SACRAMENTO — The long ride home from combat is longer for some veterans than it is for others.
According U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, veterans are 50 percent more likely to be homeless and 22 percent more likely to commit suicide. In a program out of Sacramento called Ranger Road, they are working to beat those odds.
“We, as vets… we don’t want anybody to feel sorry for us,” said Mikhail Venikov, a veteran, former mixed martial arts fighter and the force behind Ranger Road.
FOX40 caught up with Venikov at the Team Alpha Male gym in Sacramento, where he was working out Alejandro Jauregui.
Jauregui did four tours. By the last one, he says he was mostly going back because he wanted to be there for the squad he led. He stepped on an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan and came home a double amputee.
“If there’s ever a day where I’m having a hard time, I’ll call him up and say, ‘Hey man, can we do a work out? Let’s work out.’ We’ll work out and talk about stuff.”
A part of the philosophy at Ranger Road includes imposing physical challenges and seeking extreme experiences to restore a sense of accomplishment and camaraderie.
Jordan Stevenson jumped into Ranger Road after he was shot on special forces assignment in Afghanistan. His family was told he would likely remain a vegetable, but Stevenson is a fighter in more ways than one. Now, he trains with Ranger Road as he works toward finishing his college degree.
“We’re rebuilding that same comraderie that we had with the guys we were fighting with in war,” he said.
In civilian life, the loss of those connections can be crippling for veterans. But then again, given what these service members have already overcome, it shouldn’t be a surprise that they found a winning strategy for that too.