Jackson, NJ Police Officer and founder of Ocean County, NJ non-profit helping military veterans and first responders
It can be tough, challenging, and so forth for those coming home from active military deployment, being a military veteran or a first responder on the front lines of our local communities in asking for help or seeking out services or someone to speak with that can try and relate to your or anyone's unique and particular situation.
One of the organizations there to help these men and women build a support system around themselves is the Ocean County non-profit, Recalibrate, founded by Marine Corps Veteran and current Jackson Township Police Officer John Roth.
On Sunday, Roth was a guest on 'Shore Time with Vin and Dave' which airs Sundays from 6-8 am on 94.3 The Point and 105.7 The Hawk, and he discussed his own journey through life and how he and those with Recalibrate want to help military men and women as well as first responders in our Ocean County, Jersey Shore community.
Roth founded 'Recalibrate' back in 2018 and in the years that have followed, he has seen the organization grow and expand.
"It's grown ten-fold. Our mission changed just a little bit -- not only do we help military veterans, we help first responders as well, that just is natural because a lot of us on our board or who we help are first responders and you see the similarities and the struggles and the connections," Roth tells Townsquare Media. "Our mission statement is 'Connecting Veterans and First Responders to Physical Fitness' such as CrossFit, yoga, surfing, hiking, and we do that as well with our peer groups, our monthly peer groups that we have right here in Toms River."
It's an anonymous group that doesn't leave a paper trail that you sought our services, it's just you and those in the group talking and doing things together.
"It's all confidential. When we have our workouts, some people choose not to do the workouts, some people choose just to come to the peer groups, some people are interested in yoga," Roth said.
Some like to take part in physical group activities to unwind and have fun together which will happen at events like a surfing event coming up in August.
Through either the Recalibrate peer groups or through people reaching out for services, there are multiple ways that the non-profit can provide assistance and a listening ear including for military veterans struggling to make the adjustments back home.
"We get a lot of referrals, shockingly through social media, we get family members or friends, co-workers saying, 'hey, I have this guy so-and-so, he's coming back, he's made some statements that he's struggling a little bit, connecting with guys and understanding', and it's kind of cool that they'll message us, so we tell them, 'hey, come to our peer group, come to a workout," Roth said.
They don't ask for a diagnosis of any mental health issue such as PTSD but offer an opportunity to join them at peer group sessions or other activities to adjust back home and make new friends.
"We just say, 'hey, come connect with us, share your story if you need to, or just listen', because not talking is just as helpful as listening to other people's struggles," Roth said. "I know it's unfamiliar territory when you're in a room full of people, guys, and girls, just talking about a topic or whatever the case is."
Roth and the team at Recalibrate though will help take additional steps to help someone if they need it, like if they are really struggling and could use professional help.
"If we do see stuff, we will recommend higher diagnoses or anything -- because we're not counselors or clinicians or anything like that but we do work well with the Phoenix program out of Ocean Mental Health, a lot of us are mentors for the program that they have set up just for that," Roth said.
From time to time, Recalibrate will set up weekend retreats for military veterans and first responders to get away together, and locally, but talk and have some fun taking a break from everything else.
"During the pandemic, we actually hosted our first at-home retreat, which was pretty cool," Roth said. "We had 8 Veterans from all branches, male and female, and we had two beach houses in LBI, we did surfing, skydiving, journaling, did some physical fitness -- getting these guys to do yoga -- and all in two-and-a-half-days. It was good that they got to experience stuff that maybe they never did before and (there were) some struggles and deep conversations that we had."
Roth said there are some discussions underway about planning another retreat in the future, but no timetable or details have been mapped out yet.
"We're looking forward to hosting another one," Roth said.
In his own military service, Roth rose to the rank of Sergeant with the Marine Corps and was deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq.
There were some challenges and adjustments he had to make as he got back home and some people who helped him over the last several years.
"I came back and luckily enough I was already working in Se side Heights as a Class II, I had already went through the police academy, so I went right back into working," Roth said. "I started living over there not knowing -- I was still in my early 20's -- but looking back, I could have things differently, I could have acted differently if I knew what was -- I thought it was just me being a 20-year old living on his own stuff, but -- were there struggles? Yea, some personality things that I probably didn't click with some people emotionally and stuff like that. I think I could have done things better for myself but -- yea, it was a little bit at first but then got kind of clouded that just masked that for years until I realized what the hell happened and I have to address them myself."
Roth went from a Class II Officer in Seaside Heights to the Ocean County Sheriff's Office and then to the police department in Jackson Township in 2018.
"It took time to realize what was going on," Roth said. "I had people that I would always reach out to -- I have a cousin that I consider my older brother, law enforcement, Marine Corps as well -- I always reached out to him, I had family, some close close friends."
That support helped spark the idea within Recalibrate of a tagline that's on bracelets they have reads "Find Your Fire Team".
"More or less, people do find -- what they're looking for is guidance, people to pull them through tough times, so our tagline is "Find Your Fire Team", essentially find guys and girls that are going to form your fireteam to pull you through life," Roth said. "Our Now Mission is Life -- whether it be marriage, it could be physical fitness, mental stuff, if you're trying to do something in education -- you have to have all these people to pull you through because when you do hit rock bottom, or you start falling down, you can reach out to these people for guidance and they can pull you through."
You can learn more about Recalibrate from Founder John Roth in the full audio conversation on 'Shore Time with Vin and Dave' that aired Sunday on 94.3 The Point and 105.7 The Hawk, right here.