Jackson police officer establishes support group for fellow military veterans

A police officer who serves with the Jackson Police Department in Jackson has established a support group to help veterans transition from active duty to civilian life.

“There is no stigma, just a bunch of vets talking,” John Roth said of the support group which is offered by Recalibrate, a nonprofit organization he began.

Roth graduated from Lacey High School in 2006. After high school, he started his law enforcement career as a Class I special officer in Seaside Heights.

He joined the the U.S. Marine Corps in 2008 and was deployed in 2009 and 2010. Roth earned the rank of sergeant (E5) and was a Motor-T operator and turret gunner while serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“That brotherhood, that camaraderie, is something you only get with veterans, so in helping veterans you still get that same level of camaraderie. It is something you really cannot replace,” Roth said.

Roth joined the Jackson Police Department in September 2016. Prior to that he worked in the Ocean County Sheriff’s Department for four years while remaining a Marine reserve until March 2018.

Roth said even though he has been employed in law enforcement, military camaraderie is “totally different.”

He explained what led him to begin Recalibrate.

“I have been involved with crisis intervention training. I took a class and became an instructor. I saw there was a need. There are (about) 40,000 veterans in Ocean County and there is no solution … the mental health clinics just refer them to the Brick VA (U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs),” Roth said.

Roth said helping his fellow veterans became his priority when he concluded his military service.

Individuals associated with Recalibrate started brainstorming in February when the organization’s Board of Trustees met. The first official meeting was held in May and the second meeting took place in June. The group currently meets on the third Wednesday of every month.

“If need be we will increase the number of meetings, but we also have free workouts, too, once a month, as of right now, and we are looking to increase that as well,” Roth said.

For veterans, there will always be instances that remind them of their time in the service.

“There are always things that kind of bring you back to when you were deployed or when you were serving. Kind of like you wish you never stopped. (They were) some of the worst times and some of the best times,” Roth said, adding, “it is a combination of everything.”

“Being over there, the excitement, the thrill level, also just the camaraderie. It is something you cannot replace and you cannot replicate anywhere. There are some guys (and) I think their mindset is always go-go-go, it is always full throttle, and some guys need to be brought back and kind of talked to like, ‘hey, it is not like that’ in civilian life because civilian life is a lot different than the military, (and) some people have a hard time transitioning into that,” Roth said.

Normalizing civilian life is an important aspect of what Recalibrate attempts to accomplish.

“Making them feel normal with daily stuff. (Veterans) do not have to have depression or post-traumatic stress disorder, (their issues may be) anything from little things they are missing or want to ask questions about and want to know more about. (Veterans say), ‘Well, I feel like this, is that normal?’ and it is normal to feel like that because maybe they are not getting that connection and that camaraderie from anywhere else,” Roth said.

“When they come to a meeting and discuss (their issues) and talk with us, it makes them feel comfortable that they are not the only ones feeling like that and that there are ways we can work with them,” he said.

Roth said the meetings are not clinical in nature; they are a group of veterans talking.

“When I break it down I think people are kind of afraid of that stigma. I think that is a lot of what civilians look at, this whole stigma. When guys go to a group and they do not want to talk, a lot of guys defer from that because they do not want to be labeled,” he said.

Meetings of Recalibrate are held on the third Wednesday of the month from 6:30-7:30 p.m. at 25 South Shore Drive, Toms River. For more information, call 732-244-0940.