Becoming a veteran means leaving the battlefield behind and trying to continue on with life at a normal pace despite military trauma and the challenges thrown your way.

Nonprofits like Creative Drill Sergeants and Team Veteran Foundation help veterans overcome their hardships through various types of therapy and advising.

“I know what it’s like to have your whole identity taken away from you due to your illness and your disabilities, and having to redefine that. What I try to do now is help people figure that out,” said Gina Ruggiero, the CEO and co-Founder of Creative Drill Sergeants.

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Ruggiero suffers from PTSD, a traumatic brain injury, and military sexual trauma from her time in the Air Force.

“I don’t think I would have been successful at what I’m doing right now if I hadn’t gone through all this. I’ve been a homeless veteran. I’ve been a suicidal veteran. So I know what it’s like,” Ruggiero said.

Creative Drill Sergeant’s mission is to prevent homelessness and suicides by providing veterans with camaraderie, mentorship, family healing, and expressive art skills to reintroduce them into civilian life, according to Creative Drill Sergeants.

“I took my past and applied it to the non-profit to help people and let them know that they’re not alone,” Ruggiero said. “I came close a few times to saying ‘I can’t do this,’ ‘this is so messed up,’ and ‘how am I supposed to make it through this,’ but yet I just kept pushing and fighting through.”

A veteran dies by suicide every 48 minutes with there being roughly 9,646 veteran suicides in 2021 alone, according to Team Veteran Foundation.

Gordon Brown, president and CEO of Team Veteran Foundation started this non-profit in 2012 because he wanted to end the ongoing veteran suicide epidemic.

“I’m a TBI survivor and had to have an emergency brain surgery in 2002. I had two grand mal seizures post-op and flatlined both tines. I died twice on November 5, 2002,” Brown said. “I struggled with recovery and was on a lot of medication that gave me suicidal ideation.”

After these traumatic events, Brown found Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy which essentially started the idea of Team Veteran Foundation, according to Brown.

HBOT is when patients go into a chamber that is pressurized and breathe in 100% oxygen. This helps repair tissue and restore normal body function, and has also proven to help with TBI, according to the Military Times.

“I discovered HBOT and started sponsoring a lot of veterans to go through the treatments, but never went through myself until 2015,” Brown said. “I was on a lot of anti-seizure medicine which made it extremely dangerous for me to go through the treatment.”

The majority of funds that the Team Veteran Foundation receives is through donations from people’s kindness, according to Brown.

“Now you can see why it can be difficult to raise money for doing something like this because it flies in the face of conventional medicine and the VA doesn’t like it because the veterans are getting healed,” Brown said.

Creative Drill Sergeants also receives funds through donations but their main source of revenue is through a sustainable revenue model, according to Ruggiero.

It takes clients that need assistance with things like lighting and film which are skills that are taught at Creative Drill Sergeants. The certified veterans go to the jobs and get paid but they also bring in revenue to the non-profit, according to Ruggiero.

“I feel as though all my trauma was in preparation for being in this business because I deal with it every day with veterans that are in crisis situations, mentally, spiritually, and financially. I would not have been able to deal with this had I not gone through everything, and all the fighting I’ve done to help myself,” Ruggiero said.

Donations are accepted at Creative Drill Sergeants here and Team Veteran Foundation here.