Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Giving HOPE on #GivingTuesday

Today is #GivingTuesday, a single day that’s all about giving. Hope For The Warriors® is proud to take part in the day’s spirit of generosity, but what about the other 364 days of the year? This #GivingTuesday, Hope For The Warriors® recognizes the stories of our inspirational community of supporters, who creatively give HOPE to our military community every day of the year. 

This is one such story.

On July 1, 2015, Air Force Veteran Michael Nehlsen, and his friend, Jeff Molesko, began a cross-country motorcycle trip called Riding For Warriors to raise funds and awareness for Hope For The Warriors®. Michael and Jeff, New York and New Jersey natives respectively, began their journey in Seattle, Washington and ended eleven days later in Union, New Jersey. The duo logged over 4,344 miles and traveled through 14 states, gathering support for military families on their way. 

“As a young man, I had the privilege to serve my country. During this time, I saw and experienced intimately the sacrifices service members and their families were expected to make,” said Michael. “I continue to deeply appreciate the struggles faced by our service members and am committed to helping them achieve their goals.”

Michael (Left) and Jeff (Right)
Together, Michael and Jeff raised over $40,000 to support three Wishes as part of A Warrior’s Wish®, a Hope For The Warriors® program that turns the dreams of severely wounded service members, veterans and their families into reality. Riding For Warriors gave three veterans and their families the well-deserved opportunity to improve their lives and accomplish new goals. 

Thanks to the generosity of friends like Michael and Jeff, the cycle of giving goes well beyond one Wish, one supporter, and one day of the year. To learn more about the impact Riding For Warriors had on one Wish recipient and his community, read our blog.

Join Hope For The Warriors® for #GivingTuesday. To highlight our ten-year anniversary in 2016, our #GivingTuesday campaign slogan this year is #Give10for10—donate $10 for 10 years of HOPE. Please share our campaign on Twitter and Facebook using the hashtag #Give10for10.

Gifts may be made online, by phone at 877-246-7349 or by mail to 5101C Backlick Road, Annandale, VA 22003. Text the word WARRIORS to 20222 to donate. 

Thank you! Your support today will help us restore self, family, and hope to military families who need it most this holiday season and throughout the year.

P.S. Did you know you can support Hope For The Warriors® by shopping at smile.amazon.com? You can use your existing account – and there’s no cost to you. Amazon will donate a portion of the purchase price to HOPE. Just select Hope For The Warriors® as your designated charitable organization and start shopping! 

Friday, November 27, 2015

Hope For The Warriors® “Supporting Our Caregivers” campaign in MediaplanetUSA’s

Hope For The Warriors® participated in MediaplanetUSA’s “Supporting Our Caregivers” campaign during National Caregivers Month. Industry experts and associations came together to speak up and provide a voice for the more than 65 million Americans who make sacrifices every day to care for the ones they love. This public display of gratitude and HOPE will empower these household heroes to act on behalf of their loved ones and remove the barriers standing between them and good health. The campaign was distributed within the centerfold of USA Today on November 27, 2015 and is published on a Mediaplanet original site. Visit the site to learn more: http://bit.ly/1OQoszj 

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

A Childhood Love Story Endures the Invisible Wounds of Combat

Glenda Leary met her husband, Josh Leary, when she was four years old. Glenda and Josh’s families were next-door neighbors living on Fort Devens in Massachusetts. As their families became close friends, so did Glenda and Josh. However, Glenda's family moved to Indiana after her parents divorced. Josh's father retired from the Army and later moved to upstate New York. Despite the distance, their mothers stayed in close touch, but Glenda and Josh settled into their new homes and new lives separately.

While in high school, Glenda received a phone call from an old friend she hadn’t spoken to in years.

“Glenda, you have a phone call from Josh,” Glenda’s mother said when Glenda came home from band practice one evening.

“Who’s Josh?” Glenda said.

“Josh Leary,” her mother responded.
After reconnecting over the phone, the two decided to start writing letters. As their connection grew, so did their relationship. After not seeing each other for two years, Josh flew down to Glenda’s senior prom, where, they fell in love for the first time.

This long-distance relationship continued, with the couple flying back and forth for visits. After graduation, Josh asked her what she thought of him joining the military because he wanted to include Glenda in his decision.

On his next visit down to Indiana in February 1995, while Glenda was 18 and working for a dealership, Josh, then 19 years old, proposed. The plan was to have her grandfather, a minister, marry them, but they needed the paperwork for military orders so they had to elope.

Their families’ military backgrounds and the couples’ long-distance relationship prepared them well for the years ahead. But his orders for Japan came out of nowhere, so Glenda flew to Texas to marry Josh. She stayed with family, then joined Josh at Yokota Air Base in Japan, where they had their first two children together. Orders then took them to Mountain Home Air Base in Idaho, where they had their youngest son.

Josh’s first two deployment tours were out of England. He was then stationed in Tucson, Arizona, from where he deployed twice to Afghanistan.

When Josh returned from deployment, he suffered from PTSD. This new challenge for their family forced Glenda to learn quickly how to become a caregiver. When she first started as a caregiver, she didn’t identify herself as such. She was first and foremost a military spouse; PTSD didn’t make sense to her as an illness and she simultaneously carried the guilt. She would get angry and frustrated with Josh, but didn’t know how to explain his anxiety and outbursts to their children.

Fortunately, Josh’s commander, Col Athena Miller, guided Glenda through his illness while also taking care of Glenda. But Col Miller was ahead of her time, as PTSD was still a taboo subject. Resources were not as readily available, but Glenda depended on her experiences with mental illness in her extended family to cope with their situation.

Josh’s illness caused him to be suicidal twice. The first time, Col Miller took him to the hospital. With her guidance and support, Glenda was prepared to take Josh to the hospital the second time.

Josh then entered a 21-day program at the Tucson VA to help with his PTSD. The Air Force mental health team really impacted his healing and he began functioning again. This was a truly “vibrant” time in their lives, as Glenda puts it. Josh became really involved in the kids’ lives and they all thought the PTSD was behind them.

But the Leary Family still wasn’t in the clear yet. Despite trying to change his AFSC, he was denied the career shift as he had orders to deploy to Afghanistan again. Sadly, they also dealt with the unexpected death of his mother only a couple of months before he was due to leave. He left for his final deployment in 2010.

Glenda knew the PTSD would come back when Josh returned home, and could even see it in his eyes while they would communicate via Skype. She knew this was a challenge that wasn’t going away.

In May 2010, Josh was cleaning blood underneath of an OR table. Unbeknownst to him, the Taliban attacked the base. Because it startled him, he hit his head extremely hard on the metal part of the table and fell backward. Josh was dazed and confused but didn't understand what had happened. After gathering his bearings, he left the OR and was told by his co-workers about the events that had occurred.

Subsequently, he was medically evacuated to Landstuhl Germany for the PTSD. But was later diagnosed with a Mild Traumatic Brain Injury and chronic Post Traumatic Headaches. The next plan was to send him to Walter Reed for one night and then to Fort Hood, but en route the medical team thought he was having a heart attack. He was put in ICU at Fort Campbell for three days, where he stayed until he recovered enough to fly again. Then he was sent to Fort Hood, and ultimately back home to Tucson.  

After he was stable and reunited with Glenda and his children, Josh became suicidal twice again and received immediate intense medical care. Glenda remained steadfast and strong as a caregiver. She worked with command, the medical team, and his AFW2 case managers as a team for Josh. She also helped moved the family back to Indiana after he was placed on temporary retirement for his medical conditions. There, Josh permanently retired from the military in 2013. Thankfully, he has not been suicidal since that time. This is thanks to his wife for ensuring he has excellent and proper medical care.

Josh continues to suffer from cognitive processing complications, chronic headaches, PTSD, mobility problems, and low vision. Glenda is very involved with his medical care and knows they’ve come to a new chapter in their life, despite these daily challenges. Glenda and Josh continue to learn more about his illness in order to grow as a family.

They continue to take their lifestyle in stride, dealing with frustrations as they come. Their community doesn’t necessarily understand Josh’s illness and they have challenges as a family, but “it’s a learning curve,” as Glenda describes. “At the end of the day, we’re a family and we support each other. We’re just looking for our little blessings every day, taking it one step at a time. We just love each other even through the rough days.”

Glenda is now an Elizabeth Dole Fellow, where she has the opportunity to utilize her experiences to impact military caregivers on many levels. Glenda and Josh enjoy time together with their large family—two kids in high school and one in college, along with a family cocker spaniel and Josh’s service dog, Hawk.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Giving Thanks, Finding HOPE

Overwhelmed. Burnt out. Feeling Lost.

A year ago, caregiver Linsie battled these emotions while learning to care for her husband, Aaron, a retired Navy Lieutenant—and struggling to take care of herself, too. 

As Linsie puts it, she didn’t know how to put her own oxygen mask on first. This is her story.

Learning HOPE 
In March, Linsie went to a Hope For The Warriors® Military Caregiver Wellness Workshop—the first of three she would attend this year.

This workshop introduced her to restorative outlets like meditation and art therapy. She felt so fulfilled that she made time for the next one in June, even though it was during the busiest week of her year.

“It was during the week my husband retired, but he still encouraged me to go because the first workshop had such a positive impact. It made me realize that even if things are going well, making time for self-care is incredibly important. If I don’t take time to check in with myself, I won’t have the energy to be there for my family.” 

Linsie and her husband, Aaron
Finding HOPE
The third workshop came at the perfect time. Linsie’s family was having a stressful year and she was at her breaking point. Especially after her husband’s retirement from the Navy, she was trying to be perfect for her family and her job, so this workshop helped her go deeper into the therapy process. 

“The art therapy session at the third workshop encouraged me to focus on being good enough, not perfect, for my kids, my husband—and myself. That’s a huge stress reliever! Going to all three workshops helped me reinforce the habit of taking care of myself and sharing what I’ve learned with other caregivers.” 

Living HOPE
The workshops have had lasting effects. Linsie makes creative play and art therapy part of her family’s daily life. She takes time each day to check her emotions, and created spaces around her home to make art therapy part of her physical world to ensure time for it. She finds she’s more in touch with what’s going on inside because she’s constantly reminded to take time for herself each day. 

“I love art, but I’ve always concentrated on technique. These Hope For The Warriors® workshops have helped me break free of that. My life doesn’t have to be so regimented either. Like my paintings, I can allow for different shades. There’s room for interpretation, and who’s to say it’s wrong? It’s just a different color.” 

The John Stewart Morton, Jr. Matching Gift Challenge
We are humbled by the generosity of our supporters, as we reached our 1:1, $25,000 matching gift goal, doubling the impact to $50,000. But the challenge doesn’t stop there. Hope For The Warriors® needs your help to continue providing HOPE through programs for military caregivers, like Linsie, and their families.

Join Hope For The Warriors® for #GivingTuesday on December 1. To highlight our upcoming ten-year anniversary in 2016, our #GivingTuesday campaign slogan this year is #Give10for10—donate $10 for 10 years of HOPE. Please share our campaign on Twitter and Facebook

Gifts may be made online, by phone at 877-246-7349 or by mail to 5101C Backlick Road, Annandale, VA 22003. Text the word WARRIORS to 20222 to donate. 

Thank you! Your support will help us restore self, family, and hope to military families who need it most.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Team Hope For The Warriors Newsletter: November

2015 Marine Corps Marathon

Team Hope For The Warriors® has finished all 2015 scheduled races! It was a great season, which finished strong with the Marine Corps Marathon and TCS NYC Marathon. The team is growing and there are a lot of great events planned for next year!

We are also excited to announce Team Hope For The Warriors® involvement in three 2016 events! Stay tuned as more races get added to our 2016 schedule. 

2015 TCS NYC Marathon

Current 2016 Team Hope For The Warriors® Schedule

July 24, 2016— 2016 Panasonic NYC Tri

Hope For The Warriors® Conquer The Canyon®: May 5-8, 2016
As popular as the Grand Canyon is, hiking it is rare—less than 1% of visitors ever set foot on any trails. Join Hope For The Warriors® on a multi-day guided adventure in Arizona to Conquer The Canyon®! All funds raised will support Hope For The Warriors® programs which assist combat wounded service members, their families, and families of the fallen.

Hope For The Warriors® will sponsor 20 service members, veterans, and caregivers to participate in the hike. Hope For The Warriors® Clinical Health & Wellness and Sports & Recreation staff members will raise their own funds and attend the hike in a supportive role, working with the sponsored participants. Other participants are required to meet a fundraising goal of $4,500 and provide their own transportation to and from Arizona. Registration is open here: www.hopeforthewarriors.org/ConquerTheCanyon.

This trip is truly a once in a lifetime opportunity for any adventurer!

Fundraising Tip:
Remember to send thank-you letters, emails, and/or social media posts to your supporters after every event in which you fundraised. Let your donors know how much you appreciate their support and tell them how the event or race went.  

Training Tip:
From Runner’s World, here is an article describing the marathon recovery process: http://www.runnersworld.com/race-training/marathon-recovery-part-i

Team Member Corner:
Great job to the entire team at the Marine Corps Marathon, 110 participants, and TCS NYC Marathon, over 70 participants! These two races are an example of how giving, inspiring, and incredible our team is—both were great days of sharing hope and a fun time of camaraderie.
Team Member, Sgt. Amanda Eason, featured on the Quantico Sentry after completing the Marine Corps Marathon 

Program Information:
Charity Navigator:
For the fourth year in a row, Hope For The Warriors® has received a four-star rating on Charity Navigator. This exceptional rating, achieved by only 8% of the nonprofits they evaluate, highlights Hope For The Warriors® financial responsibility to the service members, military families, and families of the fallen we support. Team members can continue to ask people to donate towards fundraising goals with confidence! We invite you to view their latest evaluation of our efforts on the Charity Navigator website.

A Warrior’s Wish®:
This year, Hope For The Warriors® will grant 11 wishes to support service members, veterans, and military families. The nature of these Wishes will vary in scope from business, fitness, financial, and outdoor-related. The enrichment process will continue long after the Wish is granted to promote stability within the lives of these heroes and their families. As the Wishes are granted we will share the stories in the upcoming newsletters. Learn more about A Warriors Wish®

For more information please contact Steve Barto at sbarto@hopeforthewarriors.org.

Rock ‘n’ Roll Series:
The Rock ‘n’ Roll race series has teamed up with everydayhero as their official fundraising platform. You can now run in any Rock ‘n’ Roll event and raise funds for Hope For The Warriors! Beginning March 1st, every race participant will be asked if they want to fundraise on behalf of their favorite cause during the race registration process. When you register and are asked to choose your charity, pick Hope For The Warriors® and you will automatically be given a Rock ‘n’ Roll everydayhero fundraising page!  

Run For The Warriors®:
Stay tuned for the 2016 Run For The Warriors® Race Series schedule, www.runforthewarriors.org.

8th Annual Long Island Run For The Warriors® Island Federal Team

Representing the Team:
Be sure to shoot us an email with your race schedule and where you will be wearing your Team jersey. Each time you wear your jersey, you help our mission to restore self, family, and hope. Feel free to share photos and special stories too!

Important Links For Social Media:

Twitter When you tweet be sure to use #TeamH4W

Wednesday, November 18, 2015


HOPE and Caring
November is National Caregivers Month. This month, along with honoring veterans and service members, we recognize our military caregivers, who humbly serve our heroes long after combat ends.

At Hope For The Warriors®, we know how much caregivers give back. We also know the toll their service takes on them. Caregivers are at increased risk of physical and psychological challenges due to chronic stress. That’s why we’ve been caring for caregivers of post-9/11 service members and veterans since we opened our doors in 2006.

HOPE and Healing
Sarah is a military caregiver who Hope For the Warriors® is helping find her own voice and healing through art. Here is her story, in her own words.

In 2014, thanks in part to the Spouse/Caregiver Scholarship I received from Hope For The Warriors®, I entered a Master of Fine Arts program. I noticed the artists I admired most were pursuing something they were deeply passionate about, and I was inspired to do the same.

I began exploring a very difficult subject matter for me: being an angry Army wife. There were many factors making my life difficult and I felt I couldn’t do anything about them. What I didn’t know then was that my husband was suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and I was developing Secondary Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (Secondary PTSD). My husband spent years struggling to get help because his injuries, both mental and physical, were invisible. When we couldn’t get the help we needed, we felt powerless and angry.

I began exploring this subject through painting and a performance titled, Support Our Troops, in which I dressed like a fifties housewife and carried around my husband’s box of old Army gear – a box we’ll carry with us our whole lives. I didn’t talk about the box during the performance because I felt I wasn’t allowed to talk about it in real life.

Sarah's performance, Support Our Troops
I wondered if there were others like me out there – partners of veterans who felt helpless. That’s when I developed an online community project to find snapshots of the real life veteran spouse experience. I avoid images we’re used to seeing, such as happy photos of women welcoming home soldiers. Instead, I search for images usually hidden from mainstream media, like PTSD medication arriving in the mail. The more I search, the more I’m amazed by the bravery of these caregivers and spouses.

It takes vulnerability to share difficult moments with the world, but I can tell you that we experience healing every time we share our burdens because we are no longer the only ones carrying them.

That’s why Hope For The Warriors® means so much to me and my husband. It not only made it possible for me to study art, it gave me a safe place to share my experience with others going through something similar. It even helped me understand what my husband and I need to care for ourselves and each other.

CARE and Giving: The John Stewart Morton, Jr. Matching Gift Challenge
Hope For The Warriors® needs your help to continue providing HOPE through programs and scholarships for military caregivers, like Sarah, and their families.

Each November since 2011, Ticie and Tom Rhodes have challenged friends of Hope For The Warriors® with a 1:1, $25,000 matching gift that doubles the impact of your gift up to a total of $50,000. The John Stewart Morton, Jr. Matching Gift Challenge, established in honor of Ticie’s father, a World War II veteran, helps us care for military caregivers, veterans and active duty service members, and their families throughout the year.

For each donation made in November, we invite you to pay tribute to a veteran, service member, or military caregiver on our virtual Wall of Honor. Please include name, rank, and branch of service. Gifts may be made online. Please visit RippleMark to make a recurring gift.

Thank you! Your support will help us restore self, family, and hope to military families who need it most.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

When life gives you...Caregiving

I would dare say no one signs up for this life. While many of us are military spouses or parents, we know well the worst case scenarios that might happen when our loved ones go off to war. But in reality, when the days, weeks, months, and years after the war and accidents have come and gone, many of us search for peace and joy in the smallest of things.

Maybe we didn't sign up for it, but we are Caregivers

We are the wives, mothers, children, spouses, friends, and more, who fill the gaps for our loved ones. We support them. We may be their eyes, ears, hands, companions, and chauffeurs. Often we wear the hat of cook and cleaner, master scheduler of the home, taxi driver for the kids, and accountant of our finances.

Life can suck us dry if we let it. Life throws hard punches and we fight back. How do we fight back? We advocate for our veteran...for the person we provide care for. We assist them in everything they need help with from dressing and dishing out medicine, to helping him or her be more independent.

So what can we do for ourselves when we feel like we are
worn thin? We can take a long and steamy bath. Take a moment. Take two minutes to relax. Read a good book or sit outside and listen to the birds. Relish our cup of coffee with no interruptions.

Take Two

Today I can slice a lemon for my glass of water, savor the fresh, clean smell as I cut it, squeeze all the juice out that I can and add it to a pretty pitcher or glass. Enjoy it. Experience it. I could hastily run the tap quickly and guzzle a plastic cup full of aqua down, as I do frequently...or I can turn this everyday moment into a treat.
I can have my cup of coffee without interruption before everyone else wakes. I can bask in the almost 
silence around me. I can experience the warmness from my hands holding the cup, to the creamy liquid coursing down my throat as I enjoy the moment I am making for me....just me.

What's going on around you at this very moment?

Do you hear the dishwasher or the hum of the air conditioner? Do you hear chirping outside your window? Is the TV playing in a room close by? Is a child making noise or are cars zooming by within earshot?

Take a moment to ground yourself in the present. Be aware. Be mindful. Experience life and find some way to make the average extraordinary. Find a way to find peace and joy in your day....even if it only takes two minutes.

Thank you to Amanda Flener, Hope For The Warriors Volunteer for submitting this great blog! To read Amandas personal blog, head over to Our Flener Family Life.