VP2H Blog

Welcome new VP2H board member – Chris Boyer!

Chris Boyer is ready to roll up his sleeves, get his hands dirty, and dive in to the VP2H mission of helping veterans and the organizations that support them. Chris first became involved with the organization about a year ago, having been introduced to its work by VP2H Executive Director Tony Drees. Chris and Tony worked together about seven years ago and have kept in touch since, even participating in speaking engagements together on behalf of veteran issues.

In fact, Chris became involved with VP2H because of one of those speaking events. He was asked to speak at the Anadarko Veterans Day ceremony in 2017. Anadarko is a valued VP2H supporter and often involves representatives of the organization at its event.

Chris was then honored with the Kevin J. Smith award at the 2017 VP2H Gala for his work with veterans. Following these events, Chris says he was able to meet a lot of board members and get an idea as to what VP2H does. He was very excited to learn about all they do, because he says his “goal in life has been to be involved and make a difference in the veteran community.”

Serving in the Marine Corps for “3 years, 9 months, 10 days, 10 hours, and 28 minutes,” Chris fought in the first Gulf War from 1989 to 1992 as an artillery cannoneer. His unit was the first to engage in ground combat, participating in behind the line raids using unconventional artillery. Chris is proud that his unit will be installed in the National Marine Corps Museum in November 2019.

Chris is now focused on helping fellow veterans. He sees VP2H’s future as one of growth, in terms of helping more veterans over a broader geographic area, eventually becoming a nationally recognized organization. He also hopes to see a growth in revenues, so the number and amount of grants given out can also increase. One of his accomplishments so far as a board member has been to assist with the recent grant awards ceremony, in which VP2H gave out $100,000 to Colorado organizations that support veterans with their work.

Veteran support organizations have played an important role for Chris as he has faced his own challenges of transitioning from the Marine Corps. He has worked with Eagle’s Nest Ranch, at first for his own horse therapy sessions and then as a volunteer and mentor to other veterans there. Recently, Chris has worked with Freedom Service Dogs, bringing home his own service dog – Lance Corporal Noodle D Boyer! – just over four months ago.

Chris is ready to use his speaking skills to help further the cause of VP2H and of veterans coming home from war. As he puts it, “War changes a person forever – you’re never the same.” He believes there is not enough focus on those who wore the uniform to help in keeping their heads straight. He wants to be a part of that solution. He knows the things they need and what they’re going through because, he says, “I’ve been there, done that, have an entire closet full of t-shirts.”

Chris Boyer has learned a lot over the years and wants to put that knowledge and his ability to reach out to others to good use. He sees that opportunity as a VP2H board member.

Where does the money go?

We may ask ourselves that question as we review our bank accounts each month. Sometimes the money seems to disappear if we don’t track it as we spend it. For an organization like VP2H, though, it is critical that we track our incoming funds and carefully review where each dime is spent.

At VP2H, it seems we are constantly asking for those incoming funds – and, in fact, we are. We hold fundraising events. We participate in Giving Tuesday and Colorado Gives Day. We reach out to the community and to corporate sponsors. Why do we do that? So we can give that money away!

We know where our money goes. Our mission is to raise awareness, raise money, and raise the level of cooperation among the many wonderful area organizations that provide needed services to deserving veterans. Bottom line (pun intended) is that the VP2H team works toward this mission by raising money throughout the year so we can give it to those organizations that help veterans.

Our money goes toward organizations that ease veterans back into civilian life, that work with veterans experiencing the symptoms of PTSD, and that advocate for veterans’ rights. Last year, our grant recipients included organizations that bring families back together, physically and emotionally, after long separations. Several of the organizations we supported through grants provide therapy animals, such as horses and dogs, for veterans working through PTSD. Some organizations offer veterans financial and housing assistance.

We know where our money goes. And we are sincerely grateful to all of our supporters that we have those funds available each year when our grant cycle opens.

Thank you for your continuing support – on Giving Tuesday, Colorado Gives Day, and every day throughout the year. We hope to see you at one of our upcoming events as well!

Honoring veterans throughout the year

November is the time most people officially recognize the service and sacrifice of military veterans. However, veterans deserve to be recognized and honored throughout the year.

November 11 is Veterans Day, of course. The holiday actually began as Armistice Day, a celebration of the end of World War I. The US Department of Defense explains:

World War I officially ended when the Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919. However, the fighting ended about seven months before that when the Allies and Germany put into effect an armistice on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.

 

For that reason, Nov. 11, 1918, was largely considered the end of “the war to end all wars” and dubbed Armistice Day. In 1926, Congress officially recognized it as the end of the war, and in 1938, it became an official holiday, primarily a day set aside to honor veterans of World War I.

 

But then World War II and the Korean War happened, so on June 1, 1954, at the urging of veterans service organizations, Congress amended the commemoration yet again by changing the word “armistice” to “veterans” so the day would honor American veterans of all wars.

There is another holiday that honors veterans during the year. While Veterans Day is intended to honor all who have served the country in war or peace, whether dead or still living, Memorial Day is a day to remember those who gave their lives in battle, in service to their country.

Veterans deserve honor and support throughout the year. Those who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), in particular, need help and encouragement as they work through their challenges. Veterans of all types, from all branches of the military, served and sacrificed for their country. They deserve nothing less than recognition and respect every day of the year.

Suicide prevention – be there

Sometimes suicide prevention is as simple as being there for the person who needs you most. The veterans in your life need you to be there for them, to have a cup of coffee with them, to listen to them, to talk to them in an encouraging, positive way, and to guide them to the resources designed specifically to help them.

During Suicide Prevention Week and every day of the year, we urge you to be aware of the veterans in your circle of family and friends that may be contemplating suicide. It is important to be able to recognize the signs and to know where to turn for help.

According to the Veterans Crisis Line, there may not be obvious signs that someone is thinking about suicide but there are actions (some very subtle) that may signal the person in your life needs help. Veterans in crisis may show behaviors that are warning signs, including:

  • Appearing sad or depressed most of the time
  • Hopelessness; feeling like there’s no way out
  • Anxiety, agitation, sleeplessness, or mood swings
  • Feeling as if there is no reason to live
  • Feeling excessive guilt, shame, or sense of failure
  • Rage or anger
  • Engaging in risky activities without thinking
  • Losing interest in hobbies, work, or school
  • Increasing alcohol or drug misuse
  • Neglecting personal welfare; a deteriorating physical appearance
  • Withdrawing from family and friends
  • Showing violent behavior, like punching a hole in the wall or getting into fights
  • Giving away prized possessions
  • Getting affairs in order, tying up loose ends, or writing a will

The following signs require immediate attention:

  • Thinking about hurting or killing yourself
  • Looking for ways to kill yourself
  • Talking about death, dying, or suicide
  • Self-destructive behavior such as drug abuse, weapons, etc.

Organizations such as the Veterans Crisis Line and Veteran’s Passport to Hope are here to help. VP2H offers an online Resource Portal for veterans and their families, including a listing of resources for those who need immediate assistance.

Be there for the veteran in your life. Be aware of the signs. Be prepared to stop suicide.

 

Veterans Crisis Line: Call 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1

VP2H Resource Portal: http://www.veteransresourceportal.com/

AAA Building Maintenance a valued VP2H supporter

AAA Building Maintenance has been supporting VP2H since the beginning. Its founder, Kyle Grivette, has also been involved with VP2H since the beginning and is now a key board member for the organization.

Kyle had been involved in the maintenance industry for many years when he started a company called Property Service Company of America, in Los Angeles in 1985. When Kyle moved to Colorado, he brought the company with him, in a sense. He purchased another small company and renamed it Property Service Company of America. Shortly afterward, he developed a partnership and formed an entirely new company.

AAA Building Maintenance was named, you guessed it, to be listed first in the Yellow Pages. At the time, industry listings in the Yellow Pages were crucial to growing a business. Many potential customers would look through the listings and decide to call the first one at the top of the list, which was AAA Building Maintenance!

Now AAA Building Maintenance is a multi-million dollar company, with over 100 people maintaining 100+ facilities on a daily basis. They are “doing some kind of work” for over 600 clients in total, Kyle says. They are focused on building maintenance, which can include janitorial and custodial services, construction cleaning services, and exterior maintenance.

Kyle’s business partner, Rae Harris, has been “a huge help with VP2H work” as well. Rae has helped put emails together, come to events, and has been very active with VP2H. Rae’s brother was in the first Gulf War and Rae shared many of his letters written from the battlefield. In Kyle’s words, it was “scary to read some of the things he went through.” Sadly, her brother was killed in an auto accident back in the states.

The company was a major sponsor for the Omni Financial Charity Golf Tournament, just held on August 24, benefitting VP2H. AAA Building Maintenance has also been a financial supporter of many other VP2H over the past six years.

AAA Building Maintenance focuses on “facilities, users, and their clients who value a clean and healthy environment.” Their website is www.3aclean.com. Check them out!

Board member Kyle Grivette is focused on helping veterans

When asked about his motivation to get involved – and stay involved – in Veteran’s Passport to Hope, board member Kyle Grivette responded immediately. “We live what we live because they do what they do.” Kyle believes that “we owe veterans more than a thank you” and lives that belief through his work with VP2H.

Kyle supports VP2H through his work with the annual golf tournament and a number of other events throughout the year. His company, AAA Building Maintenance, supports the organization financially as a sponsor for many of those events as well.Kyle Grivette

Involved with VP2H since the beginning, Kyle met founders Shane Schmutz and Dave Fingers in early 2012 and almost immediately became involved in the planning of the initial gala. He helped with the first three events the organization held, all of which were very successful. He is now in his second year as a board member for the organization.

Shane spoke with passion about veterans at the networking event where Kyle first met him. In Kyle’s words, Shane was “very intense and passionate,” inspiring Kyle to want to work with what he was doing for veterans. Through Shane, Kyle met Dave and then current president Patrick Wieland and current marketing chair Shara Hubert, all of whom were active in the initial stages of VP2H.

Although Kyle does not have direct military experience, he has family members who are veterans. His business partner, Rae Harris, had a brother who was active in the Gulf War. Unfortunately, her brother was killed in an auto accident back in the states, but Kyle remembers reading many of his letters about the experiences and challenges of active duty service overseas, in the battlefield. Kyle says it was scary to read some of the things he went through.

The most important aspect of VP2H for Kyle is helping the veterans that need the help, whatever that may be. He adds that “the number of veterans who attempt and succeed with suicide is mind-boggling.” It’s crucial to get help for them, through the organizations that support them. He recounts the story of a veteran’s family that could not pay their bills. VP2H was able to connect that family with a local organization that helped them through their crisis.

VP2H is heading in the right direction, Kyle says, particularly in regard to this type of cooperation among organizations that serve veterans. VP2H is a resource that connects veterans to those organizations that can give them the help they need. Kyle adds that veterans “do some of the most amazing stuff so we can live the lives we do. To not honor what they’ve done for us would be a shame.”

Veterans and their families face many challenges

Veterans, whether they served last year or twenty years ago, face a number of critical issues. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) notes that veterans can have many challenges, especially when trying to return to civilian life and to life with family, often as a result of experiencing traumatic events during their time in service.

SAMHSA lists several major issues facing veterans and their families, including:

  • Suicide
  • Trauma
  • Criminal justice system encounters
  • Homelessness

Mental health becomes a serious problem for many veterans. According to SAMHSA, “three out of five veterans who died by suicide were diagnosed as having a mental health condition.” Veterans make up 20% of the country’s suicides.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can impact veterans who have endured combat, whether resulting in physical injury or not. Those PTSD symptoms can often affect the family, on the soldier’s return. Repeated deployments and relocations can contribute to the issues faced by veterans and their families as well.

A veteran’s mental health state can affect all areas of that veteran’s life, including the struggle with substance abuse issues and potential involvement with the criminal justice system. The good news is that “specialty courts and legal projects have been created for veterans who are struggling” with those specific issues, according to SAMHSA. These specialty courts prioritize the “interconnection between criminal justice and behavioral health care, with a goal to fairly adjudicate the punishment of veterans charged with crimes.”

Mental health and substance abuse issues are leading causes of homelessness among veterans, who make up 10% of the country’s homeless population. Within the group of homeless veterans, three-fourths experience mental and/or substance abuse disorders.

There are resources to help veterans and their families deal with these issues. Veteran’s Passport to Hope offers a resource portal, designed for veterans who need help with housing, employment, mental health, physical health, and many other concerns. There are also resources for those who need immediate assistance, to get the help they need now.

If you or your family members need guidance to find help dealing with these issues or any others, please go to our resource portal at http://www.veteransresourceportal.com/ or contact us if you need help getting started. We’re here for you.

Board member Ryan Slechta excited about VP2H’s future

Ryan Slechta had been involved with Veteran’s Passport to Hope for about four years, both as a volunteer and as a sponsor, before joining the board. Founder of Veterans Development Group and a USMC veteran and DoD contractor, Ryan met VP2H co-founder Dave Fingers and current board president Patrick Wieland through other veterans’ non-profit organizations. He recognized the synergy between their efforts immediately.

Ryan says he believes “VP2H is truly in an exciting transition to a larger and professionally run non-profit with amazing support from the other board members and their respective companies.” He’s excited to see VP2H expand its reach geographically, with its base and support, and with the amounts of money going to support veterans. Making sure that “a high portion of our raised proceeds go directly to support veterans” is very important to him.

VP2H partners with organizations like Ryan’s to provide that much-needed support to veterans. The Veterans Development Group works with hiring companies in translating the unique skills and aptitudes of the veterans into each company’s specific application of needs to create value to employers.

Veterans Development Group helps companies become more effective employers of veterans by helping integrate veterans in a way that makes the veteran feel supported and the company retain its foundational culture and framework of success.  Veterans Development Group uses simple processes and procedures to help companies attract and retain this incredible talent, allowing veterans to succeed while enhancing the company’s own culture and profitability.

Active on the board in many ways, including implementing and coordinating fundraising events, Ryan is planning the Whiskey Tasting event (details coming soon on a new date and time for that) as well as participating in other upcoming events that benefit VP2H and the veterans’ organizations we support!

VP2H co-founder Dave Fingers sees appreciation as reward

When Dave Fingers met Shane Schmutz, they started planning a gala so they could donate to the Wounded Warriors Project. Some 750 people attendees and a donation of $249,000 later, they realized that the idea they put together “had legs.” They formed Veteran’s Passport to Hope in 2012 so they could more actively support a number of veterans organizations throughout Colorado.Dave Fingers

Dave served in the Army for 10 ½ years so he understands the life of a veteran. He spent his last three years in the Army as a recruiter, which led him to a civilian career in technical recruiting. His service in the military gave him a transferrable skill that he still uses today, in his own recruiting firm.

After leaving the Army, Dave went to work for an IT staffing firm. He eventually started his own recruiting firm, launching that venture in 2008. In 2009, he launched a marketing firm for small businesses that became a digital marketing firm (adjusting to the times) by 2012.

He has since transitioned to a new digital marketing firm, with partner Anna Mannerfelt. Wired Mustang reflects the digital (wired) as well as Dave and Anna’s passion for horses (mustang). Continuing that theme, they are in the process of trademarking their tagline: “Increase your online horsepower!”

Dave sees VP2H as “heading in a great direction.” He says he can see that in what the organization is doing from a fundraising standpoint and in what it is doing with social media and a new website. He adds that he “would love to see us be a national organization with a presence in all the different states that would have their own chapters.”

As of now, VP2H is on track to continue to make a big impact on the veteran community in Colorado. Dave is pleased with the great board the organization has assembled and its new Executive Director, Tony Drees, all of whom have been innovative in moving the organization forward.

Dave was board president for 3 ½ years and is enjoying being “just” a board member now. He says he enjoys being a part of the organization “because of the impact we have” and will continue to do it because its his passion. What does he get in return? To be able to “feel good because we’ve helped impact the community.” He has talked to the organizations that VP2H helps and knows that the help is appreciated and, to him, that is the biggest reward of all.

Transitioning is not one-and-done

By VP2H Executive Director Tony Drees

Transitioning from one situation to another, from one type of life to another, is a marathon not a sprint. And it certainly is not a one-time event.

Military personnel who transition to civilian life might find that it takes years to truly make the adjustment to being “back home.” Wounded veterans must make long-term adjustments to a life without a limb or with a scar that constantly reminds them of how they were wounded. Military families must constantly transition to new homes and new lives.

Thinking that the transition is a one-time event can actually hurt the process as well as the person undergoing the process. When others believe that a veteran has successfully transitioned to civilian life after just a few days or even months at home, it puts more pressure on that veteran to act like the transition was successful. That added stress can worsen post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which can snowball into much more severe issues.

A transition can be an extended series of challenges, successes, failures, and, most importantly, recovery from failures. Transitioning to a new situation takes time and support. Veterans need the support of their families, their friends, and organizations like Veteran’s Passport to Hope (VP2H).

If you know a veteran – or are a veteran – experiencing a transition, know that it is not a one-and-done event. It is okay to need that time to make adjustments, to rebuild relationships, and to fully accept the new type of life that requires those adjustments.

Know also that you have the support you need – in VP2H and in so many other organizations that work with us. We are all focused on helping you through the journey of your transition.

Need help? Direction? A resource? Contact VP2H. That’s why we’re here.