September was what some would say a “busy month,” but for Alabama Veteran this is a typical look into what we contribute to our community on regular basis. Again, Alabama Veteran withstood the pressure test, living up to its motto Engaging Veterans & Making Moves! We kicked off the month by sending a volunteer veteran group to Texas to provide relief for Hurricane Harvey, where we were able to provide support to over 600 affected Texans. Our support in Texas included patrolling waterways to aid those stranded by floodwaters, home restoration, and providing essential supplies to those directly in need. You can read more about this mission here: http://www.alveteran.org/blog/where-the-road-ends-and-the-water-begins-alabama-veteran-making-a-difference-in-texas
Without missing a beat, Alabama Veteran partnered with community Veterans Impact Leader, Matt Bein to host the 4th Annual 22k422A Suicide Awareness Ruck March through Downtown Birmingham. This march was in honor of the veteran lives we have lost and bringing awareness to the approximately 22 veterans that will commit suicide each day. We had veterans from all 5 service branches of the U. S. Armed Forces turn out: Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard, along with Gold Star families, volunteers, and civilians alike in attendance. As the men and women placed their 22-pound rucks on their backs and began to march downtown with American Flags proudly displayed over their shoulders, the people of Birmingham, AL began to watch, they began to listen. Spectators grew more curious as to our purpose marching the downtown streets of Birmingham –we shared with them our purpose. We created a space to start the conversation on a topic that has plagued the veteran community for far too long.
So our walk continued kilometer after kilometer, each turn connecting with more and more local business leaders stepping out from within their four walls to see what the group was up to. Heck' we were even joined by University of Alabama, Birmingham (UAB) students leaving school for a block or two. All in all, this ended up being THE AWARENESS EVENT of Awareness Events. In good fashion our group was well received and applauded by the community for its uphill, pack-humping stride and its mission. To that we want to thank our water-point volunteer groups from Penn Mutual of Alabama, #HighFiveAHero, American Legion Post 911,- Ryan Winslow, and The Gold Star Moms and Families Association, all of which braved 98 degree temperature just to keep our group hydrated! We were even fortunate enough to have Veteran members of the Birmingham VA Staff join us. From start to finish camaraderie and remembrance maintained a key point, Everyone shared a story or two. It was simply amazing to see what loading up with a pack on your back and walking through your community could do to calm the soul.
Our ruck ended as we made our way back too the Tin Roof. Would you imagine, there was already a crowd awaiting our returning jamming out to the tunes off good friend and Alabama Veteran supporter Steve Hines and his band The Onlys- who offered up the starting show in full support of Alabama Veteran. The Onlys were followed by music from Combat Veteran Group Drew Ellis and the Rowdy Gentlemen who closed the evening in style Needless to say the crowd was fully engaged! This 22k Ruck March and after party made this a day to remember. Not only were embraced by a community who was made aware of the Veteran experience as it applies to the silent struggle lost by an average of 22 a day, we were able to connect with our community the old fashion way, face to face and with prospects of a better tomorrow! We are definitely looking forward to next year. Keep your eye out for the invite. We would be thrilled to have you!
We all know the saying, “work hard, play hard,” and with Alabama Veteran that is no exception. We brought a group of veterans together to participate in the Savage Race in Dallas, Georgia. The Savage Race is a fun way to push your limits, getting over obstacles, and facilitating a need for teamwork to complete the race. As veterans we are used to the tests of physical endurance and relying on your comrades to help you get through tough spots- everyday obstacles, so this was a perfect fit for a first time engagement among many veterans. Our veterans arrived with a soft introduction to one another, but left engaged, connected, and in tune with their road ahead. Seriously, who wouldn't walk away in tune, feeling accomplished after completing a 6 mile run with of 32 high altitude, water obstacles- all while making new connections and friendships with other veterans.
Again, another very busy, life changing month for Alabama Veteran. We've been on the road in support of natural disasters, bringing awareness on veteran suicide, and creating a space for veterans to connect. Veterans share an unspoken unity and bond -many veterans long for the camaraderie we once shared while in service but are not sure how to recreate it while transitioning back into the community after service. That’s why and how Alabama Veteran started, because as veteran, we know that without engagement there is no mission. If you would like to find out more about or programs or to see how you can make a difference in the life of our Veterans, please do no hesitate to contact us.
Blog Credit: Ericka Gardner, Veteran- United States Coast Guard