A total of 22 veterans commit suicide daily due to post-traumatic stress disorder and other hardships they face after leaving the military and attempting to reincorporate into civilian life, according to Robbie Clarke, one of the founders of Huntington Beach-based nonprofit Honorable Recharge. Christian Bell, another HR member, says it took him over two years to seek help from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs after hearing of their difficult system. Together with Johnny Kresimir of Johnny’s Saloon here in HB, they saw in their shared stories a chance to help veterans countywide and beyond with the myriad issues that come along with being one.
HR is made up of veterans from various occupations and backgrounds who unite under a common goal—to spread camaraderie and create a soft landing for veterans in need. Their mission is "to assist Combat Veterans suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD), Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), and other wounds as a result of Military service, through education, support, and camaraderie," per their Facebook page. The group also focuses on educating the general public, law enforcement and employers on the effects of combat-related PTSD, TBI and other wounds. Clarke says that veterans are often discriminated against when it comes to hiring for "real jobs." Employers and coworkers who lack knowledge of the effects of PTSD fear hiring a veteran who may be struggling with it. There is a fear the person is "crazy" or won't be able to deal appropriately with conflicts arising at the workplace.
We sat down with charter members Clarke, Bell, and Felix Alvarez, who told us that while the group recently formed in January 2014, they have already hosted several successful meetings and fundraising events and have received promising future interest from vets and civilians. Currently, the group meets every Thursday at 6 p.m. They are a core group of about six veterans, with others drifting in and out. Clarke and Bell are both HB locals, and Alvarez hails from Santa Ana. Clarke says most members are from HB, with one from Downey and another from Tustin. Kresimir is also a member. "He was integral in getting Honorable Recharge started and has helped us tremendously with getting organized," says Clarke.
The group's first "soft opening" of sorts will be the Musink Tattoo Convention & Music Festival on March 21-23. HR will feature a booth at the event to spread the word about the organization. Alvarez says fundraising has been their biggest challenge. To that end, they will also be hosting a dunk tank where all proceeds will go toward HR's future events and ongoing veteran assistance. In late spring/early summer, the guys are planning a celebrity basketball tournament. Details are still being ironed out, but the event promises to be a great fundraiser and promotional vehicle.
In an effort to help make fundraising even less of a challenge, we teamed up with local tattoo artist Hek of The Tattoo Gallery to design a charity t-shirt. Featuring Hek's interpretation of our logo, the shirt is now available in our Made in HB Marketplace. All sales of up to 50 shirts will benefit HR, and we've sweetened the purchase with free shipping. Our collaborative fundraiser even caught OC Weekly's eye, who covered the effort online and in the April 11 print edition.
Clarke assures that there have already been many successes with helping veterans that contact Honorable Recharge. He asked, however, that we refrain from specifically highlighting stories to keep the veterans' struggles private. Although members currently range from veterans of either Iraq or Afghanistan in their mid-20s to mid-30s, HR welcomes veterans of any age and war.
Those interested in joining should contact HR through their Facebook page to find out when and where the next meeting will be.