Soldier On proves good landing spot for Air Force vet
Air Force veteran Daniel Rine's long travels have finally ended at a condominium in Pittsfield, shared with roommates and managed by the veteran support nonprofit Soldier On.
On Christmas, the 34-year-old New York native was cooking food for 100 veterans. He assisted in the preparation of the prime rib and ham, and he worked with a staff of about a half dozen to provide an orderly Christmas dinner.
"I have a reason to try and be successful and a means to do it," said Rine, who couldn't always say that.
"We've all seen worse than just the military," said former Navy veteran and kitchen assistant chef Mike Davidson, who spoke while Rine attended to his duties on Tuesday afternoon."No one comes here without a problem."
Rine is still young, but he's dealt with personal challenges.
He enlisted in the Air Force after graduating from high school, following in the footsteps of family members. He served a tour of duty at the Air Force base in Aviano, Italy, but was discharged after breaking down from the stress and homesickness.
Rine temporarily lived with family members in California and New York before moving on. He boarded public transit, rode out of New York and arrived in Springfield by chance more than planning.
Admittedly lost in life, Rine said he started walking the Massachusetts Turnpike toward Palmer before a police officer spotted him and provided him a ride the rest of the way.
Over a five-year period life started to come together in central Massachusetts. He got a full-time job repairing air-conditioning units. He found love and got married. Then came the Great Recession. He lost his job.
A divorce followed and Rine said he arrived at Soldier On an emotional wreck.
"I was devastated," Rine said of the divorce's impact. "I was a mess."
The Air Force once provided for his needs. Now, he was living on his own, and reeling from personal turmoil. He needed some support.
Soldier On provided it and imbued him with purpose.
Over the last three years, Rine said he's gone from the transitional shelter to an independent-living condo.
He worked on the volunteer desk and then on the construction team, but he is most passionate about his current job in the kitchen.
Rine believes he has the tools to improve his life further.
To contact John Sakata:
or (413) 496-6240