Recently, I have had many people ask how they can volunteer to help in the military/veteran community. I began volunteering to help military veterans and their families in 2006, while my husband was deployed to Iraq. I started slow. I didn’t see any support for military wives; so I created a support group at our church which eventually partnered with the nationwide Christian nonprofit, Christian Military Fellowship.
After my husband came home from war, he was different. Wounded. I took some time to focus on helping my husband through transition from military to civilian. Along the way, I met many other amazing veterans and their families who also needed help. I started sharing resources with other military families that helped my husband and our family. For four years after my husband was wounded in war, I ran a nonprofit focused on helping veterans/families transitioning after combat. The Saginaw Masonic Lodge #77 in Michigan hosted an annual Military Veteran Appreciation Day. I was honored to volunteer for these amazing events in my hometown for a couple years. I started locally, as my knowledge grew on what was needed for veterans and their families, I began searching for MORE to do for our military.
I began podcasting about important veteran/caregiver issues in 2006 and to this day am heavily involved in podcasting. Fast forward to 2013. I connected with a nonprofit called Hope For The Warriors when I was asked by a friend to attend a turkey hunt for caregivers. I could see the amazing support H4W offered military veterans and their families when on the turkey hunt trip. I wanted to be a part of that support and offer encouragement to other caregivers to let them know that life after combat can be beautiful. Quite honestly, the way I deal with being a caregiver is by helping others. By focusing on using my experiences to help others, it makes all that our family has been through feel like it’s been worth it. I’ve been able to connect with and advocate for literally thousands of military families. If I had kept my experiences bottled up, that wouldn’t have been healthy and I don’t think our family would have done as well. I worked at Hope For The Warriors just over four years and finally stepped out on a limb and decided it was time for me to spread my wings and grow even further in the podcasting world.
I dove head first into being a podcaster at the end of May this year with an amazing company called Heroes Media Group. I’m a co-host on the show called, The Decision Hour. My partner is Adam Bird. CEO/President at Heroes Media Group.
I am also proud to say, I also served as a 2015-2016 Elizabeth Dole Foundation Fellow representing the caregivers in sunny state of Florida and nationwide. I am still proud to be an Elizabeth Dole Foundation Fellow, Alumni Member.
Elizabeth Dole Fellows’ support of the Foundation includes:
- Serving as ambassadors for the Foundation and the caregiving cause through attending meetings, events, and media appearances with the Dole Foundation and, on occasion, Dole Foundation partners to represent and advocate for resources on behalf of military and veteran family caregivers
- Serving as advocates for the Foundation and participating in online/social media to encourage and empower other caregivers to share their own stories
- Advising the Foundation on how to connect with our nation’s caregivers, and share information about the Foundation with their own networks to engage countless more caregivers and strengthen relationships within the military and veteran caregiver community
- Participating in Foundation events and representing the Foundation at conferences, meetings and observances across the nation
- Assisting in selecting grantees for the Foundation’s annual Innovation Grants Program
- Advising the Foundation’s seven Impact Councils
- Serving as lead participants in the Foundation’s efforts to lay the groundwork for a national response to caregivers’ challenges as identified by the Foundation’s RAND study
If you are wondering how to start volunteering to help military veterans and their families, I urge you to start LOCAL.
Build your local resources, bloom and grow as you learn. It took several years for me to gather enough information and strength to volunteer and work on a national level with our military veterans and their families. Google the area where you live and search military veteran organization to see what pops up in your area. Use Charity Navigator to check the rating of the organization you are interested in helping. I highly recommend contacting nonprofits to see what type of volunteer positions you can get involved with. They are a fantastic organization with a FOUR STAR RATING on Charity Navigator. One other tidbit of advice I now give is to try to find a veteran nonprofit that serves ALL era of veterans. That has been heavy on my heart this summer. More info coming soon!