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Injured in Iraq, Jesse Neack finds his life’s purpose in helping veterans in need of support

By Maridith Yahl
NKyTribune reporter

Deployed to Iraq in February 2003, Jesse Neack, U.S. Army Ranger, was the lead navigator on a patrol mission on June 3. “We hit an air pocket which feels like the ground and I step out,” Neack says. His crew chief was telling them to go.

Jesse Neack

“Everyone on board both helicopters thought we were on the ground. I fell 45 feet,” he says.

“I had a fractured pelvis, ruptured bladder, and torn urethra,” Neack says. He was lucky to be alive let alone not have any head or back injuries. “I say lucky, but I was lucky because two things saved me that night. The big guy upstairs had other plans for me. And those other plans for me [are waiting for] me to come home and play,” he says.

Neack, thankfully, does not remember the accident. After several surgeries and a seven-month recovery, he was asked to think about reclassifying. Being an elite U.S. Army Ranger and his role in a scout sniper unit, was all he ever wanted to do. No longer being able to perform his dream job, he separated from the military.

A firm believer everything happens for a reason, Neack now spends his time helping his fellow brothers and sisters in arms assimilate into life after the military. He easily connects with others, enabling him to help veterans in a way most cannot.


Happy to be active and involved in many veteran’s support groups, Neack’s first project was at NKU. While attending school there, he realized most veterans are non-traditional students and there was not a lot of help for them. He, along with other student veterans, and a faculty member who is a veteran, began Norse Vets. All new student veteran’s names are given to the group and offered a mentorship program. They also have access to a veteran’s station, a room designated only for them.

“That was just a huge accomplishment,” he says. It brought him to see that he needed to help support veterans. “That’s a legacy thing,” he says. He is still in contact with all of those who began the service.

Around graduation, Neack decided it was time to start working out again. A fellow vet suggested a group called Team RWB Cincinnati, (Red, White & Blue). It is an international organization made up of veterans and civilians. “[Their] primary mission is helping veterans reintegrate back into society through physical and social activities,” he says.

They run together, participate in activities together, and help others. One project Neack was involved in helped a man in Boone County who has a cemetery on his property. Some of his family is buried there but there are also WWII vets and a Civil War monument. The group has gone several times to help clean it up.

“The biggest healer for me is giving back to my community and that’s a big part of the mission for Team RWB, to make that connection with your community and then that helps you become a part of [it],” Neack says.

Through Team RWB, Neack was connected to the NKY Military-Veterans Coalition (NKY-MVC). The Coalition is a network of Northern Kentucky veteran’s services. It is a free resource, one-stop-shop, for veterans and their families to find the right service they need. He is a big supporter, on the board, and loves to tell people about how they serve veterans. Contacting the NKY-MVC for help is easy to do on their Facebook page.

Supporting NKY-MCV Neack learned about the Northern Kentucky Veterans Treatment Court (NKY-VTC). It is a mentoring-deferral program for non-violent, veteran offenders who have substance abuse charges. Always willing to help a vet, he has so far mentored one veteran through the program which took about a year and a half. Neack attended court with him, checked on him frequently, and helped him with general life needs. They stay in touch, Neack making sure he continues on the right path and provides the needed support.

Another way Neack is helping veterans is by supporting 22 Until None. The national organization focuses on preventing veteran suicide. Neack saw this group on Facebook and is the local representative for the Northern Kentucky-Cincinnati area.

“The hope is that veterans will get on there and share with others…maybe they’re comfortable saying, ‘I need to talk,’ and somebody else sees it, and they exchange numbers,” he says. It is all about veterans networking and supporting each other.

After years of struggling with PTSD, depression, and anxiety Neack realized he had to make it a “mission” to adjust to civilian life. He had a choice to be miserable or be a part of the community he lives in and served.

It then dawned on him, “I’m officially a civilian now because I’ve been out of the military longer than I was in,” he says.

That was a turning point in beginning to heal. Now, helping other veterans adjust not only helps him and the veteran heal, it is part of who he is.

Maridith Yahl is the NKyTribune’s health reporter

Thanks to Report for America, with support from the Ground Truth Project, St. ELizabeth Healthcare, Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky and the Douglas G. Martin Foundation. You, too, can support this reporting and other NKyTribune reporting with a tax-deductible donation today. Help us continue to provide accurate, up-to-date local news and information you can depend on.

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