Mike Hofler: 2010 Profiles of Courage Honoree Prepares for the Ivy Leagues
Less than three years ago Mike Hofler, a veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, was at the lowest point in his life. Today as he prepares for graduate school at Columbia University, nobody would recognize the man who, not too long ago, wanted to give up.
When Mike completed his military service the stressors of war had worsened. He was struggling with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and it was difficult for him to reconnect with his family and friends. They tried to give him the support he needed, but did not know how. Eventually he hit rock bottom and ended up hospitalized in the VA psych unit.
Recognizing the need for a residential treatment program, the VA referred Mike to Swords’ Transitional Housing program. While there, counselors helped him identify the issues he needed to address, and ways to cope with his PTSD. Mike says, “PTSD is not something that goes away entirely, but I have better learned to manage and monitor myself with the help that I have received.”
With the support he finally needed from Swords’ staff and his peers, he started to get his life back on track. Within months Mike found his own apartment and enrolled at San Francisco State to pursue a bachelor’s of social work. While completing his degree, Mike interned at Swords to Plowshares as a social worker and case manager. He says, “The admiration I feel for the people who have helped me through some of my darkest days inspires me to do similar work with others. One of the most important things I learned, and plan to share with other veterans, is how to empower one’s self to change.”
Motivated by a desire to improve the system of care veterans and families rely on, Mike is moving to New York to pursue a master’s degree at Columbia University’s School of Social Work. When asked about his goals for the future, Mike says, “I hope to affect a culture of change in what seems to be a disaffected public’s view of the horrors of war. I wish that people could understand that in war, the price paid in lives reaches beyond those lost on the battlefield and that combat brings a great deal of residual suffering to communities, soldiers and their families. Mostly, I would like to shed light upon some of the issues facing veterans – men and women just like me.”