Seeking Connections (Seek & Ye Shall Find)

Three months ago I met with Mr. Willard Smith to discuss how my organization M & L Care could help his organization Vetshouse Inc. in winning a Facebook contest sponsored by Home Depot to win a $25,000 grant.  I had no idea what I was getting into, it was just another assignment on my to do list as marketing director at the home care agency I worked for.  My boss suggested that I to meet me and the plan of action was to offer my social media savvy in exchange for referrals of veterans who may be able to use our service.

Mr. Smith a gracious host and a full of great information.  After we exchanged pleasantries, exchanged business cards and gave each other a brief description of what we did professionally I was comfortable enough to let my guard down and just speak my mind.

Vetshouse Inc. works with homeless veterans.  They provide a myriad of services to assist veterans with job skills, finding work, keeping work and integrating back into society successfully.  It’s honorable work.  I feel for anyone that is homeless.  It’s common to see men with long beards holding a cardboard sign that says “Homeless Veteran, Please Help, God Bless You.”  I typically give these men whatever $1 dollar bills I have in my wallet and drive on.  I always wonder if you’re a veteran how are you homeless?  Don’t you get a check, some kind of pension?  The journalist in me wants to stop and ask questions, but then I’m fearful of meeting someone that may be mentally unstable so I drive on.

Listening to Mr. Smith talk with such passion and hearing so many success stories I became intrigued beyond my normal nosey curiosity.  I admitted to him that I didn’t know anything beyond dates regarding WWI, WWII or the Vietnam War.  I felt stupid and ashamed.  I told him that there seemed to be a disconnect with my generation and the previous one’s.  I was born in the seventies and the United States didn’t go back to war until the conflicts in the middle East that we’re still trying to extricate from.

70% of my job is to get clients for M & L Care.  We are a non-medical home care agency.  We provide companion care, run errands and assist with daily living activities for anyone in need.  Right now the majority of our clients are veterans or the spouses of veterans.  Long-term care is expensive.  The cost for our veteran clients has been offset by the “Aid & Attendance” benefit offered by the VA.  (I’ll discuss that in detail later—OK one plug) it’s a little known TAX FREE benefit that is available to Veterans, their spouses & their widows.

Now back to this disconnect.  I wasn’t raised in a military family and I didn’t grow up in Hampton Roads so my interaction with service members was limited to an older uncle that had retired long ago, but I knew he fought in some war and was very proud. I suppose the onus really wasn’t on me to learn these things a child, I only know what I was taught.  But now that I’m grown well.. It’s never too late to learn.  It’s never too late to do better.

So I’ve been seeking out individuals to hear their stories.  I’ve been doing this in my own informal haphazard way.  I’m an activist and an agitator by nature.  I have to temper my action with my within the confines of my job (most of the time).  So I keep my brochures with me wherever I go & if I see someone that appears to be over the age of 60 in military gear I speak.  If they give me slightest inclination that I can hold a conversation with them I do.  That was the case yesterday I was hanging out with my husband at the local flea market.  We did a full circle around the property I didn’t see anything to purchase ( I collect stamps & coins) but I thought that most of the vendors were veterans.  They had on their jackets and hats with insignia, so I started asking “are you a veteran?” Booth after booth every one I talked to was.  Some were more talkative than others but I made a connection with each one.  The 1st veteran I met told me how he volunteers at a local agency helping other veterans weekly.  The 2nd veteran told me he works with veterans daily and is eager to partner with organizations that offer services for vets like mine..BUT…but he explained that we are here for the Veterans and they need to be our priority.  To which of course I nodded in agreement, but..he expounded on that and I’m glad.  He asked had I ever saw a country succumbed; to which my response was no.  I assumed it was a war movie, honestly I still don’t know if it is a film or not..but he gave me the graphic details.  He apologized before speaking..then he said when a country succumbs the relationship between husband & wife no longer exist because wives, daughters & mother’s must make themselves sexually available to the victors of war to survive.  This picture is a reality in other parts of the world, he told me to thank a veteran and honor the service of veterans because the only reason that horrific picture isn’t a reality in the United States is because of the service of Vets!  That story changed my perspective.  I won’t look at any veteran the same.  At first I thought I was connecting with people through the services that my job offered, but speaking with that veteran gave me a patriotic connection one that will last.  I’ll be going about my work differently now.  I’ve made a connection.  That was yesterday…..

Today while thumbing through the Virginia Pilot in the Books section there is a book review of “Island of Destiny” a book by military historian John Prados discusses the key to winning WWII which in his opinion was beyond the midway point which was actually at the Solomon Islands.  Without reading the book I gained more knowledge than I ever got out of one of my history books.

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