Former-Marine Richard Brewer uses his own experience to help veterans get back on their feet with Jarhead-Pinhead, a nonprofit organization in Falmouth that helps them re-acclimate with civilian life, including getting jobs.
"Basically it was borne out of the number of suicides," says Brewer, citing the Department of Veteran Affairs' figure that 18 veterans kill themselves every day.
Brewer suffered from post traumatic stress disorder after he was discharged from the Marine Corps in 1987, and he says the experience allows him to better connect with PTSD-sufferers returning from serving overseas. Although the organization has only been around a year, Brewer and the "pinhead" half of the group — Veterans Affairs psychiatrist Benjamin Grasso — have worked with more than 100 veterans over the past three years.
"The veterans we began with are now at a point where they can help other vets," says Brewer.
The main goal of Jarhead-Pinhead is to improve the lives of veterans who struggle with PTSD and their families, including providing mentoring and support for veterans to re-enter the work force. The group focuses on educating employers about the advantages of hiring vets, and awareness around situations that can trigger negative responses from combat vets such as loud noises from a photocopy machine.
"It's those little nuances that managers can educate themselves about," says Brewer.
Individual vets who are seeking job placements are referred to the Portland Veterans Network, an organization that works one-on-one with returning vets.
As part of his role with Jarhead-Pinhead, Brewer speaks at conferences and other events to mental health professionals and employers. Most recently, he spoke at a conference at Colby College in Waterville about transitioning from military service to law enforcement and at a Maine State Police seminar. Four Maine police departments were awarded grants by the U.S. Department of Justice Office of Community Oriented Policing Services to hire five new officers — all of whom had to be veterans who served for at least 180 days after Sept. 11, 2001.
"It's natural transitioning from one uniform to another," says Brewer. "… but you also have to have support in place that will get them from combat readiness to street readiness."
After leaving the Marine Corps, Brewer worked as a state trooper, body guard and history teacher before joining and then retiring from the Cumberland Police Department. He says places like police departments appreciate veterans' tactical awareness and proficiency with weapons, but veterans can also have skills that make them attractive to more traditional business environments. Brewer says veterans are welcome employees in general business as well because they have experience working in teams and are often mission-focused and hard-working.
Brewer is soliciting support from businesses, not only as prospective employers, but also to lend financial support to Jarhead-Pinhead. In addition to sponsorship opportunities for its website, Jarhead-Pinhead also welcomes businesses that can offer in-kind services such as IT and accounting, and as volunteer mentors. Brewer can be contacted at jartheadpinhead.org.