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Iraq veteran working to combat stigma of addiction, mental illness named FOX31 ‘Hero of the Month’

Serving Those Who Serve

Brian Johnson, Hero of the Month for Feb. 2021

CENTENNIAL, Colo. (KDVR) — Brian Johnson served in the Iraq war, so he knows the struggles many veterans face.

“I went down the path of suicide. I tried to kill myself twice. I didn’t want other vets to go through what I went through. I know that they will, but how can I help in between?” the Army veteran told FOX31.

Johnson is founder and executive director of Warrior Now, a Colorado-based non-profit aimed at stopping the stigma of mental illness, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injuries (TBI) and addiction that so many veterans struggle with. The charity is aimed at teaming veterans with peers who can help deal with daily challenges, like coping with a divorce or addressing legal issues.

Every week, Johnson and other volunteers with Warrior Now meet at Celebrity Lanes in Centennial for a PTSD support group, and then they bowl. Surprisingly, bowling is therapeutic for many of the veterans.

“Social environments for a lot of veterans (are) really difficult and having this type of environment allows for our vets to be able to put some of these skills they’re learning in groups and therapies into action,” Johnson said.

The group also partners with Veterans Administration therapists to give veterans the professional help they need. And every night, volunteers with the charity do a “buddy check” with group members.

“We’re on (the phone) for about an hour, sometimes it goes longer, but we have it available for the veterans. We want to make sure that at night, when it’s easy to tip back the bottle, maybe you don’t need to. Maybe you just need somebody to talk to,” Johnson said.

For his work helping veterans, FOX31 has chosen Johnson as our Hero of the Month for February 2021.

Along with a plaque, Johnson gets a $500 Visa gift card from our Serving Those Who Serve sponsors, Plumbline ServicesFord Motor Company and the Leo Hill Charitable Trust.

“It means a lot to me,” Johnson said.

Warrior Now is planning a bowling event March 7 at The Summit in Thornton to raise money to prevent veteran suicide. To sponsor a team, bowl or donate, visit their website.

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