Louisville’s Veteran’s Club provides hope and healing
Less than two years ago, U.S. Army combat veteran Jeremy Harrell founded Veteran’s Club to offer equine therapy and social engagement opportunities to veterans. His work has already impacted more than a thousand people and continues to reach veterans throughout the state. We spoke to Harrell to learn more about the organization and how its programs are changing the lives of several local heroes.
What is the mission of Veteran’s Club?
“Veteran’s Club mission is to get the veterans in our community connected with one another to forge the strong bonds we experience while in uniform by creating family activities and therapeutic programs. All of this is ultimately an effort to eliminate veteran suicide.
How many people are involved – including members, volunteers and administrators?
“We have more than 1,000 members throughout the state and we are growing exponentially as we expand our programming. I am the founder/president and I have six people on our board of directors. We have several key volunteers who lead different programs and some who help on the farm with our Equine Program.
What types of therapeutic activities are you currently offering?
“Our marquee program is the Equine Program. However, we understand that horses aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, so now we are offering more. Those programs are Warrior Yoga (trauma-focused yoga), creative writing, creative arts, storytelling, recreational events such as hiking or other events within the community, monthly family cookouts, Camaraderie and Coffee Days, etc. We are always evolving in creating more opportunities for vets to be engaged.”
What kind of results have you seen in members?
“We have seen some astounding results within the vets who have been attending our therapeutic events. I’ve had Vietnam vets who have participated in our Equine Program tell me that they haven’t felt so relieved in 40 years. I have seen the camaraderie amongst our members flourish, and our members have really done some amazing things for one another through this – things such as helping handicapped vets find a wheelchair free of charge, helping each other move residences, (help) with household and automotive repairs, sharing veteran resources and most importantly with support to those who have become suicidal. There were more than 10 vets last year alone within our organization who had suicidal ideations, and they are alive today because of the support we offer one another. We actually have a private Facebook group for our members so they can reach one another in between events. We are ready to serve 24/7.”
Why is this kind of outreach program so vital to our veterans?
“It’s vital because it is peer-led support. I am a combat veteran of Iraq, and so the trust is instantaneous because they know that I get it, whereas some civilian therapeutic programs cannot obtain that connection because of a lack of understanding or combat. It goes back to bonds that vets have with one another. The fact that I too have struggled with PTSD/depression/TBI due to my military service, I can relate to the veterans who come through our programs 100 percent. I know the red flags and what to look for. We talk about these issues without any judgment or rebuke. I develop authentic relationships with these vets first in order to gain their trust to go through our processes. This organization has been the difference between life and death, and we are committed to that responsibility to take care of those who need us.”
How can the community get involved and assist Veteran’s Club?
“One of the best ways the community can get involved is to actually talk to a veteran who they come in contact with. Get to know them and let them know you care. Outside of that, donations of any kind are always helpful. I challenge local businesses to sponsor an activity for vets to attend at no cost if possible. We are always looking to partner with local recreational businesses, coffee shops, restaurants and local sports teams. I truly believe that we all have a responsibility to support those who have borne the battle in some way.
“We at Veteran’s Club are so grateful for the outpouring of support we have received from the community and many businesses so far. We never take your love for vets and your generosity for granted. Veteran’s Club wants Louisville to be the example to other major cities across the U..S on how we take care of and love our veterans. I can’t do this myself, and I need the support of the whole city to create these opportunities for the servicemen and women of our community.”
To learn more or get involved, visit veteransclubky.com, follow their Facebook page facebook.com/veteransclubky or call 502.310.2303.