Southwest Pennsylvania is home to 220,000 Veterans, with 97,000 alone living in Allegheny County. After returning from active duty, all Veterans, whether injured or uninjured, are in need of resources such as employment, physical and mental health care, job training, and housing.
Until recently, Pittsburgh-area veterans did not have a centralized, dedicated place to find these kinds of resources. This problem was solved when Pittsburgh resident and Iraq War veteran Jared Souder founded Checkpoint, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping Veterans find the resources they need to help resume their lives as civilians.
Checkpoint was created out of necessity, said Souder.
“I’m supposed to be a subject matter expert, and I would still run into walls, I would run into sort of confusing things, and just see the complexity of it and really saw the need for some way to help vets navigate and reduce complexity and just get better information into their hands so they can make more informed decisions to what they can connect with and what they can benefit from.”
Souder wants Checkpoint to be a hub for every service person's needs as they make the transition back to civilian life. The website contains categories for aspects such as financial services and services specific to female veterans. Checkpoint, overall, is about empowering and utilizing the services Pittsburgh already has.
He mentions the importance of veteran volunteerism in the transition. Finding meaningful civilian jobs may be hard for these veterans, but through volunteering and the services available through Checkpoint, Souder believes it to be possible.
“You think about a generation of vets that, especially talking specifically to younger vets right now, who are just leaving probably the most engaging work they’ll ever do for the rest of their lives, most of them…. I think it’s a common thing I hear from a lot of vets that they never quite find that sense of belonging again. To me, a lot of that is being engaged and finding a new purpose.”