Veteran discusses problem-solving therapy for vets at West Hempstead library

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Over 30 residents attended a special presentation from the Lift and Shift Foundation at the West Hempstead Public Library last Sunday. U.S. Army veteran and Lift and Shift CEO Tom Smoot Jr. conducted a hands-on demonstration of Lift and Shift, a kit that promotes problem-solving therapy through different levels of STEM-related exercises.

Smoot, who served in the U.S. military for 12 years in Iraq as a member of member of a special chemical reconnaissance detachment and civil affairs, was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. When he returned to the U.S. in 2011, he wanted to find a new passion while breaking stereotypes about veterans with PTSD.

“When I went back to school, I had this chip on my shoulder because I was labeled as disabled or broken, but I’m not good with labels,” said Smoot, of Manhattan. “It was something that I needed to do to prove people wrong, so when I went back to school, I found the hardest subject I could study.”

Smoot chose to study engineering and earned his associate’s degree at the Community College of Baltimore County in 2014, he received his bachelor’s degree from Excelsior College in 2017 and he is currently pursuing his master’s degree at Penn State. Last year, Smoot teamed up with other veterans to launch the foundation. Since then, he has collaborated with local community groups to spread the word about the organization’s efforts. Smoot met West Hempstead Public Library Director Regina Mascia through Jason Knowlton, the organization’s special projects coordinator.

“Just like anybody else, veterans deserve to be taken care of, and everybody wants to be part of the solution,” Smoot told the Herald. “Regina jumped at the chance to help pitch in, and having all this support is tremendous. It really lets me do more of the things that I need to do to make this organization work.”

“We had a wonderful turnout today, and we’re happy to support Tom, his foundation and everything they hope to achieve,” Mascia said.

While Smoot’s passion has evolved over the years, he said that he hopes to spend more time to share what he does.

“It really takes me full circle back to my military career where I spent a lot of time with speaking to the public, dealing with civilians and crafting messages,” Smoot said. “It’s kind of fascinating to see everything come back around.”

Smoot said that even if veterans are not interested in pursuing engineering as a hobby, he said that through his efforts, he hopes it will help others find their passion.

“I really love it when I see veterans succeeding, and I get very excited when I hear that they’ve found something that they like to do,” Smoot said. “When you hear a veteran say, ‘this is a great idea,’ or ‘I’m really curious to learn more,’ that’s when you realize that what we’re doing is working.”

Town Supervisor Laura Gillen honored the Lift and Shift Foundation with a citation to recognize their efforts. For more information on the Lift and Shift Foundation, email the organization at team@weliftandshift.org, or visit its website.