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Local nonprofit, GTCC helps veterans transition into civilian life

HIGH POINT, N.C. -- John Shumaker joined the Navy after high school as a way to see the world and expand his horizons. He was an aviation mechanic for six years.

"I did a lot of growing," Shumaker said.

Now retired, Shumaker is a student at GTCC pursuing a degree in aeronautical science. But he says the transition back into civilian life hasn't been an easy one.

"It`s hard to communicate when you`re used to a structured life to someone who's unused to a structured life," said Shumaker. "And it can cause lots of emotional and mental blockades and sometimes it causes you to shutdown because you don't even know how to communicate so you choose not to."

And that's where Bob Uber and his non-profit organization Heal our Heroes comes in. It connects veterans with resources like counseling, and perhaps more importantly, it connects vets with other vets.

"We try to create outdoor activities and off-campus opportunities to engage with each other through horseback riding, fishing, and kayaking," Uber said. "And then around a meal, we talk about the issues they all face."

According to Uber, the organization has had great success in its three years of existence. And now, thanks to a grant from the High Point Community Foundation, Heal our Heroes is partnering with GTCC to help the more than 500 student veterans enrolled at the college.

"We realize if we can deal with veteran-unique issues, we think they'll become better students," Uber said. "It will help them concentrate better and it will help them with other relationships as they`re able to better deal with the impact of the war within."

Mark Harris, a retired Marine and current Dean of GTCC's High Point Campus, knows the struggle well.

"We've got vets in a lot of different situations trying to improve themselves and move on and this program Heal our Heroes, is about doing that," Harris said.

Learn more about Heal Our Heroes here.