PROGRAM HIGHLIGHT: Veteran to Veteran Program

Veteran to Veteran Lead Jasper H.: “Life’s too short to do something you don’t love”

 

Transitioning from military life to civilian life might sound like a relatively easy task to many Americans, but for some service members it’s profoundly difficult.

That’s why the Semper Fi Fund created the Veteran to Veteran (V2V) Program — to support service members as they return to their communities. The program empowers Veteran Leads to help service members make a smoother transition back to civilian life.

“I think what makes the V2V program so effective is having someone that’s kind of been there, done that,” says Master Sergeant Jasper H., a Veteran Lead who works with over 200 veterans on a regular basis. “I can relate to a lot of what these guys and gals have been through. Being able to say I was there, having to go to the VA for my appointments, all the rest — it’s just something that someone that’s never done it doesn’t really know.”

Jasper has certainly “done it.” A Marine with 15 years of active duty to his credit, he provided a broad range of radio communication skills through three deployments to Afghanistan — in 2001, 2003 and 2009.

“When I was growing up in North Carolina, my mom worked at the American Legion in Asheboro,” he says. “Every day after school, I’d go down there and talk to the veterans. My dad died early — I was 12 when my dad passed — so a lot of those guys were my father figures. From really early on, talking to these guys about what they’ve done, I wanted to join the military in some fashion to pay them back for what they’ve done.”

Jasper joined the Air Force ROTC program in 9th grade, but soon realized that the Air Force wasn’t for him. When he heard a Marine recruiter speak, though, he immediately decided to sign up. He left for boot camp on July 21, 1998, just a few weeks after graduating high school.

During his third deployment to Afghanistan, on March 14, 2010, Jasper’s vehicle was hit by an improvised explosive device. “Three other Marines in the vehicle were all injured pretty severely,” he notes, “but I basically just got whiplash — I was really lucky.”

While stationed at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany in 2012, Jasper met Semper Fi Fund President, Executive Director and Founder Karen Guenther as well as the Fund’s two VPs of Case Management, Sondria and Susan.

“They had a joint trip with Fisher House,” Jasper explains, “and I remember I was with Karen when she went up to the intensive care unit. She was an ICU nurse when she started the Fund, and she was talking to the ICU nurses there. I had introduced Captain Betty M. to her — when it came to our most severely injured Marines, Captain M. seemed to be always on duty — and Karen asked, ‘What can we do to help you guys?’ Captain M. told her that we never see the finished product of our work — and six months later, Karen brought back a group of six service members, representing each branch of the military, who were able to walk in on prosthetics and roll in using wheelchairs, and say thank you.”

During that return visit, Karen told Jasper that when he was done with his service, she wanted him to work for the Fund. “She probably thought it was years down the road, and so did I,” Jasper says — but later on in the year, Jasper was selected for Master Sergeant and the opportunity to work with the Fund opened up.

“I emailed Susan and was like, ‘Hey, um, Karen said she wanted me to come work for her, I can be done here as early as September.’ She mentioned some new program they thought I’d be good for, and it turned out to be the V2V program that was just getting started. As soon as I read about it, I thought, ‘Life’s too short to do something you don’t love — all right, I’m getting out and doing this V2V thing.’ That was September 2013, and I haven’t “worked” a day since then.”

Speaking with Jasper, it’s impossible to miss the passion and enthusiasm he has for what he does.

“I absolutely love what I do,” he says. “I’m honored and privileged to have the job I have and do what I do — it’s better than a dream job, because I could never have dreamed of a job this awesome where I wake up and help vets out. I love being hands on, on the ground, working with these guys and gals. A hundred years from now, if I’m still alive, I’d still love doing what I’m doing now.”

“‘Semper Fidelis’ is more than a motto,” he adds. “One of my guys says it perfectly: ‘Love is Semper Fidelis.’ Always faithful is just a way of life. Every day you’re faithful to yourself, your Marines, your soldiers, your sailors — if you’re always faithful, you’re never gonna go wrong.”

“Special thanks to the incredible generosity of one very special family for helping to provide funding for this important program in memory of their brother who wished to remember those who serve.”