'They helped me see that I was worth it': Tri-State veterans find a hand-up when life seemed hopeless

Easterseals annual Honor Ride to support critical resources for veterans
Sean Rhorer
Posted at 9:19 PM, Jul 25, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-25 21:21:15-04

CINCINNATI — If you take a peek behind the curtain at Easterseals Military & Veteran Services, you will find military veterans with their own backstories and personal struggles they use to help give a hand-up to fellow veterans who show up at their front door.

“You know Easterseals gave me a chance to reclaim my life to reclaim my function, my purpose,” said Sean Rhorer.

A combat veteran, Rhorer did two tours in Afghanistan in 2007 and 2010, dealing with post-traumatic stress when he got out in 2013.

“I didn't understand what was going on with me,” Rhorer said. “I chose some chemical coping mechanisms that lasted for some years. I ended up in the gutters. I ended up with bars around me. I ended up losing a lot of things myself included.”

Through veteran court in Campbell County, Rhorer was able to get his life back on track, leaving the jailhouse life behind him. Then, just as it seemed his life was on the right path, things took a sharp turn.

“After Veterans Treatment Court, I lost my leg in a motorcycle accident," Rhorer said. "And so that was very traumatic and spent about 10 months trying to figure out if I could do anything, not will I do anything if I could."

Now wearing a prosthetic leg, he began the process of adjusting to his new life. After nearly a year of doubting whether he could live anywhere near the life he had before, Rhorer took a job at Easterseals Serving Greater Cincinnati.

“I got right back to who I was the worth, the work ethic that I carried with me my whole life, and I moved up pretty quickly,” Rhorer said.

He said he worked his way up quickly, now working within the Military and Veterans Services section.

“Now I get to use my experience from all the trouble that's been in my life, all the ups and downs," he said. "And I get to focus that on the veterans that I work with in order to get them to the same place that I'm at today."

One of those veterans receiving a hand-up is Wesley Schenk, a Navy veteran who after a car accident ended up in a downward spiral when the pain medication to help with his recovery took over his life.

“That lasted for 18 years till the government decided, you know, not going to hand out pain pills anymore," Schenk said. "And when that happened, I sought my prescriptions elsewhere."

He had served his country, raised a daughter as a single father and even had a 20-year post-service career in IT, but that search for prescriptions elsewhere would leave him homeless.

Easterseals said there are over 1,100 veterans currently without a home in the Tri-State.

Schenk slept wherever he could find a place he thought was safe, moving he says from city to city to try and avoid trouble. Eventually, he learns about Joseph House in Cincinnati whose mission is solely focused on treating homeless veterans battling addiction.

“I was at the Joseph house for 19 months and doing really well,” Schenk said. “And they thought I'd be a good candidate for Easterseals peer support program.”

He suddenly found himself helping other veterans and began his retraining in the IT field he once had a successful stint. Through Easterseals he was able to land a new job and restart his career and his life.

“Between Easterseals and the Joseph house, they helped me see that I was worth it," Schenk said. "And I was going to be able to build up and do something good with my life."

According to their data, for 10 years Easterseals Serving Greater Cincinnati has provided emergency support to more than 3,800 veterans. Their team has placed nearly 1,000 veterans in new jobs and helped find housing for more than 400 veterans.

The programs that made that all possible take resources and the annual Honor Ride help raise critical dollars to keep their mission going. You can join this year’s ride or make a donation by visiting the Honor Ride website.

If you have a veteran story to tell in your community, email homefront@wcpo.com. You also can join the Homefront Facebook group, follow Craig McKee on Facebook and find more Homefront stories here.

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