Veterans Take Steps to Readjust to Civilian Life

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For veterans returning from combat, civilian life can be a difficult transition, especially when they return to the Charlottesville area - which has a small military population.

Bridget Kroger is blazing a trail for veterans in the area who are going through the difficult process of coming home. She's using her own experience to help heal others.

"It is a huge transition. It really is. It's scary," said Kroger.

Kroger is about to retire from the Army and enter the civilian world for good - but coming home hasn't been easy.

"Going into combat is easier than the idea of being released into the world to really fend for yourself," said Kroger.   

Kroger left Iraq in July 2010, but the effects of war stayed with her.  It took her two years to seek professional help, and realize she had post-traumatic stress disorder.

"You get the case of the blues, but I couldn't shake it.  And I would literally spend a weekend just crying in my house," said Kroger.

Ben Shaw guides veterans through the difficult process of readjusting to civilian life at Region Ten.

"The first step to making positive healthy changes is to look at your life, look at what's going on, ask a few questions even if you don't necessarily like the answers and find someone who's going to help you move forward," said Shaw.

Kroger found healing in group therapy, very much like Region Ten provides, and now she is starting a new adventure in Fluvanna County. She founded the Wounded Warrior Equestrian Program, a nonprofit that helps veterans find help and jobs that fit their needs.

"I'm creating relationships with trucking companies. We got truck drivers coming out of the military, we'll help get them jobs with some of these trucking companies. Or we'll be able to set them up as horse transporters, moving adopted horses around, and we'll supply them with a truck and a horse trailer," said Kroger.   

By taking her own chance, she's setting an example for fellow warriors.

"I'm taking a huge leap of faith and stepping out on my own and seeing how everything falls into place," said Kroger.   

Right now, Kroger is setting up a dude ranch where veterans will be able to come get back on their feet.    

To check out a list of resources for veterans in our area, click here.