What do you do when you go from several years of rigid structure in the service to rapid deployment into civilian life? How do you adjust to a life where you have to re-earn your place in an environment where there are no clear objectives, no spelled-out mission, and no team to help you execute? How are you to make sense of all the endless pathways available to you once you’ve exited the military (school, career, living situation) all while being expected to heal?
Sadly, these monumental questions are a daily reality for veterans and their families when they transition out of military life. Oftentimes they have little to no support to provide answers—and worse yet, they feel powerless to face these soft threats, which causes them to remain silent about their situation.
There are plenty of organizations out there making themselves available in various capacities to support veterans and their families during this fragile time . . . and we found one that is doing things a bit differently. The ReGroup Foundation seeks to bring leaders and experts together from non-profits, business, and the community to serve transitioning veterans and their families.
The ReGroup Foundation provides an environment for transitioning veterans to thrive before they are thrust into civilian life. They are a national “hybrid” nonprofit founded with the mission of preventing the struggles of our military service members by engaging with them as they exit service, giving them a free place to live for eighteen months while they complete a three-phase transition program.
We were blown away by Antonio Ruiz’s story as an Army combat Special Forces veteran. He was joined by his partner, Stephanie Solton and Colorado partners, Paul and Trenda Snetzinger for the interview. Paul is also a US Army veteran and they all have a resounding passion for serving veterans due to their own experiences that left them ill-equipped for the challenges ahead.
It all started when Antonio exited the service and bounced around multiple states in multiple different capacities trying to find his life’s calling post-military. It did not end up so well for him, and after years of hard work, he found himself homeless. It was so sudden and such a monumental blow that it left him begging the question, “How did I end up like this?”
As he pieced together the next steps on a long drive to Colorado, he asked himself, “What cannot be taken away from me? What kind of system could I create that will avoid such dire circumstances?”
He continued to ponder these things and slowly realized that this experience wasn’t unique to him. How could he create an environment where he and his peers would never have to experience this horrible feeling again—and potentially save lives in the process?
The answer came down to land and a place to live. As overly simple as it sounds, it’s true. If you own a piece of property, that is yours and do with it what you will.
It was an imperfect road that led to the founding of The ReGroup Foundation, but that’s life. The ReGroup Foundation seeks to provide a safe environment for people to pursue their passions and be a directional compass to point them to their dreams.
The ReGroup Foundation model is what makes them so different compared to other organizations which is characterized by the old saying, “Give someone a fish, you feed them for a night. Teach someone to fish, feed them for a lifetime.” The ReGroup mission is to teach them how to fish and feed them for life.
Phase 1: Healing and Discovery
Recent veterans and their families are welcome to come and stay on a ReGroup ranch where they will enter phase one of a three-phase program. This first six-month phase is all about peace of mind, recovery, healing, and the discovery of your calling.
Without the stress of getting a job, going straight to school, or entering some other pursuit, veterans are encouraged to take time to be thoughtful about which avenue they will eventually pursue. The most crucial part of this is assembling your team, something that makes the military effective and still applies here.
As you’re assembling your team and are being presented with various options to follow, another very important aspect of phase one is healing through various forms of therapy. Each veteran, their partner, and their family receives counseling that brings real-life change while other partners assist with setting the path forward. This includes financial counseling, career counseling, mentor pairing, benefits administration, medical attention as well as mental and spiritual counseling.
Phase 2: Development
Once you’ve discovered your desired path forward, the second phase is about formalizing that path with your team. This is at your own pace based on your previous experience and can last from three to six months. Much of this phase is centered on personal and professional development to get you ready with all of the credentials you’ll need to launch into the civilian sector. That includes resume and cover letter assistance, career advising, school preparation, providing relationships with companies, and overall investment in your talent. They will even help you get a farm if you want to grow crops through a grant program that is available to veterans.
Phase 3: Deployment
Now that you’ve got the necessary credentials, a plan forward, and a team to help execute, it’s time to deploy. This three- to six-month phase is also self-paced and the goal is to find your mission in the community. During this time, ReGroup assists with paying bills while you move off the ranch to integrate into the community putting all of your skills to work. You will also be paired with other peers that are just entering into the ReGroup ranch to give them a leg up on their transition in a pay-it-forward fashion.
The brilliance of this makeup is it provides structure similar to that of the military so expectations are clear and better guarantees favorable outcomes. This frees you up to focus on areas where you need the most development since your daily schedule and living quarters are provided.
What makes the ReGroup model work so well is collaboration with existing organizations for counseling, career preparation, personal development and others. This specialization allows for more focused services, creating an even more transformative experience for the residents.
The ranch also boasts a sophisticated self-sustaining grow facility that can generate around $2M per year. This agrotherapy, as it were, is another form of treatment for healing veterans and trains those who are applying for grants to purchase their own farm in the near future.
In addition to agriculture, residents are required to participate in PT (physical training) once a day minimum. Healthy body, healthy mind.
The residents and their families are also encouraged to gather nightly around the campfire for a little Ranger TV. This is a special time when everything stands still and real friendships are forged, lifelong partners and phenomenal connections are made. Neighboring farmers, ranchers, business folks and other stakeholders are welcome to come wind down and digest the day, creating numerous low-key opportunities to build relationships.
The ReGroup Foundation is about a year away from finishing their first location in New Braunfels, TX and hopes to announce their Colorado location very soon.
You can get involved by contacting them on their social media pages and their website. They are hungry to share their mission and would be more than willing to come on site for a presentation to share their story. You can also be involved by participating in Wear RED Fridays (Remember Everyone Deployed) take a photo, post it on social media and tag them in the post.
On August 25, the ReGroup Foundation is hosting a Golf Tournament at Hyland Hills Golf Course. The cost of $150 per player, four players per team, includes breakfast and a lunch buffet, cart rental and discount to the golf shop. They will have discounted $25 unlimited passes for families at Adventure Raceway & Go-Karts, which is on the grounds. There will be great prizes and a silent auction—so if you’re interested in sponsoring or donating, contact Trenda at 303-641-3927 or firstname.lastname@example.org. You can sign up at https://regroupcogolf.bpt.me.
They will also be hosting the 1st Annual HERO Military Gala on April 13, 2019 at Lamar Street Center. It will be a fun night of dancing, great food, music, and a silent auction. The gala will highlight heroes of all branches and share their stories. If you are interested in sponsoring or donating, please contact Trenda at the same information provided above.
We were honored to spend some time getting to know Stephanie, Antonio, Trenda, Paul, and the ReGroup Foundation. We are more honored to have men and women like them serving our great nation.