

“Any employers out there listening to this, I employ a lot of vets.  They’re some of the most hard-working, dedicated, servant-leaders in my company,” Hesse said.

Matt adds that while things may be tough now, we will come out of this pandemic stronger.

“We’re all focused how terrible and nasty this pandemic is.  I do think the silver linings are going to be an increased focus on family, self, and health and wellness,” Hesse said.

Troxell says the pandemic has caused veteran unemployment to skyrocket.

“8 years ago we were paying almost $1 billion, the Department of Defense was, in unemployment benefits to veterans.  Because of the economy, and the job market wasn’t that good.  Because the economy got so much better and the unemployment rate dropped last year, we were playing maybe $130 million dollars a year in unemployment benefits because veterans were able to get out and get jobs.  Now that this coronavirus has hit, more veterans are out of work, now those unemployment benefits have spiked to double, almost triple the benefits we’re paying now,” Troxell said. “On top of that you have another hidden enemy, known as this coronavirus.”

After serving in active duty, Troxell says it’s time to turn his gaze to the men and women who are battling through life.

“My goal in life, after 38 years on active duty and finishing off as the senior enlisted person in the Department of Defense, my goal now is to continue to support men and women in uniforms, their families, and to make sure we get after veteran suicide,” Troxell said.

Troxell has a simple, yet beautiful message for anyone going through a tough time.

“Brother and sister, there are people out there that love you.  You might be in a dark spot right now, and think that the most selfless thing you can do is eliminate yourself off this planet.  But that in turn, puts more grief on those who truly love you,” Troxell said.

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