Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Military Child Appreciation

Photo by Lewis Marien

Tax Day has passed and we are half way through April but it is not too late to celebrate the Month of the Military Child.  Not sure what you can do?  Here are some ideas:

Businesses:
Place a sign on the door or on bulletin boards, thanking Military Children for their service. 

Better yet, ask for Military Children to identify themselves and give them a small token of your appreciation.

Schools:
Create a map and pinpoint all locations where the kids in your classroom have ever lived.  Ask children to share their experiences of the more remote and unusual locations.

Not in a military community? Ask a military child to talk about the benefits and challenges of having a parent that is in the military.

Parents:
Promotions and Awards Ceremonies within the military are always a simple but formal affair where that service member is honored within the battalion.  Why not create a similar ceremony for your military child?  Write a formal Award Citation and make an award out of felt or paper to pin to your child.  Or create a certificate on the Blue Star Family website.

Got Heart, Give Hope Gala.  Photo by Paul Oberle

Bloggers:
Highlight a military child from your community.  Need a good story?  E-mail our staff!  We know thousands of awesome military kids!

Individuals:
So many of the members of Team Hope For The Warriors® run in honor of service members.  This month, run a 5K in honor of a military child.  Wear their name on your bib and let our kids know that their service is important too!

How have you honored the military child this month?  Let us know!

Donate Today!  You can donate in tribute to your favorite military child.  We will mail a letter, letting them know!

Military Child and member of Team Hope For The Warriors




Thursday, April 10, 2014

Turkey Grand Slam




I cannot express my gratitude enough to you for giving me this once in a lifetime opportunity, and I will be forever grateful to you and everyone that made this possible. These hunts have helped me in so many ways spiritually, emotionally, physically and I feel truly blessed.”
--Brant, Service Member pursuing the Turkey Grand Slam

Thank you to Mossy Oak and the Turkey Thugs for granting Brant this once in a lifetime adventure.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Swim, Pedal, Inspire!


Hope For The Warriors® has many amazing members of Team Hope For The Warriors® across the country and today we highlight Pam in Tampa.  Pam served in the United States Army from 1989 until 2006.  In 2002, she was crushed by a generator during a training exercise, causing paralysis below her waist.  She also lost the use of her right arm.

Two years ago, Pam attended an adaptive skiing clinic.  Although a bit reluctant at first, the clinic opened up a new world for Pam, giving her the opportunity to enjoy an outdoor sport with others who were experiencing the same challenges.  She has continued skiing and attending the clinics whenever her schedule permits.



Pam also participated last year in the National Veterans Wheelchair Games and is slated to travel to Philadelphia in August for this year’s games.  She competes in the sports of bowling, air gun and archery, using adaptive equipment and techniques to make each sport work for her.  For example, to compete in archery, she uses her left arm and her teeth.  Pam loves the games—both for the competition and the camaraderie that is built among veterans who like herself, are overcoming incredible obstacles to compete.



Pam has also joined Team Hope For The Warriors® Tampa and with the help of Karla, the Team Leader, she is ready to take on her next challenge—the triathlon.  Team Hope For The Warriors® Tampa, has trained alongside Pam to ensure that she can complete each segment of this event.  This has meant many long training rides on a handcycle and learning how to swim, all powered by just her left arm. 

Pam is ready and will compete in a tri relay over the Easter weekend.  The following weekend, Pam will compete in her first triathlon solo—St. Anthony’s Triathlon in St. Petersburg, Florida. Team leader, Karla, will be there to help with the transition in and out of the bay and will follow for the bike and run. 

We will be cheering for Pam as she takes on this new sport.  And since we are in National Volunteer Week, we thank Karla and other members of Team Hope For The Warriors® Tampa, who have done so much for the Team and their community.

If you live in the Tampa area, consider joining Team Hope For The Warriors® Tampa.  Learn more.


Learn more about the Team across the country and join today!



Thursday, April 3, 2014

Volunteers Raise Hope Higher



The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.
-- Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi

April 6 – 12 is National Volunteer Week and although we aim to thank our volunteers throughout the year, we are giving this special group some extra attention this week.  Our volunteers enable Hope For The Warriors® to help more people, reach more military families, and work more closely with veterans— all on fewer donated dollars.  The positive impact of our volunteers is tremendous.
Our volunteers are gracious with their time and shy away from the recognition they deserve.  We asked a few volunteers why they help our organization and shared some of their response below.  Each volunteer thinks nothing of the time and energy they spend to support service members and military families.  They are humble and grateful for the opportunity to give back.

Why do you volunteer?  Please let us know!  Post on our Facebook or Twitter page.  Be sure to tag us and include #HopeVolunteer

We are grateful for the service and expertise that each volunteer brings to our organization. Thank you!

Bill Koch speak with middle school students
Steven volunteered to serve, we feel like we have been drafted to pick up the baton and carry on with his mission to serve.
--Bill Koch, Gold Star Father

Volunteering my time with Hope For The Warriors® allows me to give back to the men and women who have or are serving our Country, but most of all to help the families who make a tremendous sacrifice sharing their loved one for us to live in a free democracy. Lending a helping hand or supporting an event makes me feel whole because it is not about me, but about the people you meet, the friendships you develop and the memories you have for a lifetime.
--Sharon Schmucker

Karla leads Team H4W in Tampa

I volunteer to serve those who have served us to protect our freedom. 
--Karla Malone

I volunteer for Hope For The Warriors® because it is an organization that has become near and dear to me. The level of commitment and love demonstrated by my peers drives me to aim higher every day. I choose Hope For The Warriors® because the amount of passion shown is unmatched.
-- Miranda Dillworth

Paul and Sally Kelly after the Marine Corps Marathon
We are simply grateful.  The meager actions we carry out are just one way to express our gratitude:  gratitude for the freedom our service men and women protect; gratitude for the sacrifices of the wounded, their families, and the families of the fallen; and grateful for the privilege of being a part of such a great organization that returns so much into the lives of these heroes that have had so much taken from them.
--Paul and Sally Kelly

I volunteer because it is the best way I know how to say 'thank you' to all of the service members who put their lives on the line for me.
--Risa Garcia

First, I volunteer to help pay my share of the debt I feel I owe those who have been wounded protecting a way of life that I have enjoyed and want my grandchildren to enjoy. Second, If I'm going to volunteer my time and talents, I want to know that nearly a 100% of what I do or give or raise is directly benefiting those wounded and their families.Third, I enthusiastically volunteer for Hope for the Warriors because their mission is in complete concert with mine and I know their leadership will help me fulfill my reasons one and two.
--Bud Pitzer








Monday, March 31, 2014

Dmitry's "Solo Ride" of a Lifetime



rideSolo and the TransAmerican Trail

Dmitry Solominsky is amongst the one percent of Americans to join the military. Now a veteran, he served with the National Guard out of New York City as a member of the 69th Infantry Regiment during Operation Iraqi Freedom III. Dmitry now hopes to advocate for his fellow service members and veterans as a civilian. This spring, he will embark on a cross-country trip via the TransAmerican Trail to raise awareness of PTSD in veterans and the impact on the entire family. Utilizing only the bare essentials, Dmitry will ride on a mid-1980s Lotus Éclair he bought with a friend for $100 on Craigslist. Dmitry will begin his ride early in Seattle, Washington, on April 1, 2014, traveling south until he hits the official cycling route, which spans from Astoria, Oregon to Yorktown, Virginia. A current resident of New York City, Dmitry is calling his journey rideSolo.

Dmitry estimates rideSolo will take between 8-11 weeks, averaging 60-70 miles a day. He is camping along the way and staying with supporters of the cycling, firefighter, and military communities. According to him, the best training he’s had for the trip is his daily employment as a freelance handyman, which requires him to walk, run, and climb stairs while carrying a heavy backpack. He expects his body to get used to the ride after a couple weeks, but will rest every seventh day of his trip. He will carry a basic repair kit to do his own repairs, and a cell phone with solar charger. He is currently testing a GPS tracker in hopes that friends and supporters can track rideSolo.

A History of Service and Scope

Dmitry signed up for the National Guard his senior year of high school, right after 9/11. At 17 he chose the Military Occupation Specialty, having the highest bonus at the time, which turned out to be Infantry. His unit had a rough tour, losing 19 brothers-in-arms over the course of their deployment. Dmitry understands he grew up quickly.

“It is indescribable how losing that many people continues to impact me today. I saw and did things that many young people who are not in the military will never experience nor understand.”


After eight years of service, Dmitry transitioned out of the military. Admittedly, he misses “the structure and the mission” of the military. His passion for it inspired him to give back in a unique way. As he pedals across the United States, Dmitry will be meeting with different people and raising funds for Hope For The Warriors®.

“Thanks to Hope For The Warriors®, I intend to raise this platform to a national level and give [PTSD] the attention it deserves,” he says.

Bringing PTSD to Light

The purpose of rideSolo is to bring attention to the daily struggles of those living with PTSD. Understanding firsthand the trauma of PTSD, Dmitry wishes to convey how lifestyles we often take for granted are filled with challenges for those suffering from it.

“PTSD is a vicious condition, taking many of the best that made it back,” says Dmitry. “The difficulty of dealing with loss on a potentially daily basis as well as the sights, sounds, and smells of war, these are the things that afflict the minds of veterans.”

Dmitry chooses to ride on his own across America to represent the many PTSD sufferers who feel like they are alone in their battle. Dmitry, however, understands he has support from his military community, including Hope For The Warriors®. We wish him well on his adventure and thank him for his commitment to further insight into those living with PTSD.

For more information on Dmitry and rideSolo, please visit his official page at hopeforthewarriors.org/ridesolo.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

#tbt Marine Corps Marathon


We have many fond memories of the Marine Corps Marathon and on Throwback Thursday, we are excited to share those memories and the amazing road for one marathoner.

Zach Briseño is a native of Fort Worth and joined the Marine Corps in 2004, just after his high school graduation. In 2007, after serving in Okinawa and Fallujah, Iraq, Zach returned to Fallujah as part of a police training team. On November 29, 2007, an IED detonated under the vehicle of his and two other Marines, resulting in the loss of both legs and an injury to his arm. 

While still in recovery, Zach joined Team Hope For The Warriors® and completed the 2008 Marine Corps Marathon on his new handcycle. The last leg of the race route was uphill, so for Zach the finish line could very well have been out of reach. Exhaustion and doubt, however, were no match for his determination. Zach made it up the hill--not by handcycle, but by standing up to walk his uphill battle. The crowd was stunned by the grueling scene of what seemed impossible to someone who was severely injured less than a year prior to the race. For Zach, this was one of many examples of his tenacity and endurance.


Since then, Zach has exemplified the warrior spirit by taking full advantage of these amazing opportunities. After he completed the marathon in 2008, Zach returned with three other Marines in 2009 to guide a blind and double amputee through the Marine Corps Marathon. (Amazing photo above.)

On March 20, Hope For The Warriors® honored Zach with a Hope & Courage Award at our first Got Heart, Give Hope® Celebration in Dallas. His extraordinary attitude leads him and his family to build on new experiences and passions. Zach's top priority is caring for his eight-year-old son, Elijah. He is also newly married just this month. He competes on the Wounded Warrior Amputee Softball Team nationwide and coaches his son’s baseball team. Zach's life is an inspiration to how the human spirit can excel and discover limitless capabilities. 



This is one of many inspiring stories of the Team in the Marine Corps Marathon. You, too, can be part of the Marine Corps Marathon by joining Team Hope For The Warriors®.  Learn more by visiting our Team page.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Women Veterans Initiative Retreats to Vermont

March is Women’s History Month and Hope For The Warriors® honored our women warriors with a four-day Winter Retreat in Woodstock, Vermont.  Participants of the retreat braved skiing and snowboarding at Killington Mountain, were pampered at a local spa and enjoyed team-building activities such as art therapy, cooking, an exploration walk, and thoughtful group discussions.  A diverse group of eight post-9/11 women veterans and reservists from all over the country attended the retreat.  These women represented different military branches, units, ranks, and deployment histories.  Despite their differences, unifying experiences connected them instantly – a few women even discovered that they were deployed to the same location in Iraq at the same time!  Also on the retreat were three Hope For The Warriors® staff (including one woman veteran peer mentor) and a Marine Corps veteran and her partner, who generously donated the use of their home for this group adventure.


It was the first time stepping in ski boots for nearly all of the women veterans and it proved to be an exciting, fun, and challenging experience.  The women’s qualities of strength, perseverance, and mutual support were evident throughout the day on the mountain.  They challenged themselves and overcame fears through collaborative efforts and encouragement of one another.  This solidarity and support were not only apparent in the challenge of conquering the mountain, but also in the way the women, who began the trip as strangers, developed genuine bonds with each other throughout the weekend.  They opened up to one another about military experiences, both positive and negative, and found they could relate in meaningful ways.  Some women shared challenges that still feel raw and open, some shared experiences and feelings that they had kept to themselves for years.  Those who had experienced similar events provided validation, understanding, and empowerment.   The women walked away from these discussions with a newfound sense of hope and healing through the power of the group.  SFC Angela Green, US Army Reserve, shared the following about her experience on the retreat:

“[I valued] meeting new and wonderful people. Women from all branches, all backgrounds and all over the US came together as if we already knew one another.  [Being with the other women veterans was] relatable and empowering.  It allowed women to be women, to be themselves... There's just so much that can't be explained and understood by male veterans. Women are challenged (not always in a good way) daily in the Military. We explore events and start discussions that often stir up arguments, denial, disbelief, complete ignorance and or name calling.  In life sometimes you need validation... Meeting ladies who have been there, been through similar experiences… [Sharing] what they are doing now helps to put things in perspective. Life is far from perfect but it's a blessing to know you have support, one that doesn't [involve] medication or a counselor.  I will remember to stay strong and carry my head high... I have a lot to be thankful and happy about. I will not let life's disappointments or the unknown overtake me.”


Hope For The Warriors® first women veterans retreat proved to be an exceptional experience.  By focusing on team-building adventures, honoring strengths, and exploring shared experiences, this retreat created an opportunity for women veterans to connect as a community and grow both as individuals and a group.  

For Hope For The Warriors®, honoring our women veterans does not stop after Women’s History Month.  In fact, our Women Veterans Initiative continues to put on monthly events for our women warriors, including local activities, community service opportunities, professional development events, and future retreats.  Next month, Hope For The Warriors® Women Veterans Initiative will again have a team for New York Cares Day Spring!  For more information or to sign up for programming, please contact Andrea Cilento at acilento@hopeforthewarriors.org.