Project Refit tackles veteran depression, suicide rates with innovative technology

VOORHEES, N.J. (WPVI) -- "In the military, you have to be tough. You have to be," said James Corbett, the co-founder of Project Refit.

One of his main goals is to bust up the stigma surrounding mental health in the veteran community.

"Being mentally tough also means you can talk about what's going on when you see the visions that are bothering you at night," Corbett said. "That doesn't mean that you're weak."

Corbett's friend and U.S. Army Veteran, Wayde Rozniewski, agreed.

"Thanks to Project Refit, I've really learned to transition the pain into something helpful," Rozniewski said.

Over the weekend, the two men collaborated with community leaders to organize a Ruck March to Barnegat Lighthouse in Barnegat Light, New Jersey. Roughly 60 participants walked 16 miles on foot, carrying about 35 pounds of weight on their backs.

"It's very metaphorical," said Rozniewski.

Project Refit's other approaches to combating isolation are much more technologically savvy.

"We're trying to bring the community of the future to the veterans and first responders of our country through technology and through in-person support that's unique," said Corbett.

The novel non-profit is working on three main projects.

The first is a tri-weekly radio check, through which participants can link up on a Zoom call and talk about their lives.

The second is a mobile app called, "Project Refit Blue Skies," which is a social media platform exclusive to veterans and first responders. Developing on the concept of "buddy checks," users have near-immediate access to pouring out their thoughts with friends and colleagues. Anyone interested in joining must know a current user or request access from the Project Refit team.

The third project is one-of-a-kind, yet still in the developing stages. Project Refit seeks to create the nation's first "Mobile Base," or a traveling hub that brings resources to veterans' doorsteps. The current design shows a miniature lounge on wheels that can be a respite for even homeless veterans.

Project Refit is relying on community engagement such as their now-annual Ruck March to raise funds to materialize these goals.

"There are a lot more organizations out here like this, but this is the one I found and this is the one I call home," said Rozniewski. He hopes others will reach out and call it home as well.

To learn more or donate, visit their website.

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