By Guest Blogger Aprille Donaldson
A few years ago, I visited Triad Park in Kernersville on a field trip with my son. While there I noticed the construction of a memorial and parade deck that was being created by the War Memorial Foundation to honor the veterans of the Triad. It’s now called the Carolina Field of Honor.
My husband is a 13-year Air Force and Army veteran who has done two year-long combat tours to Afghanistan, so naturally I was intrigued by the project.
Near the pavilion there was information about the project, and I was shocked to read this:
“For generations the Triad has been renowned for their many women and men that serve in the armed forces. This becomes more evident with the year 2000 Census statistics that show there are more than 150 thousand veterans in the Triad, the largest concentration of Veterans in the State.”
My first thought was this: Where are they? And where are their spouses?
When my husband got out of the Army four years ago and we settled in Winston-Salem, his hometown, I didn’t have too much trouble getting assimilated into this community and making “mom friends.” But there was a large part of me that felt very alone because none of my new friends really understood the turmoil that our family was going through in transitioning out and healing from war.
I have Googled support groups in this area and discovered very few. I would like to see that change. I would love to see the Triad rally around it’s Veterans and their families. Here are some ways:
Churches: Consider polling your congregations to see if there is enough interest to start a military / veterans support group so that veterans and their families can connect with each other. If you already have such a ministry – please make sure that information is posted on your website, advertised in the community, and shared on social media so that veterans can find the resources you provide.
Local businesses: Display signs in your venues that let military and veterans know that you are supportive of them. Consider offering discounts, or – if you already have an active duty military discount – consider extending that to veterans as well.
Individuals: If you know of a veteran’s family in your community, reach out to them. Sometimes we just need a listening ear or anyone to recognize our service (not just the service of the veteran, but that of his or her family as well). If you know of more than one family, considering introducing veterans and their families to each other so that they can connect and receive support. To understand more about what these families might need, please read this post, What this OEF Veteran’s family wishes you knew
Help the homeless: 12% of the national homeless adult population are veterans, 20% of the male homeless population are veterans. If these statistics accurately apply to the Triad, this could mean that 1 of every 5 male homeless persons you might see on the street corner is probably a veteran. Consider volunteering at Veterans Helping Veterans Heal, “A Transitional Housing Project For Homeless Veterans” in Winston Salem – or simply sharing a cup of coffee or a meal with the homeless person you see on the street.
Donate: Maybe you don’t know of any veterans or don’t have the time or resources to get personally involved with any, but perhaps you could donate finances to local veterans organizations. Also, I would like to highlight one in particular, Easter’s Promise Therapeutic Equine Center, which is in the fundraising stages of opening an equine therapy center for veterans in the Triad. This will be a fabulous healing resource for war veterans – they just need the finances to make it happen.
Individuals: If you know of a veteran’s family in your community, reach out to them. Sometimes we just need a listening ear or anyone to recognize our service (not just the service of the veteran, but that of his or her family as well). If you know of more than one family, considering introducing veterans and their families to each other so that they can connect and receive support. To understand more about what these families might need, please read this pamphlet by an organization in the Charlotte area about the challenges that returning veterans face and what can be done to support them.
Connect: A few years ago I created the Facebook group Piedmont Triad Military and Veteran Spouses for military spouses and veteran spouses in the Piedmont Triad area of NC (Winston-Salem, Greensboro, High Point, and surrounding areas). Connecting with others and forming a support group. The goal is to schedule meetups, share events, and reach out to the community – bridging the gap between the military and civilian worlds.
Take time to remember the men and women in this community who sacrificed years of their lives to give us the freedom we all enjoy. If you know of a military or veteran’s family, ask yourself what you can do to offer them support.
If you know of any local organizations, groups, or resources for military or veterans, please share them in the comments. It’s pages like TMoM that a hurting veteran’s spouse might be scouring to see if there’s anything that can help her and her family.
I know…because I was one.