JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A local nonprofit helping veterans transition back into society was surprised Friday with a $12,500 check from The Players Championship golf tournament.
Five Star Veterans Center received the grant to continue its mission of supporting veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injuries, depression, anxiety and other related mental health issues.
Jack Garnett spoke during the check presentation. Garnett is a Red Coat, which is a previous chairman that helped lead thousands of volunteers put on the golf tournament.
“They served us. They went all over the world fighting for us for our freedom,” Garnett said. “It is time for us to step up and help them.”
Some of the money will go toward renovations at the center, including a room where some of the veterans stay and a conference room where veterans meet to have group meetings or group therapy sessions. And some of that money will head toward finding new outlets for these veterans, like equine therapy — horse riding therapy — or outings to make new friends or meet other veterans.
One of the veterans who Five Star is helping is Charles LaMar, who served five years in the United States Marine Corps, reaching the rank of sergeant. He went on two tours of duty in Iraq, and it was during his second deployment in 2009 when he had a traumatic brain injury after encountering an improvised explosive device — a bomb.
“I am grateful. I have all of my limbs,” LaMar said. “I might have some issues remembering, talking, but I am grateful I came back with all my body parts.”
LaMar came back to the U.S. and urgently needed help. He sought that help, leaving home in Illinois to come to Jacksonville.
“I drove to Florida and Five Star found me,” LaMar said. “I was living in my car.”
He is now getting treatment at Five Star — a resource that’s helped more than 600 veterans over the last decade.
Five Star Veterans Center Administrative Director Suzie Loving said those resources include counseling, finding jobs, and getting into school and homes.
“It is very difficult to understand,” Loving said. “A lot of these people went to war for us when they were right out of high school. They came back and they have no career training at all. They are kind of lost. They need direction.”
LaMar calls this program a blessing.
“They make sure that I have what I need,” he said. “Whenever I start to lose direction, they put me on the right path.”
Getting LaMar the tools he needs, this money is paving the way to help more like him.