BY KAREN GERHARDINGER | MIRROR REPORTER — Task Force 20 is a local organization that’s making a difference in the lives of veterans, said Waterville resident Dave Gedman, an Army veteran who served multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In 2016, Army veteran Jason Graven founded Task Force 20, a nonprofit that provides funds for veterans to train, compete and survive together. His goal is to stop the trend of veterans being lost to suicide.
While Task Force 20 doesn’t ask its clients to disclose any mental health issues, Graven understands that some may be dealing with depression or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or the feeling of isolation in returning to civilian life.
“PTSD can come in many forms. You didn’t necessarily need to be in Iraq or Afghanistan,” said Graven, a 1998 Anthony Wayne High School graduate who enlisted in the Army shortly after 9/11. “The main objective is to stop the suicide pandemic. There’s a direct correlation to mental health and exercise.”
For some veterans, especially those living on a fixed income, finding the funds to pay for a gym membership is out of the question. Task Force 20 raises those funds and works with fitness facilities to provide free memberships for veterans. Factors such as childcare, a pool and proximity to home or work are considered because when veterans have a choice, they’re more likely to stick with the program, Graven said.
This year, Task Force 20 assisted 27 veterans at an average cost of $400 per veteran. Since its inception, the program has assisted 104 veterans in various capacities, including personal training, facility memberships and donated jiu jitsu memberships.
But Task Force 20 does much more than that, Gedman said.
“In my opinion, the most important thing about Task Force 20 is that Jason is trying to consolidate all of the local veteran resources to make sure that veterans are getting the help they need,” Gedman said. “Task Force 20 focuses on fitness and getting veterans together, but this may not be the solution for all veterans in need.”
Task Force 20 has a goal of helping all veterans get help, even if it’s through a different organization, Gedman explained.
Last year on PTSD Awareness Day, Task Force 20 held a race and a Veterans Resource Fair, bringing dozens of organizations together in one place. This year, a 5K and Veterans Resource Fair will be held on Sunday, June 26 in Whitehouse at the park pavilion.
“Jason and Task Force 20 continue to make a huge difference in Northwest Ohio, and as more people get on board with the mission, the sky is really the limit to how many veterans we can help,” Gedman said.