This is the first of several posts highlighting concrete solutions communities can implement to bridge the civilian-military divide. Skeptical that this schism exists? Think again.
A 2014 Washington Post/Kaiser Family Foundation poll found that 55 percent had served in the military felt disconnected from civilian life. That number increased to 64 percent for those who had served in combat.
These stats got me thinking about the Welcome Wagon. Founded in 1928, this service employed mostly women who were friendly and knowledgeable about their neighborhood to personally deliver gift baskets supplied by local businesses to new homeowners. Over a cup of coffee, the women would then offer their new neighbors tips about the area such as civic and cultural activities.
It's similar to what the military does when a service member is reassigned to a new post. A designated sponsor meets the new transfer and his/her family, walks them around the post, shows them key spots and offers advice on local events and happenings.
I'd like to suggest that my readers create another extension for veterans through your local Easter Seals affiliate. For example, you could volunteer to sit down with a veteran or a military family and introduce them to your community. You might learn that someone needs some medical help and are able to link them to your doctor. Or perhaps that person might want a second set of eyes on some paperwork or need an advocate to help with a cable company bill. Even if you don't feel you have the skill set, I bet you know someone who does and can make that association.
There are many organizations out there, but I'm especially proud of the work we do through our Easter Seals Military and Veterans Services, which offers help, hope and answers to veterans and military families each year.
In New England, the Easter Seals Veterans Count program is doing something just like this. Care coordinators confidentially meet the veteran or the military family at a convenient location to collaborate on needed services. These care coordinators are not just Easter Seals staffers and volunteers. They are neighbors and our version of the Welcome Wagon, providing services from employment, to counseling and emotional support, to childcare resources and many more. By fitting these pieces together, the divide gets a little smaller and the circles begin connecting in a meaningful way.
And, in a state-wide, patriotic show of support for veterans, service members and military families, Easter Seals New Hampshire Veterans Count will take to the airways in a radiothon March 25 from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. on News Radio 96.7, WGIR-AM 610 and iHeartRadio.com. The radiothon will feature 12 hours about the great work of this group but it will also address the challenges faced by them and how Veterans Count and other organizations provide support.
So tune into the radiothon or volunteer your time and share your talents with this deserving audience.