- Associated Press - Sunday, November 18, 2018

MACON, Ga. (AP) - Financial struggles following a divorce left Army Ranger Jason Cormier without a home and some uncertainty about if he would be able to finish college.

The 34-year-old now credits a Macon transitional home for veterans with not only providing an affordable place to stay for the last year-and-a-half but also keeping him on track to graduate from Middle Georgia State University in May. Cormier is one of 22 people currently residing at Home Port Veterans Transition Home, a former motel situated on Harrison Road just off Eisenhower Parkway.

Cormier says Home Port is a place where the camaraderie reminds him of his 10 years in the military. He plans to embark on a career in film production as well as creative writing, a process that helped pass the time while on deployments.

“There’s a lot of veterans, whether it’s older or younger like myself, that are going to need help to just get on their feet,” Cormier said. “That’s what this place is. For myself, it’s coming out of a financial situation and trying to finish my education so I can get back out on my own two feet. … It’s just a massive help.”

Since Home Port opened in 2016 there have been 28 rooms refurbished and renovations have started on other areas of the complex. The goal is to have 80 rooms available to house veterans and their families as well as offices offering counseling and job placement services, a chapel, recreation room and ballroom.

George Brown, a co-founder of Home Port through the non-profit American Aviation Group, said about $675,000 in money and in-kind services is needed to complete the $1.4 million project.

The outpouring of help from the community has been instrumental in getting the complex to its current point, Brown said. Help has come from churches, companies, members of a high school ROTC programs, college students, veterans organizations and others.

“We’re reaching out to corporations, citizens, church organizations, anybody who can help us help these guys,” said Brown, a retiree of the Marine Corps.

“Some of (the veterans) have a long way to go,” he said. “You can see some of these guys are Vietnam era veterans here who are still suffering. When this complex is completed, it’ll be whole, and we’ll try to make those veterans lives whole at the same time.”

POST-MILITARY LIFE

On the morning of Nov. 1, some of Home Port’s residents gather in the lobby where they grab some food for breakfast. One of them is the genial Ralph Lord, the 75-year-old Air Force Veteran, who recently became a U.S citizen.

After he arrived back from a naturalization ceremony in mid-October, a celebration was held for Lord at his temporary home, a day that was chronicled on video by Cormier.

Another resident is Army veteran Michael Childs, whose post-traumatic stress disorder led to him using alcohol to cope after leaving the military in 1999.

It was tough to adapt to a life without the same structure that comes while serving, he said.

“We’ve been in wars and looking at bodies,” Childs said. “We see helicopters crashing, we see all those types of things so when you come home when we’re adjusting to this civilian life, it’s different. A lot of veterans turn to turn to alcohol, turn to drugs, turn to whatever they turn to to escape the reality.”

Childs credits services like Home Port transition home, veterans treatment court and others as being critical for many veterans. He moved to Home Port after the rent skyrocketed at his previous place.

“To have all these different programs walk us through how to get this degree, how to get this job, how to get this education. we need it,” he said.

To learn more about the veterans transition home visit www.homeportmaconga.org.

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Information from: The Telegraph, http://www.macontelegraph.com

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