Jeremy Harrell will be the first to tell you that readjusting to civilian life after serving in the military is not easy. Traumatic wounds from his experiences in Operation Iraqi Freedom followed him long after his honorable discharge. He tried everything to mask his pain and trauma, often losing hope that things would change.
He’s not hopeless now.
Fast forward a few years to a “different” Jeremy. Healing began with going to church, meeting people, and connecting with others in men’s groups. He discovered that long-time healing is found in Jesus and community.
“I learned if I have Jesus, I’ll be okay,” Jeremy said.
As his wounds healed over time, Jeremy wanted to reach other veterans experiencing trauma, anguish, and hurt. He started a private Facebook group for veterans and invited them to connect, to gather with their families and other veterans in local parks. Soon, 150 families were coming to picnics and the Facebook page grew from 15 veterans to more than 5,000. Jeremy’s wife called the group Veteran’s Club, and the nonprofit began to reach far beyond Facebook.
Veteran’s Club’s motto, Doing Life Together, may sound simple, but it is a lifeline for veterans who bond with others who have served in the military and understand their challenges.
“We do life together like a big family,” Jeremy said. “It’s events, conversations, talking over coffee, meeting up to talk through a challenge.”
Community, conversations, trust, and friendship are important, but, as Jeremy learned earlier, the most important thing—what really helps heal wounds—is having Jesus in your life.
After seeing equine therapy on a visit to Kansas, Jeremy began a similar program in Kentucky. He never felt qualified, though, and, in fact, told God, “I’m not the guy for this.” God answered with a few words: “Yes, you are. I chose you.”
It’s been a theme through Veteran’s Club.
“It’s the hardest, most rewarding thing I’ve ever done,” Jeremy said.
Along with equine therapy, Veteran’s Club plans monthly cookouts for veterans and their families. They also have a support group called Women Warriors that provides female veterans a safe space to connect and share their needs. One of the Veteran’s Club’s most popular programs is Operation Jeep Build, which trains veterans on automotive repair.
Recently, Veteran’s Club started connecting with homeless veterans.
“A lot of veterans are incarcerated or take their own lives,” Jeremy said. “We want to help them find hope and purpose in life. Sometimes we only get one shot to engage them.”
Vince Mark credits Veteran’s Club for saving his life.
“Nine months ago, I was addicted and on meth…Being homeless, having nowhere to go is what drove me to God and Veteran’s Club and to this place, this equine therapy,” he said. “Because this place is great, I can say that it saved my life. I know I would be dead right now.”
Believing in an open-door policy, Jeremy invites veterans, as well as first responders, needing a safe place to connect, talk, or just hang out to stop by their office in St. Matthews or visit veteransclubinc.org.
Jeremy’s family also is fully invested in Veteran’s Club. His wife and the nonprofit’s co-founder, Erin, works as the case manager and coordinates community outreach events and activities. In addition, a daughter helps run the equine sessions for the children of veterans and first responders, while their son is the utility man and is always willing to help.
Reflecting on the mission of Veteran’s Club, Jeremy knows that God is not done using him, his family, staff, or volunteers.
“When you live out your faith, it shows you how impactful you can be,” he said.