By Allison Matyus
For many veterans, life outside of combat is a battle in itself. Transitioning from the military to civilian life can be hard to cope with for many coming out of service.
Chicagoan Greg Jumes served in the Marine Corps in Iraq and Afghanistan for four years until 2010. He said in life after the military he hit rock bottom.
“I got into drugs and alcohol, got divorced and lived out of my car for a while,” he said. “I always had trouble finding a sense of community because in the military, your community was right there with you all the time.”
“My transition was so horrible and just constant stress and I didn’t have the things I needed until I identified the things that made me happy, so I put all that under one roof which is now Victor,” Jumes said.
Jumes created the Victor App over a year ago as a digital platform for veterans to find what they are looking for; whether that’s career services, health and wellness organizations, veteran-friendly businesses or just someone to talk to.
“We’re trying to replicate that sense of community… the military doesn’t teach you how to do that on your own because you are just thrown into a tribe, but when you get out, you are thrown into the world,” Jumes said.
He said he has learned that the most important thing about life after service is building up a network, and so Victor will have a messaging tool for veterans to ask for advice or to simply connect on a personal level.
“In the military, you always had a battle buddy and didn’t do anything alone…people need that sort of consistency in their life because of the major change that happens after you get out,” Jumes said.
Victor will provide veterans with information about local businesses or nonprofits in their area that they need, but might not even know exist.
“We want people to go straight to these businesses or services that are there that offer discounts or specials and are Veteran friendly, because that is where they will feel most welcome,” Jumes said. “85 percent of the military community looks for discounts and specials when shopping locally.”
Victor just surpassed its fundraising goal of $25,000 on its Indiegogo campaign page, and Jumes is in the process of launching the app around the end of March or in early April. The app will be free to veterans and their immediate family.
Although the app hasn’t debuted yet, he is already getting feedback from the extensive veteran community.
“The most frequented comment I get from people is ‘Where was this when I got out?’” he said. “I’ve had people reach out and tell me that this is exactly what they needed.”
The app will launch exclusively in Chicago, but Jumes said he wants to eventually expand it to the five largest military bases, which include Fort Bragg in North Carolina, Fort Campbell in Kentucky, Fort Hood in Texas, Fort Lewis (Joint Base Lewis-McChord) in Washington and Fort Benning in Georgia.
“We feel that if we can own the battle space here, so to speak, we can replicate it in many other places,” Jumes said.
Aside from the app, Jumes holds events in the city for Chicago veterans to come together and just be normal.
“I always tell people you are a human being first, a veteran second,” he said. “It’s not about your glory days but your glorious future.”