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'Heart for Heroes' helps Valley Air Force Staff Sergeant overcome addiction

While Riley St. John was serving his country, he was also dealing with personal issues.

AVONDALE, Ariz. — When an F-16 jet flies over the West Valley – the locals will tell you it’s the sound of freedom. Staff Sgt. Riley St. John is one of those responsible for keeping the jet in top shape.

“I am an armament weapons system technician. So, I basically work with the weapons system on the aircraft,” Riley St. John said.

He joined the Air Force right out of high school.

“I really just wanted to be part of the military and I’ve always been a fan of those who serve,” St. John said.

While St. John was serving his country – he was also dealing with personal issues.

“I had several childhood traumas that were hard to get over,” St. John said.

He would drink to forget which led him down a dark path.

“It was ruining my career. It was ruining my home life. You know, family and all that stuff. So, that’s when I reached out to get help,” St. John said.

Fortunately, Luke Air Force base has resources to help. St. John was sent to the “Help for Heroes” program at Copper Springs in Avondale. It’s designed for veterans and active serving military personnel and first responders.

Through inpatient care along with group therapy. Riley was able to take off on a new path of sobriety.

“I’ve made a quick 180,” St. John said.

He now wants others to know that there are programs out there available to help them.

“Don’t be afraid. Admit you have a problem, and they will help you,” St. John said.

He said the lessons he’s learned through the “Help for Heroes” program will last him a lifetime.


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