Thank You to the Bader Charitable Foundation & Bedell Guitars

The Robert + Toni Bader Charitable Foundation has awarded Challenge America with $20,000 to dedicate to our Music Therapy Program. First and foremost we’d like to thank the Foundation for their support, which will actively work to help empower military service members and veterans through music.

The donation will be given over the course of two years, and will help us expand our Music Therapy Retreat program to new cities, so we can reach even more military service members and veterans.

We’ve also been working with Bedell Guitars out of Bend, Ore. who are selling us guitars for this program at-cost, which has been tremendously impactful in our efforts to continue to grow our Music Therapy Retreats. 
 


"We understand that we can't cure PTSD, but what we can do is help our veterans, our  military personnel, and their families. We can help develop new coping skills— and these coping skills are the ones that can get you through the darkest nights, and can get you through the longest days..."

— Mack Bailey, Challenge America Music Therapist


With guitars available to us for just $200 through Bedell's generosity, and through the Bader Charitable Foundation's underwriting, you can help to make our veterans and military personnel's lives better. Even $5 will help to take this program above and beyond!

Donate

Music Therapy, NEOPAT, and The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

86B0BF47-52F1-4545-BBD7-310808BDD596.jpg

This week, the Challenge America team travelled to Cleveland to meet with our good friends at The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Foremost on the agenda were our plans for hosting the very first Challenge America Music Therapy Retreat in Northern Ohio, from October 19-22, 2017. While the majority of our therapy will occur some 45 miles away, at the beautiful Lodge at Geneva on the Lake, The Hall of Fame will host our final event: a private concert of veteran music for family and friends in the amazing Foster Theater. During this event, veterans and songwriters will take the stage to share their creations. Challenge America could not be more fortunate to have such a generous and supportive partner than The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame! 

422AE94A-A494-4586-993A-A316F0D290F3.jpg
B93A987C-8D67-4E5E-9752-CB0D15A59D0E.jpg

This trip also gave us an opportunity to reconnect with our good friends at North East Ohio Patriots (NEOPAT). This week marked the return of their annual benefit Golf Outing at the beautiful Sand Ridge Golf Club in Chardon. Roughly 100 supporters were in attendance for a day of golf, set against the picturesque Ohio countryside. Executive Director, Jack Newman, and the entire NEOPAT organization has welcomed us into Ohio with open arms, offering to partner with us in our efforts to introduce our music therapy program to Cleveland-area veterans who struggle with post-traumatic stress. We feel so fortunate to have found such a warm-hearted and professional organization with whom to collaborate on this project. 

BA72185A-C91D-4C92-80AA-7373F124BAB7.jpg
B6D700F9-9381-40A5-94A5-ECD14B3F8955.jpg

Artist Spotlight: Dani Figueroa

155643039886-Honor_and_Sorrow_Full.jpg

Two weeks left to see the National Exhibit of Veteran Art at Gallery8k in Aspen! Where are we heading next? You can find the exhibit in Aspen Campus of Colorado Mountain College starting September 25th. Also, head over to our website www.challengeamerica.com, click on the art exhibit tab, and check out the digital gallery where you can view all of the artwork from your computer! 

This week, we are putting the spotlight on artist and veteran, Dani Figueroa. Dani minored in fine art in college, and joined the military after 9/11. Dani says “it took art therapy, toward the end of my military career (I medically retired in ‘14), to realize that the artist in me died during my first deployment in 2005…art therapy was the defibrillator my ‘artistic’ heart needed to start again.” Dani is pursuing studies in art therapy through the Department of Defense’s Vocational Rehabilitation Program, and aspires to attend George Washington University in the near future. 

This piece, titled “Honor and Sorrow,” represents the dichotomy Dani feels about her experiences with war. The person in the painting is a little out of focus and heavily textured to convey the complexity of the emotions that arise when returning from war. The person is faceless and genderless because, as Dani says, "the effects of war are never bias.” The red paint, almost falling like rain, represents all entities of war—the time spent in war, and what war means to Dani and to the viewer. Dani truly painted this piece one brush stroke at a time with intention and feeling. 

How Is the US Navy Preparing For Climate Change

R1704H_OJALA.jpg

"The Department of Defense is clear-eyed about the challenges climate change poses.

“The pressures caused by climate change will influence resource competition while placing additional burdens on economies, societies, and governance institutions around the world,” the most recent Quadrennial Defense Review, issued in 2014, states. “These effects are threat multipliers that will aggravate stressors abroad such as poverty, environmental degradation, political instability, and social tensions—conditions that can enable terrorist activity and other forms of violence.”"

To prepare for these eventualities, the US Navy is transitioning to alternative sources of energy - both on land and at sea - even as it pursues greater energy efficiency.

To learn more, read this recent article in The Harvard Business Review. https://hbr.org/2017/07/managing-climate-change

#climatechange #mitigation #adaptation #navy #military

Music Therapy and The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Challenge America is excited to announce the launch of a new music therapy program in Northeast Ohio. This program is made possible with the generous support of our local non-profit partner, Northeast Ohio Patriots (NEOPAT), The Lodge at Geneva on the Lake, and The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. 

With this retreat, we plan to work with 12 local veterans over the course of four days. It is our goal to introduce these veterans to proven mindfulness and music-based techniques that will help them cope with the trauma of their military experience. Among other things, the retreat includes two full days of mindfulness and music therapy at the Lodge at Geneva on the Lake. On the final day, we plan to conclude the retreat with a concert for family and friends at The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. 

This will no doubt be a transformative experience for everyone involved but it is your support for our organization and its mission make these life-changing events possible. If you are able, please help us sustain these efforts with your donation to Challenge America. A donation of just $200 will buy a guitar for a veteran who is struggling with post-traumatic stress - a gift that may well transform and perhaps save his or her life. So please, make a donation today. 

Thank you!

To learn more about our effective and evidence-based approach to music therapy, please watch our information video below: 

Stephanie Boshea on the National Exhibit of Veteran Art

Our local TV station, Aspen 82, was kind enough to feature the National Exhibit of Veteran Art in its Saturday morning show, The Lift. Attached is a recording of this segment, which presents our summer music intern, Stephanie Boshea, in her debut TV appearance. We are proud of Stephanie and thrilled to have this opportunity to share the news about our exhibit. 

Your support helps us sustain these efforts to support veterans and their families. Please help us continue these proven, evidence-based initiatives by making your tax-deductible donation today. 

Can social media lead to meaningful reductions in MST?

According to a recent report, between 9.3 and 33 percent of women report experiencing an attempted or completed rape during their military service. And reports of sexual assault in the military are on the rise. Between 2007 and 2013, these reports increased 88 percent. Indeed, the VA has estimated that one in five women who use its health-care program screen positive for military sexual trauma.

While this problem is pervasive in the military, it has thus far been difficult to bring the perpetrators to justice. According to one study, fewer than 15 percent of victims report the assault to a military authority. For those who do, the burden of proof makes it difficult to produce successful convictions.

In the civilian world, the victims of sexual assault are increasingly taking their cases to social media. Feeling abandon by the legal system, some are seeking justice in the court of public opinion. While this strategy raises the risk of being subject to a defamation lawsuit, given the broader trends in society it seems likely that the trend will only grow in the years to come. It also seems likely that this trend will soon find its way into the armed forces, where the practice may well force the hand of military leaders to take a more aggressive approach in addressing the problem of military sexual trauma.

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/10/opinion/is-naming-and-shaming-rapists-the-only-way-to-bring-them-to-justice.html?ref=opinion

https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/09/women-vets-and-mst/498866/

http://www.apa.org/pubs/journals/releases/ser-ser0000054.pdf

#army #navy #airforce #marines #veterans #veteran #MST #sexualassault

Considering an MBA? Perhaps you should reconsider.

When it comes to running a business, what does an M.B.A. do for you that a doctorate in philosophy can’t do better? According to this author, not much. After years of business consulting work, the author concludes the following: "just as most people are able to lead fulfilling lives without consulting Deepak Chopra, most managers can probably spare themselves an education in management theory. . . In most managerial jobs, almost everything you need to know to succeed must be learned on the job; for the rest, you should consider whether it might have been acquired with less time and at less expense."

This article follows on the heels of the scathing critique of business programs in "Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses". In this work, the authors make the following observation: "business majors had the weakest gains during the first two years of college on a national test of writing and reasoning skills. And when business students take the GMAT, the entry examination for M.B.A. programs, they score lower than students in every other major."

So if you're considering an MBA, perhaps you should rethink your strategy. You worked too hard and sacrificed too much to earn those GI Bill dollars just to see them wasted on a degree with so little value. Perhaps you should consider a philosophy degree instead.

#army #navy #airforce #marines #nationalguard #studentveteran #veterans #veteran #gibill

https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2006/06/the-management-myth/304883/?utm_source=atlli

Artist Spotlight: Jennifer Doherty

We are officially 7 days out from the opening night of the exhibit! We can’t wait to share all of the beautiful submissions with you in Aspen. Until then, we have our 4th #ChallengeArt17 Artist Spotlight: Jennifer Doherty. 

Starting at the age of 8, Jennifer took adult sewing classes from her mother, a sewing instructor. She started quilting over 20 years ago, taking breaks from her craft only for deployment. 

This incredible quilt is a paper pieced, machine quilted (freehand), queen-sized quilt with over 500,000 stitches.  In her own words, “the best part of finishing a quilt is being able to see it through to the end. With deployments, you come home when your tour is completed, but the battle continues.” Jennifer says that quilting calms her soul, and allows her to work on a design of love and of art. 

Artist Spotlight: Kristy Kaburopulos

It’s time for week three of our Artist Spotlight Series! We’re a few weeks away from the opening night of our exhibit, so if you’re in Aspen this summer, mark your calendars for August 4th and come join us for a wonderful night of art. 

This week, we are focussing in on veteran artist, Kristy Kaburopulos. Kristy received an Associates Degree in Visual Arts in 2013, and another Associates Degree in Photography in 2015 from Anne Arundel Community College in Maryland. At her school, Kristy represented the sculpture department twice in the Women of the Arts Show for Women’s History Month. Kristy also represented her school in the 28th League for Innovation, an international student art competition. She is currently designing a website for her work, and working on numerous commissioned pieces. 

In art, Kristy found a way to cope with the struggles of her military experience. She is driven by exploration through the process of creating. In her words, “in the same way a single smile has the power to change the course of someone’s day, my intent for the viewer, and myself, is to bring thoughts and feelings of affinity and harmony to the surface in an attempt to let go of the struggle and discord of our experiences.”

Kristy’s featured artwork, titled “Resilience,” is made from steel as an expression of inner strength. She chose to use ivy as the structure of the body because it is a plant of high resilience—Kristy explains, “whether it is basking in the rays of the sun or hiding in the shadows, it will flourish and continue to climb to new heights no matter what lies in its way.” Kristy wants you, the viewers of this piece, to know that no matter what you have been through, you can choose to focus on growth.

Artist Spotlight: Andrew DeJesse

Hunter's Window

Hunter's Window

For week two of our Artist Spotlight series, we bring you the work of Andrew DeJesse. Andrew served one tour in Iraq, and two tours in Afghanistan. During these tours, Andrew worked with local populaces on education, infrastructure, governance, and cultural heritage projects. Andrew now serves as a Civil Affairs Officer for the military here in the United States, specializing as a Cultural Heritage Preservation Officer. 

Andrew's art career began when he graduated in 1993 from University of the Arts in Philadelphia with a BFA in Illustration. He worked as a freelance illustrator, and as an in-house art director in pharmaceutical advertising in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and New York City. When Andrew moved to Texas, where he currently resides, he started his expressive art career with a focus on the Great Plains heritage and expressing the lives of outliers in terms of 21st century regionalism and modern social realism. When Andrew expresses his history with the military through his art, he focuses on the two worlds that combat veterans occupy: “reflections of home, or of overseas.”

Two of Andrew’s paintings will be on display in the National Exhibit of Veteran Art from August 4th through the 31st at 415 E. Hyman Ave in Aspen, Colorado. On our online gallery that is currently in the works, three of Andrew’s pieces will be featured. For more information, please visit www.challengeamerica.com/art-exhibit/. To check out more of Andrew’s work, please visit his website: http://www.andrewdejesse.com/

Artist Spotlight: Peter Buotte

Challenge America is proud to announce that we will post a weekly Artist Spotlight to feature the talented artists that submitted works to our National Exhibit of Veteran Art. This exhibit will appear in Gallery8K on the Hyman Pedestrian Mall in Aspen, CO, from August 4th-August 31st. After which, the exhibit will move to the Aspen campus of Colorado Mountain College, from September 25th-November 16th. In addition to these exhibits, Challenge America will also feature the works in the digital gallery on our website. 

This week’s spotlight is Peter Buotte, a veteran artist from Fort Hood, TX. Peter spent 27 years in the military but has 35 years of artistic experience. Currently, he serves as an Art Therapist at Fort Hood. 

Here is Peter describing his incredible sculptures: "The concept for the "Spirit of Survival" nation-wide sculpture project occurred during my second tour in Iraq. It seeks a creative and historic context for the consequences of conflict, and to be emotionally present with military burn survivors, amputees, and those who have PTSD. Finding fellow Veterans to pose and become a sculpture is the ongoing process.” Peter’s sculptures often expose the raw duality that veterans can often experience as they undergo the transition to civilian life.  

Peter’s work will be displayed in the Challenge America National Exhibit of Veteran Art from August 4th-31st and again at the Colorado Mountain College exhibit from September 25th through November 16th. You can also see his work in our online gallery.

#ChallengeArt17

Building Resilience Through Music

Participants, songwriters, and staff for our inaugural Nashville Music Therapy Retreat. 

Participants, songwriters, and staff for our inaugural Nashville Music Therapy Retreat. 

With your generous support, veterans in the Nashville area recently completed a three-day music therapy retreat. Each participant received a free guitar courtesy of Two Old Hippies Lifestyle Store in Nashville, a delicious BBQ dinner courtesy of Jim-N-Nicks of Nashville, and of course three days on the farm courtesy of Vince Gill and Amy Grant. Your support positively transformed the lives of everyone involved, including the songwriters and staff. We are counting on your continued support to build on this success by organizing three or more additional retreats by December. 

Participants with their new Breedlove guitars courtesy of Two Old Hippies.

Participants with their new Breedlove guitars courtesy of Two Old Hippies.

We have big plans for these retreats. From the very beginning, we set out to do something unique: rather than develop another program, we want to build an evidence-based therapeutic model that other organizations and communities can apply in their local areas. Leading this project is Mack Bailey, a certified music therapist with over 10 years of work experience with the veteran community and more than 20 years experience as a commercial musician. Mack has helped us assemble an amazing team of songwriters, interns, and support staff, as well as community partners, including Bedell Guitars, Belmont College, The Nashville VA Hospital, Vince Gill and Amy Grant, Jim-N-Nicks, and others. In addition, Mack supervised the design of our research instruments and survey analysis. As you will see, his expert guidance and support grounded our efforts on a firm foundation and ensured your contributions were put to good use.

Honorary founder of Challenge America, Amy Grant, welcoming everyone to the farm. 

Honorary founder of Challenge America, Amy Grant, welcoming everyone to the farm. 

Here are just a few excerpts of the feedback we received following the Nashville retreat:

"Participating in the retreat was like taking a really awesome medication that took my anxiety, worry, stress, fear, etc from 8-9's down to 5-6's."

"It's like I'm trying to hear the music more now. Not just the lyrics, you know like trying to pick out the tempo of the drums, the sounds of the guitar, even trying to air strum to the beat."

"To me, music therapy is an alternate approach to therapy that doesn't involve fighting the stigmas the military engrained into me about mental health and resilience. It was about trying something new, that gave me something to lose and pour my soul into, that didn't feel selfish or like a pity party, but instead a constructive and creative outlet."

"To be able to talk with someone about what was going on in my head without feeling I was being judged. "

"Every morning I grab my guitar and do the breathing exercises, followed by practicing my guitar for an hour before I start my day, and that hour of practice is also how I end my day. I am continuing guitar lessons and also songwriting lessons. Thank you so much"

Challenge America founder and CEO, Houston Cowan, kicking off the opening night festivities, courtesy of Jim-N-Nicks BBQ.

Challenge America founder and CEO, Houston Cowan, kicking off the opening night festivities, courtesy of Jim-N-Nicks BBQ.

Your support made these outcomes possible. Now it's time to roll up our sleeves and build on this success. Your continued support will allow Challenge America to organize additional retreats over the coming months, allowing us to refine our model before we scale up to the national level. Please make a donation today to help us reach the men and women who sacrificed so much on our behalf and continue to bear the scars of their service.  

CALLING ALL VETERAN ARTISTS:

Challenge America is thrilled to announce its plans to host a National Exhibit of Veteran Art, August 5-31. Challenge America has secured gallery space on the popular Hyman Avenue Pedestrian Mall in Aspen, Colorado. The exhibit will feature the works of veteran artists in a variety of media, including paint, ceramics, bronze, photography, music, and creative writing. This event will celebrate the accomplishments of veteran artists, endeavor to raise the public profile of the military healing arts, and foster support for veteran artists and art therapy programs. Challenge America expects this exhibit will create positive incentives for veteran artists to continue their efforts while also generating public awareness of and support for the military healing arts.

SUBMISSION DEADLINE: JUNE 16, 2017

EXHIBIT DATES: AUGUST 5-31, 2017

LOCATION: GALLERY8K, THE HYMAN PEDESTRIAN MALL, ASPEN, COLORADO

For submission guidelines and registration information, please select the button below. 

If You Ride, Please Be Careful!

For much of the United States, spring arrived three weeks early this year. Among other things, this means motorcycle owners are dusting off their machines and hitting the roads.

Motorcycle riding is inherently dangerous. According to a 2014 study by the federal government, motorcycle fatalities occur 27 times more frequently than passenger car fatalities. There were 4,693 motorcycle deaths in 2015, accounting for 13 percent of all motor vehicle crash deaths that year.

If you ride, please wear a helmet. Borrowing from data provided by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, helmets are roughly 37 percent effective in preventing motorcycle deaths and about 67 percent effective in preventing brain injuries. in 2013, 25 percent of motorcycle riders involved in fatal crashes were not wearing a helmet. In States without universal helmet laws, 59 percent of motorcyclists killed in 2013 were not wearing helmets, as compared to 8 percent in States with universal helmet laws.

Please also avoid riding under the influence. In roughly 40 percent of motorcycle fatalities, the rider was alcohol impaired.

Indeed, motorcycles are the leading cause of death for US service members unrelated to war.

Sources:
https://www.nytimes.com/…/2…/03/08/climate/early-spring.html
http://www.claimsjournal.com/…/nation…/2013/12/04/240881.htm
https://crashstats.nhtsa.dot.gov/…/P…/ViewPublication/812148
http://www.iihs.org/…/t/motorcycl…/fatalityfacts/motorcycles

Veteran Entrepreneurship Conference

The team at Challenge America is excited to announce its plans to attend the VETCON Conference in Redwood City, CA - the heart of Silicon Valley - March 23-25. 

VETCON is a conference built by veteran entrepreneurs for veteran entrepreneurs as well as veterans who want to launch their own businesses. 

Attendees will network with executives from several major Silicon Valley firms, including Bunker Labs, Hubspot, and Salesforce. They will also learn game-changing insights on topics ranging from product testing and validation to outsourcing to attracting and securing capital. 

Challenge America is collaborating with the amazing team at VETCON to share this incredible experience with the larger military community. We will interview presenters and participants, provide summaries of the advice offered in breakout sessions, and give you our insights on the lobby talk. 

If you are a veteran entrepreneur or aspire to start your own business, we strongly encourage you to make the investment in your business and your future by attending VETCON. As an added incentive, the team at VETCON created the exclusive promo code “Challange” that will give you a 20% discount on your ticket. 

To learn more and sign up, please select the following link: http://www.veteranconference.com/

3 Tips For Retaining Veterans in the Workplace

Although it is increasingly the case that medium to large companies actively recruit veterans to fill their workforce needs, many veterans continue to struggle with the transition to civilian employment. For those who cope with service related injuries, including post-traumatic stress, the strain of this transition piles on their other challenges. As many veterans lack the skills needed to cope with these difficulties, their work life is usually the first area that suffers. In other situations, civilian supervisors and employees can find it difficult to relate to their new veteran colleagues. For example, transitioning veterans not only have to learn a new position, they also have to learn a new corporate culture and vocabulary. When civilian counterparts lack the patience or empathy to accommodate this learning period, veterans can feel overwhelmed and discouraged. 

In this post, we offer several tips for promoting veteran retention in the workplace. To be clear, we did not set out to write an exhaustive list. Rather, we are merely hoping to start the conversation by encouraging veteran employees and their civilian counterparts to be mindful of the most common situations that result in an unsuccessful workplace relationship. 

Tip #1: Veterans, Choose Wisely

Far too often, veterans look for a job rather than a career. For a significant portion of their lives, these same individuals performed a job that was about more than just a paycheck. They took great pride in performing an important public service, namely the defense of this country and its values. It should therefore come as no surprise that working just any old job will leave these same individuals feeling unfulfilled. Given their military experience and the conditions in the current labor market, veterans would be wise to shop for a position that satisfies their instincts to contribute to a cause that is greater than themselves. More often than not, the veterans who do otherwise will find themselves back on the job market within the first year. 

Human resource professionals and hiring managers bear some responsibility as well. It is incumbent upon them to advise veteran applicants, particularly when the duties for the position mark a dramatic departure from their skills and experience. One additional way to overcome the retention problem is to articulate and reinforce your company’s values by making clear how the work they will do contributes to securing and advancing these commitments. 

Tip #2: Hiring Managers, Get Buy-in. 

Veteran hiring programs can sometimes suffer from poor planning and execution. Often the directive to create or expand a veteran hiring program flows directly from he lips of the CEO to the desk of a hiring manager, without any regard for building the internal support and infrastructure needed to ensure the program will succeed. This strategy can pose problems down the road, particularly when department heads and staff begin to question hiring choices. 

To avoid confusion and conflict, communicate. Share the rational for your hiring initiative to your entire staff and connect the initiative to your corporate values. Then reinforce this message in your newsletters and meetings. Demonstrate your hiring successes with pride and enlist the support of employees in overcoming obstacles. For instance, you could solicit input for hiring campaign slogans and reward the lucky winner with a paid day off. This type of strategy tends to build support for your initiative and produces a more hospitable environment for new veteran employees. 

Tip #3: CEOs, Educate Your Employees

To successfully implement a veteran hiring initiative, companies often need to educate their civilian workforce. It is not enough to simply generate support for the initiative, companies also need to ensure the staff has a basic knowledge of the military experience, as well as some of the common challenges veterans face during the transition to civilian life.

Fortunately, there are several free sources of excellent information your company can adopt as part of a comprehensive training curriculum. Our favorite source is PsychArmor, which offers classes in Engaging Staff & Retention, Why Hire Veterans, and Welcoming A New Hire. By encouraging employees to review these materials, CEOs can ensure your new veteran workforce is properly welcomed and nurtured in their new roles.

Ultimately, one of your goals is to maximize the efficiency and productivity of your workforce. Therefore, anything you can do to ease the onboarding process, particularly for the veteran community, will help you advance this objective and ensure the future success of your firm. 

3 Easy Steps To Help The Veterans In Your Community

Are you interested in doing more for the veterans in your local community but don't know what to do or how to get started? There is no doubt that service members, veterans, and their families often need your support. However, if there is one universal truth about the military community, it is this: as a group, it is intensely self-reliant. Unfortunately, far too many veterans and their families consider an appeal for help as a sign of weakness. 

If all of this is true, how can you or any member of your community do more to give back to the men and women who served our country?

Step 1: Learn About Your Local Military Community

It stands to reason that the first step towards helping a veteran is to ask veterans what they need. However, actually doing this is easier said than done. After all, veterans are often difficult to spot in a crowd and many are reluctant to self-identify. 

Before you take the initiative to strike up a conversation with your military neighbors, we recommend taking a few minutes to learn about military culture and the broader challenges nearly all military families face. Fortunately, our friends at PsychArmor offer a wide range of free online videos that can help you navigate these waters. While all of their courses are excellent, we particularly recommend "15 Things Veterans Want You To Know", "Veterans 201: Military Families", and "Invisible Wounds of War: Overview".

Once you have some basic knowledge, look for an opportunity to meet with the veterans in your local area. You can usually spot veterans on special holidays, like Veterans Day or the 4th of July. However, if you aren't willing to wait that long, you can scan your local paper for notices of veteran-related meetings. If you attend a local church or participate in a local club, you can also ask the other members to arrange an introduction with veterans in your community. 

When you finally have a chance to meet, simply introduce yourself by expressing your interest in honoring their service by giving back to those who sacrificed to defend our country. While many veterans are reluctant to talk about their military service, most are quite open to discussing the challenges of transitioning from military to civilian life. And while many of these problems are universal, you will likely discover that the veterans in your local community also face unique barriers, perhaps related to education or housing or health. In the course of your conversation, you might strike up a new friendship and perhaps uncover a way to apply your unique skills and experience in the service of the veteran community. 

Step 2: Reach Out To Local Veteran-Nonprofits

Now that you have taken some time to learn about the challenges confronting the local veteran community, it's time to learn how local nonprofits endeavor to address these issues. To get started, you can use a resource locator tool like Warrior Gateway to quickly find the veteran-related nonprofit organizations in your area. Take a few minutes to research the websites of these organizations to learn what you can about their programs and activities. Once you feel you have the lay of the land, reach out to one or more of the organizations on your list to arrange a meeting. In virtually all cases, you will likely discover that these organizations are thrilled to meet with you and answer your questions. Indeed, you might discover that they are all too eager to get you involved in their efforts. If you choose to do so, the key is to find a good fit between your skills and experience, on one hand, and their programs, on the other. 

Step 3: Contact Your Elected Officials

Ultimately the responsibility of caring for our military community rests on the shoulders of our government. It is therefore appropriate to ask your elected representatives for their insights into these challenges and the strategies they intend to use to solve them.

To get the ball rolling, you should first identify your local officials and make appointments to meet with them in person. We recommend starting with city and county officials, including the mayor, city council, and/or the county commission. City council and county commission meetings often include a public comment period, which offers an excellent opportunity to ask how your representatives view the veteran community and how they are addressing the challenges local veterans face. If you are feeling particularly motivated, you might also consider meeting your state and federal representatives. To do so, you can use a search engine like Common Cause to identify these officials and arrange a meeting. 

You might be surprised to learn that a little initiative on your part can go a long way toward helping the veterans and military families in your community to live a happy and dignified life.