Weekly support group helps veterans get back on track

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WCJB)-- Defending our country can take a toll on our veterans but the 'Back on Track Veterans Support Group' was created in May 2017 to help veterans with community reintegration and recovery.

“There may be physical injuries that they’re dealing with but they’re also dealing with moral injuries or conflicts of conscious," Veteran Affairs Recovery Support social worker David Forest said. "To be around other veterans who have similar experiences allows them to feel more comfortable opening up.”

Veterans in the group discuss stress management, psychological health, and depression.

Forest works for HUD-VASH which stands for Housing and Urban Development - Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing. He believes recovery for veterans is about living a life of meaning and purpose.

Forest facilitates the discussion each week and was amazed to see the determination of a veteran to attend the support group after a health issue.

"Jerry, a veteran who has been coming for almost the entire time we had this group actually came to group a week after having a stroke," Forest said. "That just speak to the commitment that he had and I think it's incredible to see veterans who were there for one another and the healing that does occur."

Army veteran Jerry Powell left his hometown of Moultrie, Georgia to recover from his drug addiction in Gainesville.

With the help of others and the support group, Jerry's son is back in his life as well as his grandson.

"Just going there listening to other veterans going through similar things that I'm going through help me get a real perspective on my own life," Powell said. “Hearing things that they went through also applied to my life and help me get a better perspective of what’s going on with me. It’s just a great feeling to be a part of something for a change.”

Forest enjoys seeing the growth of the veterans thus far.

"It's been amazing to me, the level of honesty and emotional depth that they've been willing to share and it's really incredible because as with most of us, we don't learn how to share our emotions and it's often difficult," Forest said.

The group meets every Tuesday at 11 a.m. in the conference room at UF Health Street located on 2401 Southwest Archer Road.