Thorny invited me, Alec, to stop in and write a blog post for Veteran’s Day. First, I’ll give up some background for those of you who don’t know me.
I became a Marine at 18 and was discharged after an IED took my leg and two of my buddies in 2011. My recovery took a long time and was hampered by infections, depression, and post-traumatic stress. By the winter of 2011, I had admitted myself to rehab for alcohol abuse after I confessed to my mother that I’d had thoughts of suicide. This year has been 100% improved. Rehab began my true recovery, AA and counseling help as I need them, and my relationship with Jazz’s younger brother Carter is a godsend of love and support on a daily basis. I would not be here today without the support I’ve received since coming home.
To me, Veteran’s Day is a reminder for those who haven’t served to take a little time to appreciate those who have. None of us do it for the recognition, but being recognized in some way lets us know we matter and aren’t forgotten or taken for granted. On Memorial Day, we remember the fallen; on Veteran’s Day we remember those who are still here. Today’s an opportunity to not only thank a service member, but to give back to them.
If you know a service member, you could ask them if there’s anything you can do to help them today. If you don’t know someone personally, here are some places where you can help on a larger scale:
Wounded Warrior Project whose mission it is to honor and empower wounded warriors by raising awareness and enlisting the public’s aid for the needs of injured service members; helping injured service members aid and assist each other; and providing unique, direct programs and services to meet the needs of injured service members.
AnyMarine.com which connects those wishing to send care packages with those in combat areas wishing to receive them. READ EVERYTHING on this site prior to choosing your Marine because there are rules for what to send and how to send it. If you want to correspond with your Marines, I recommend sending to a Marine who’s updated their page recently, otherwise it’s possible they don’t have time to reply back to you. (Yes, you can choose Army, Air Force, Navy or Coast Guard if you really want to.) If you can’t afford to send something yourself, get a group together at work, church, etc. and send something that way. I’m still in touch with a lovely bunch of ladies in Wisconsin who sent me and my men 14 care packages during 2 deployments.
Fisher House Foundation provides housing for military families to stay near their service member while they undergo medical treatment at the major military medical centers. If you’ve heard of the Ronald McDonald House, this is basically the same thing; families can stay free of charge in a group home while their service member undergoes medical care. Since some treatments are very specialized, families often have to travel pretty far to reach one of these centers and can’t afford to also pay for a hotel stay. Instead, they stay in a Fisher House. My parents were able to visit me more easily twice because they stayed in a Fisher House.
Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society – “The mission of the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society is to provide, in partnership with the Navy and Marine Corps, financial, educational, and other assistance to members of the Naval Services of the United States, eligible family members, and survivors when in need; and to receive and manage funds to administer these programs.” Basically, they’re there for veterans and their family members in emergency situations. The site doesn’t look like much, but they do what they say.
Bob Woodruff Foundation invests in programs connecting service members to the help they need when they get home for things like job training, career placement, and counseling for substance abuse, homelessness and suicide prevention. They also try to educate the public about these needs and the fact that no veteran should ever be forgotten (they actually refer to us as heroes). Maybe most importantly, they work with key federal, state, and local experts to identify and solve issues related to returning service members struggling to transition to civilian life.
And, of course, you can always stop one of us, smile, and say “thank you for your service.” We might even accept a hug. :)