CINCINNATI, OH – During two tours in Afghanistan, Sean Rhorer survived firefights, rocket-propelled grenades and improvised explosive devices. But the Army veteran’s longest, most difficult battle – the one that almost cost him his life – was waged when he returned to civilian life.
It was a fight against depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.
To cope with the stress that carried over from combat, he turned to drugs, mostly stimulants. It was a way to re-create the hyper-vigilant and paranoid mental state he became accustomed to on the battlefield, he said.
“What happened is, I let this monster inside of me grow,” said Sean, 35.
For about 10 years, his life spiraled downward. He lived on the streets and in homeless shelters. He experienced auditory and visual hallucinations. He broke the law to support his drug use. He served jail time. He saw little of his only child, a daughter who was born in between his deployments.
He was released on probation in 2019 and voluntarily entered the Northern Kentucky Veterans Treatment Court, designed to help veterans achieve stable mental health and recover from substance abuse.
He was making progress and had stopped abusing drugs, he said, but he was still battling PTSD when he got on his motorcycle on May 20, 2020. Traveling northbound on Interstate 71/75 in Boone County, he lost control on an exit ramp.
The motorcycle slid out from under him and struck a guardrail. Sean remembers rolling, briefly blacking out, then regaining consciousness. His left leg sustained a compound fracture. His right leg was gone. Had a motorist not stopped and followed Sean’s instructions to make a tourniquet, he likely would have bled out.
Given another chance at life, Sean committed to making the most of it.
He was fitted with a prosthetic leg, paid for by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. He was still learning to walk in April 2021 when he began a $10-an-hour job at Easterseals Redwood, a United Way of Greater Cincinnati partner agency. Two months later, he completed the Veterans Treatment Court program.
After several promotions at Easterseals Redwood, today Sean is the lead job developer in its Military and Veterans Services department. The agency nominated him for the Wish List.
“I never thought I’d have another job,” Sean said. “I didn’t know how I was going to survive. Now, I literally think I’m changing lives. I’m just trying to put good back into the world.”
Many of the veterans he works with are homeless, like he once was. Easterseals Redwood provides services that put them on a path to employment.
“I love what I do so much,” Sean said. “I love working with people. I love helping people. I love inspiring people. I’m dedicated to the service of the veteran in need.”
The past few years, he also has been dedicated to building a closer relationship with his daughter, now 13. He shares custody with her mother.
Sean’s honorable discharge from the Army made him eligible for a VA home loan, which he used last April to buy a house in Clermont County’s Union Township. But the bathroom was not built for a person with a disability. Sean’s wish is for modifications that will make it fully accessible.
Donations can be made online at www.uwgc.org/wishlist. You can also mail donations to: United Way of Greater Cincinnati, Attn: Wish List Pledge Processing, P.O. Box 632840, Cincinnati, OH 45263-2840. Please include “Wish List” in the memo line on checks.
John Johnston is the content writer at United Way and a former Enquirer reporter.