Since 2019, it has helped veterans and first responders overcome their mental health demons either during or after serving.
Those veterans come from not only here in Kentucky but from all across the country.
One of those veterans is Army vet Matt Greene, who now lives in South Carolina.
When Greene was 23, he decided to enlist in the Army in search of a fresh start for his family.
“It was totally selfish on my part,” Greene explained. “I felt like I wasn’t providing, and I knew that the military, would not be, I would never be the CEO of a company making six figures a year. You know that. But it would at least be work that I’d be proud of, one. And two, it was going to help me get out of a spot that I was in that I couldn’t get out of.”
After serving in the Army for four years, Greene found what he was in search of.
“I’m 37 and people still ask me what I want to be when I grow up,” Greene described. “I already did it, I wanted to be a soldier, which is what the army is. So, I joined the army became a soldier, I went to Afghanistan. My life is fulfilled.”
One of the biggest things Greene found while in the Army, a comradery that is unique to only the military.
“It doesn’t matter how you’re doing,” Greene said. “Nobody’s going to come up to you and be like, put their arm around you, and ask are you doing okay, buddy? Are you having a good day? Like, none of that’s going to happen. It’s going to be tough love and you learn how to joke around with each other. That’s why veterans today, they’re like the people that aren’t veterans. They’re like, I can’t believe they’ll talk to each other that way. It’s like, well, if they didn’t, then they don’t respect me. They don’t love me.”
But after leaving, that comradery was hard to find.
“A lot of it is when you get out, you don’t really you haven’t figured out what it is that you lost yet and you just have this kind of deepening void,” Greene outlined. “We joke about hard topics, just joke about it and you can’t do that with the average person because they won’t get it, or they’ll get offended or whatever. So that’s what you missed. You miss being able to be what you think a soldier is.”
Fast forward to 2020, Greene is working with a veterans non-profit in South Carolina.
They’re looking to do a nature retreat and came across Camp Hero.
Founder Rocco Besednjak created it as a means to help veterans who are struggling with their mental health.
Besednjak was medically discharged from the U.S. Navy, and was forced to medically retire from being a police officer.
He realized he has an opportunity to help so many people like him who are feeling lost after service.
“There’s people that go in entire lives trying to find property that’s like what I have, and I bought it and I didn’t even know I had it and I want to share it with everyone, everyone that I can,” Besednjak said when we spoke with him in October 2022. “To be able to come out here and heal. I want camp to be a model, I want to be able to give people experiences they’ll never have in their life once a lifetime experiences.”
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For Greene, experiences like camp were what he was missing.
“He [Besednjak] gets therapy from helping other people and then I kept thinking like, that’s probably what I need,” Greene explained. “I probably need to help other people, you know, So I’ll go out there and help out sometimes. But to be honest with you, the whole time you’re sitting in the tree stand like you’re just processing, trying to clear and get all your feelings out of your head. It’s just refreshing. It’s refreshing to see that he’s not doing this to make money. He’s doing it to make people feel better, make himself feel better and that should be the reason we all do it, I think.”
Greene encourages all veterans to find something that can serve as a release for them.
Regardless of what it may be, he said not being afraid to talk about what you’re going through is crucial for a happy life after service.