ESTERO, Fla. — A few former service members are paying it forward to their fellow vets as FGCU hosts its first-ever veteran expo Thursday.
"We wanted to bring the resources and the programs to them since many of our veterans that are getting out are here at FGCU," says Troy Bolivar, Director of Veteran & Military Success at FGCU. “Programs that help with housing and if people need scholarships, there’s programs like that that are coming in. Pretty much anything that would be applicable to a post 9-11 veteran, they’re going to be there.”
Bolivar says, oftentimes, it can be difficult for veterans to find the right footing in life after service.
"They don’t know where to go for services and resources and they’re kind of lost in a way because when we are in the service, we’re told what to do, when to do it, how to do it," says Stephanie Neurock, Event organizer of FGCU Veteran Expo. "When we get out, we become a civilian and we’re like- okay, well where can we get these resources and what’s available to us?”
A veteran herself, Neurock says she’s witnessed first-hand the struggles of transitioning out of the military.
“I’ve had so many different veterans with my previous job as a disabled veteran outreach specialist for Lee and Collier counties who were lost and didn’t have housing or transportation- didn’t know the resources available to them," she says. "So this is really all-encompassing and important to me to actually be able to give them all those things under one roof.”
Right now, a lot of recent vets— those who served in Iraq or Afghanistan— are less likely to seek out those resources available to them. Thursday’s expo is about changing that mindset.
“When veterans are transitioning, most of them are between 25 and 40 years old," said Bolivar. "When you get out, you really don’t know what you don’t know, and- on top of that- it’s intimidating to ask for help because other people just know what’s going on in the world and how to be an adult. When you’re getting out at 25 years old and you’re just learning how all of these things work.”
And it’s also bringing a sense of fulfilled duty to these vets.
“I really look forward to those calls, you know, five years down the road," said Bolivar. "It’s where I find my fulfillment helping other veterans so I love what I do. I love my job- it’s great.”
You can learn more online right here.