There may be fewer military boots on the ground overseas these days but here at home there are a number of personal issues veterans have to deal with. Returning safely from a conflict zone isn’t the end of the military experience. For many soldiers coming home, the war keeps going. It plays out – over and over – in their minds. It’s hard to transition to a sense of normalcy – especially when the concept of ‘normal’ has changed.
Adjusting to life after the armed forces can be a challenge for vets. Many have a hard time translating military skills to the so-called “real world.” The move back to civilian life is something many struggle with as they search for jobs and meaning in their lives.
One group of vets,however, is being given an opportunity to not only train for a new career but also give back to their communities. Funded in part by the Miami Heat Foundation, Operation Coach is an innovative initiative launched by Up2Us Sports that trains military vets to serve youth in at-risk neighborhoods.
Roya Tasjna Gordon, a former Intelligence Specialist for the U.S. Navy, is part of the first wave of veterans participating in Operation Coach and a perfect example of how the program can help former military personnel serve America’s youth. At first glance, Roya is simply a coach tasked with introducing sports and other physical activities to kids in need. But she is so much more than that. Specially trained by experts from Coach Across America – leaders in Sports Based Youth Development, she has learned how to leverage the power of sports to address a myriad of childhood issues – emotionally and physically – and as a trusted coach and mentor she can impact the lives of the kids she works with on a deep level.
We had the great privilege to spend time with Roya recently in Miami, where she works at Shake A Leg – a facility in Key Biscayne specializing in adaptive water sports. Roya is charged with mentoring eight post-graduate kids – kids who have completed high school but still need help transitioning to everyday life. She’s smart, caring, focused and most importantly, she is being given a chance to give back to her community at a time when so many vets are struggling to find their footing after serving in the military.
Roya’s passion for working with children, along with her involvement in the Veteran community, led her to Up2Us where, as a participant in Operation Coach, she is able to service her community in multiple ways. She has a mission once again, this time to mentor to children via sports and recreation. Roya realizes that while she may no longer be on active duty – her weapons are replaced with basketballs and footballs, and her military bearing replaced with a smile, her mission continues while working at Shake-A-Leg Miami.
Just because vets are home and have taken off their uniform, it doesn’t mean their service to their country is over. There is a tremendous amount they can offered they rejoin the society they sought to defend.
At home and abroad – we thank vets for their service.