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Making a Deliberate Choice to Honor and Support US Veterans

Nov 02, 2014 05:31PM ● By Jennifer Neys

Pictured is the Vomund family: Shane, Colleen, Mark, Brady and their four-legged veteran, Herco.

by Colleen Vomund

Every Veteran’s Day, we are prompted to pause and acknowledge US veterans. It is an important tradition our nation observes in honor and support of its service members. Our country has learned many lessons from its past. The heartfelt gratitude citizens and fellow veterans demonstrate to those who have served is remarkable. 

However, honoring and supporting a veteran is a year-round, multi-stage, multi-generational approach. We needed our devoted family and friends to fortify us throughout Mark’s service. Since 2010, over 20 different benevolent organizations supported us after a 60 lb. improvised explosive device (IED) ended Mark’s decorated military career.

The following five benevolent organizations deliberately reached out to us. Each one originated with unique strength and compassion from the heart of a veteran. Each one is founded and operated (in part) by veterans or veteran families. Further, each one chose to establish a personal rapport with our family, which continues today.

The Green Beret Foundation funded Mark’s hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) for the treatment of traumatic brain injury (TBI) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). TRICARE (military medical insurance) doesn’t cover the cost of HBOT for these invisible wounds. The results from this non-evasive treatment are dramatic for Mark and many others. Under the Green Beret Foundation umbrella, I’m a member of the Steel Magnolias, a nationwide sisterhood replicated after the brotherhood of Green Berets. “Steel Mags” share training and resources to support each other with life after service in Special Forces. Also, throughout a variety of communities, many Steel Mags volunteer to mentor and lead young women.

The Station Foundation provided Mark and our 14-year-old son, Shane, a unique retreat in the rugged wilderness of Montana. Together, they honed their survival skills. What’s more was the chance they had to restore their relationship after years of frequent separations.

Operation Second Chance invited Mark to a once-in-a-lifetime Alaskan fishing trip. For a soldier who needed some time to learn how to enjoy life again, it was the perfect prescription without the side effects of medication. A year later, Mark and I participated as honorary hosts at a retreat in Montana. We connected with other veteran couples, also navigating both marriage and the invisible wounds of war.

Semper Fi Fund co-sponsors the Warrior Games where Mark and 200 ill, injured and wounded service members rediscover and advance their abilities through athletic competition. In the corresponding Family Program, we spent a week at the Olympic Training Center cheering on athletes from all branches of our military. We also bonded with other families like ours; each with their own unique story of triumph. The Warrior Games is filled with hundreds of stories of inspirational soldiers like Justin. He has two above the knee amputations. Justin competed in wheelchair basketball, cycling, track and seated volleyball. You’ll be seeing a lot more of Justin. He just signed on with the US Paralympic Volleyball team. I’m proud to say our nine-year-old son, Brady, named Justin his sport’s idol.

Sentinels of Freedom in Moore County, North Carolina, granted our family a life scholarship when Mark was first injured. And thank goodness they knew what to do because we had no concept of the affects of TBI and PTSD on our family or future. Not only did the scholarship cover our house payment, but we were also taken under the wing of Gen. and Mrs. Sidney Shachnow (US Army Special Forces, Ret.), who continue to mentor and befriend our family.  

These are only a few of the benevolent organizations that have generously helped us. There are thousands more determined to assist veterans of all generations. They work to provide innovative approaches to a vital question:

How can we honor and support US veterans, the men and women who sign their names on that dotted line and pledge with their lives to defend our lives, through their selfless service and sacrifice?

This Veteran’s Day, our nation will reflect and remember our veterans.  It is also a time to re-evaluate the effort each of us is making to personally know, understand, support and honor our military veterans throughout the year.