John Allen Murphy of Rockland Homes For Heroes was invited to join the “Vet Togethers” efforts by Army veteran John Churcher, who is doing his share in Massachusetts as you can read below. His mission is the same as ours, which is to bring serenity to our troubled Veterans.
We do it by building and operating Supportive Permanent homes (we operate 8 apartments on the historic Camp Shanks site in Tappan and are now fundraising to build 14 more.)
About John Churcher (from the Sentinel & Enterprise):
“A quiet volunteer helps fellow vets returning to civilian life”.
Churcher, 53, said returning veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are dealing with a lot difficult issues, including depression, suicide, alcohol and drug abuse, divorce and hassles like navigating the Veterans Health Administration system. He helps them through conversations and get-togethers, road trips and pizza parties, and he does it outside any formal group or non-profit organization.
“People benefit from talking to someone going through the same thing they are,” said Churcher. He said it’s the same thing with police and firefighters, and those are the blue collar workers he grew up with.
His father was a Marine veteran and a New York City police officer, and Churcher said the tight bonds of a police family hold true for military veterans as well. Churcher served in the Army from 1981 to 1983 on active duty.
The terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, changed everything. He lost a good friend, Lt. John Ginley, a lieutenant in the New York Fire Department Engine 40, along with three neighbors. A few weeks later, Churcher contacted Ginley’s family, which includes three brothers who are firefighters. They told him about another firefighter they worked with, a veteran enduring a tough transition back to America. Churcher ended up reaching out to him as someone to talk to.Not too long after that he talked to someone he knew from college and found out the man’s son had been seriously injured by an IED in Afghanistan. Churcher put together a group of five more vets to go out for pizza and beer with the young man. They all knew what he was dealing with in a way other people in their lives couldn’t.
The next month, there were 14 guys. A month later it was 40.
“He’s definitely saved some lives and changed some lives for the better,” said Gabe Nutter, a team leader from the Mass SAVE Team, a state program that helps veterans with mental health issues, including suicide. “He answers the phone all hours of the day, no matter what.”
“I don’t want to get too big. I like an intimate approach,” said Churcher. “I’d rather help a few people a lot, then help a lot of people a little.”
So this holds true for our mission at Rockland Homes For Heroes as well. We hope to help end veteran homelessness a few apartments at a time.