2018 is going to be a great year, but of course, we have to make it great. As time goes by, we realize that the needs of our young veterans and their families change, and we need to stay relevant to those needs.
As a nation, we have to keep these young men and women at the forefront of our thoughts. We need to recognize that they start out as kids; they take off their t-shirts and shorts and put on the uniform, salute our flag, and volunteer to join our military in a time of war, knowing full-well they may be sent to the most toxic environment imaginable to do an incredibly hard job.
Many of these young warriors don’t come back, or they come back with life-changing injuries. For a time, they are heralded and called heroes. People fall over themselves to thank the veterans, but when the television stop glorifying them, and when journalists move on to the next stories, the veterans still have brain injuries.They’re still missing limbs, or they can’t see or walk. These are real people who paid dearly for us to be able to live in the greatest country in the world.
America is not great simply for what it is; it is just as important for what it is not.
We love our sons and daughters as much as any people on Earth. What makes these kids special is what they’re willing to do for us. We revere our liberties, our elections every two and four years, our ability to pick leaders that represent our views and our dreams.We worship as we please without fear of retribution, and our laws protect the rights of the individual. Relatively few people in the world enjoy such privileges, and that gift is given to us by our vets.
Now, who makes this possible? Veterans are among the youngest members of our society—often times straight out of high school—yet they are the ones that watch over our country. If they wouldn’t trade their t-shirts for uniforms, if they wouldn’t leave the comfort of Mom and Dad’s, and if they wouldn’t become the fearsome warriors they do, who would? You? Me? I don’t think so. We’re too old, too soft, and too comfortable with our lives. We at Wounded Heroes of America have had a front row seat to the post-9/11 wars. We have seen too much sacrifice by our young warriors. We’ve seen them come back blind, unable to walk, missing limbs, unable to think properly, depressed, and now isolated. Many are unemployable, yet broken by financial pressures, completely disoriented and having to depend on the VA or the goodwill of our citizenry.
Given the fact that less than one percent of our population volunteers to serve in our military, what can we do for our young men and women who have chosen to put on the uniform? First, we should recognize what they have done for us and the price they have paid. We should keep an eye on their progress back in society. When anyone has experience combat, even if they weren’t wounded, they will never be the same. They have seen and done things that aren’t natural for human beings to see and do. They just simply don’t talk about it much. When we create programs, or hold events that bring vets and families together, magic happens. Health professional call it therapy; we call it “back in their tribe”. It’s therapeutic to have a place, outside of the VA system, where they can come together in a social setting.
In addition, we should find foundations and organizations that are helping our veterans. Whether they’re providing service animals or giving away homes, there are many great organizations helping our combat wounded. You should seek them out and support those whose work you admire. We strongly believe that the resources we need to help our veterans—combat wounded or not—are in the community. The VA administration is a huge bureaucracy that mostly provides amazing health care and knowledge of how to treat our combat wounded. But even the VA has limitations as to what they can—and want—to do.
WHOA is a small non-profit, but we actually write checks to help with emergencies that arise in the daily lives of those we care for. They’re small checks, but we try to keep small problems from becoming big ones. Nothing can shock a family that’s already on the financial edge than to have the electricity turned off, for example, and there are not many places such a family can turn to.
We’re not merely suggesting that you support WHOA; we are suggesting that you find non-profits that are doing good work on behalf of our vets. Fortunately, there are many. With the help of our community leaders, we’ve created many programs designed to bring our vets and their families together. They give civilians the chance to help our vets, and they get our civilians closer to understanding the challenges so many vets face.
Education is key in preparing these young people for the future, and to overcome the challenges they will face. When they left for the military, most were barely out of high school. Many have little or no knowledge of financing, and that’s one way in which we assist them. Once a month, we hold financial literary class to dispense information about the financial world. Each class is taught by Harvey Jacobson, a very talented and knowledgeable financial advisor, president, and founder of a highly successful money management firm that manages million of dollars for a select number of clients.
In addition, the LA County Fair hosts our foundation once a year, which allows us to bring our families together in large numbers. Jerry Hall, owner of the Horse of the Sun Ranch, invites all our families to a fun day at his ranch.
For years, Ron Salisbury—the owner of El Cholo Restaurant, one of LA’s oldest chains—has been hosting our foundation for a monthly dinner. Ron has been instrumental in helping us develop our fellowship by providing us with a constant and consistent place to meet.
Service clubs such as Rotary and Kiwanis have invited our vets to join them in some of their events. Manhattan Beach Toyota supports our golf tournaments, and the list of those who help us goes on. These are friends of our wounded vets. We’re simply a vehicle where they can be of service to our combat wounded. All these friends understand the importance of recognizing their sacrifice as well as giving them the opportunity to come together and stay connected. This is how we have built an extended family of vets that grows together. There is nothing original in what we do; it can be duplicated in any community in the country.
With the arrival of 2018, we look forward to lots of new opportunities to help our vets. Join us, and together we can make a difference.