It started seven years ago.
In December 2010, the Council on Foundations and the Philanthropy Roundtable co-sponsored the program “Philanthropic Strategies for Helping America’s Veterans” held in Washington, D.C. This event provided a unique opportunity to examine the width and depth of programs to help veterans heal the wounds of war and continue in a lifetime of service.
The presentations were remarkable—informative, heartwarming, and inspiring. One presentation on Warriors and Quiet Waters—a community-based group in Bozeman, Montana, that employs the therapeutic qualities of fly fishing to help heal traumatically wounded warriors—was particularly stirring.
The conference highlighted two great truths about our veterans: (1) We owe them a great deal. (2) They are one of our nation’s greatest resources. At the conference, participants discussed the key attributes of a robust national enterprise to assist America’s veterans. They include:(a)Contact—reaching out to veterans and identifying their needs; (b) Comradeship—building peer-to-peer support and mentoring in assistance programs; and (c) Community—serving veterans and their families where they live and work, teaming with veterans and their families for long-term, sustained support with collaboration and clearinghouse activities that create a “one-stop shop” for assistance while fostering collaboration among those reaching out to veterans.
Unfortunately, we as a nation were not all pulling in the same direction. The need for an inspiring guide for philanthropic efforts was never been greater. On the one hand, the average member in the military today has experienced more service in a combat theater than any in our nation’s history. Over 1.9 million service members have deployed since 2007. Many have had multiple combat tours. An estimated 300,000 have symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. Ten percent of all personnel deployed to Iraq were wounded or hospitalized.
On the other hand, Americans have never been more willing to help. According to a Pentagon white paper, there are over 400,000 registered websites for donors and organizations supporting our service men and women. “This is more than a poll of do-gooders—it is a Sea of Goodwill,” the paper concludes. “Our nation needs a method to navigate this sea.” Many groups do not know how to reach veterans and their families, what they need most, or how to best deliver assistance. Both the Pentagon and the Department of Veterans Affairs have concluded that linking those who want to help with veterans and their families is the single greatest and most important challenge they face.
This urgent need inspired Esprit de Corps and ColdWater Media to make the documentary film “Veteran Nation: The Mission at Home has Just Begun.” The purpose of the film and the call to action is simple: Taking care of veterans is the responsibility of all Americans.
The documentary has a great story to tell. Few Americans know the triumphs and tragedies of how the nation has treated its veterans. Additionally, the film tells the story of contemporary veterans through the eyes of combat veterans who are fighting to heal the wounds of war while preparing for a lifetime of service. Among the veterans interviewed in the film is Colonel Greg Gadson, the Army wounded warrior who was featured in the recent film Battleship. Others include an individual participating in Warriors and Quiet Waters and a young veteran making the transition from military to civilian leadership. Chronicling their trials provides the emotional core of the film and illustrates the key components of successful veterans’ assistance and offering a template for others.
The film offers an overview of how the nation has treated its veterans from the American Revolution to the present. It then focuses on contemporary and future challenges of serving the nation’s veterans. The film runs less than 30 minutes in length, an ideal running time for viewing during a local community meeting.
We offer the film free to anyone that wants to hold a screening in their community. Over the last five years, these screenings have taken place all over the country.
While America's wars are winding down there is still much work to be done. Many would be content to just make veterans another class of "dependents" on the federal government. That's their simple answer to taking care of those who served. Its a terrible idea. The last thing veterans want. Some need a hand up, but not a hand out. Most want little or nothing. They just want to come home and continue to serve their communities has they see fit. Let's honor them, not take away their respect and desire to serve the nation.