WATCH: Homeless Vet Talks About What’s Important to Him

Featured image

Through DVNF’s Health & Comfort program, the items that we send to stand down events to support homeless, low-income, and disabled veterans make a bigger difference than many might realize.

Wayne Stewart, a homeless Navy veteran in DC, spoke with us about his experience as a homeless vet, and which supplies that DVNF sent made the biggest difference.

“Toiletries! Because when a person is clean, looks good, smells good, they have a tendency to feel better about themselves.” 

“I would like to say ‘thank you’ to all of you [DVNF donors] – without your services, without your kind gestures and your kind thoughts, trust and believe me – it would be much harder for us. Thank you, DVNF!”

Countless veterans are helped through the Health & Comfort program, and each time a donor gives, we’re able to provide critically needed items – like toiletries – to veterans like Wayne throughout the year.

DVNF Veteran Employee Spotlight: John Paruch

Featured image

As part of DVNF’s commitment to serving the men and women who have stood in our defense, we know how important it is to have team members who have been in their shoes. The following story gives some background on one of the veterans working at DVNF.

John Paruch takes a photo with a veteran at the 2016 Wheelchair Games

John Paruch, DVNF’s Director of Corporate Sponsorships and Foundation Relations, has been with the organization since 2015. John, like so many veterans, is humble by nature.

“I always say I was a veteran in the loosest sense of the word. I didn’t serve during any conflict, and really didn’t do anything very significant.”

Many veterans often express this same sentiment, but it’s important for them to remember that willingly putting your life on the line – regardless of the presence of conflict or not – is something that should be admired and respected.

John, originally from the Detroit suburb of Hamtramck, Michigan, joined the Navy when he was 17. He was was a Radar Operator onboard a couple different destroyers. The first was a WWII Class Destroyer, DD 866, the USS Cone. Then, after extensive intelligence and naval warfare training, he was sent to a Guided Missile Destroyer, DDG 39, the USS MacDonough. His home base was in Charleston, SC and the longest cruises he was on were for about a month. Both of them included stops at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

John came from a modest background as a kid. He wanted to go to college, and he joined the Navy for the opportunity to make that dream a reality. 

Another motivation for him to enlist was his desire to see the world. However, he admitted, “I didn’t see much of it, but traveling to some of the Caribbean Islands was a big thrill for me.”

John, referring to his service as it related to combat, said that he felt fortunate to have done so little, but to have received so much in return. Instead, he felt a sense of obligation to his fellow veterans.

“I like helping our veterans that did so much more than I did, and were injured or disabled as a result. I feel it’s the least I can do and think all Americans should help those who have made those sacrifices.” 

After completion of his service in the Navy, John went to college and got his degree from Michigan State University, and he said that his time in the military had a lasting effect on him. He went to college a more mature individual, having learned some valuable life lessons which made him a better student.

When asked what advice he would give to a veteran transitioning into civilian life, he said, “Try to use the discipline you were taught in the military to make you a better worker, student, husband, father, or whatever it is you are doing at any time in your life.”

John is as humble as he is friendly, and has a genuine desire to serve others. DVNF is thrilled to have him on our staff, and we all want to thank him for his service – even if he thinks that appreciation isn’t warranted.

WATCH: Veteran Discusses His Experience with PTSD and Drinking

Featured image

Drinking is a common activity that is usually ingrained in the military experience. But what happens when drinking is used as a self-medicating coping mechanism? Things can spiral out of control in a hurry.

Just listen to this Marine veteran’s experience with drinking.

When I drank, got drunk, you know, all the anxiety, Depression, my purpose, the betrayal – all that, it went out the window …

For the next 3 years I was drunk probably – drunk or hung over 75 percent of the time. So when I went out I couldn’t just have one … and that caused problems.

For veterans struggling with PTSD, drinking might feel like a temporary solution to what you’re going through, but it isn’t a solution at all. If drinking has become a problem for you, and you’re ready to take control of your life, please check out some of the VA’s resources for getting the help you need.

April is Alcohol Awareness Month

Featured image

April is Alcohol Awareness Month, and this is an issue that is especially relevant to so many veterans. There are many reasons veterans in particular can often be prone to misusing alcohol.

One aspect that increases the likelihood of a veteran misusing alcohol is that they are often predisposed to it as a part of their military experience. In fact, did you know that medical expenses related to alcohol use by military personnel average nearly $425 million per year?1

Perhaps alcohol is used as a bonding tool or even a team-building exercise, or maybe for others, it’s seen as an escape route from handling a difficult experience. Either way, it’s something that most service members are familiar with before they even leave the military.

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism demonstrates just how prevalent the alcohol culture is for military personnel:

Frequent heavy drinking, defined as consuming five or more drinks on one or more occasions per week, occurs among a substantial proportion of U.S. military personnel and varies as a function of military demographic characteristics. In a large-scale survey, Bray and Hourani (2005) found that the prevalence of frequent heavy drinking in the military from 1980 through 2005 ranged from 15 to 20 percent.2

15 to 20 percent.

But what happens once somebody leaves the military? The difficulty of this transition is well documented, and it affects most veterans in some way or another. Veterans are thrust into a very different world as civilians, and must learn to adapt to a life that is very different from the one they have known during their service.

Veterans have to find a job based on a resume from military service that’s filled with terms civilians can’t comprehend, they’re forced to find an identity that isn’t based on rank or MOS, and for some, they have to come to terms with the mental effects of combat.

In fact, according to the NIAAA, combat and alcohol abuse have a very strong correlation.

In one population-based study of 88,235 veterans returning from Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF), Milliken and colleagues (2007) found that 12 to 15 percent of veterans endorsed problematic alcohol use in the 3 to 6 months following their return from combat. These data suggest that alcohol misuse occurs among a substantial number of veterans who are exposed to combat-related traumatic stress and highlight the importance of understanding the relationships between stressful military experiences (e.g., combat and military sexual trauma) and alcohol misuse.3

Not only that, but 60 to 80 percent of Vietnam veterans seeking treatment for PTSD have an alcohol use problem as well, according to the VA.

It doesn’t seem surprising then, that veterans often turn to a familiar substance that was ingrained in their military experience – alcohol.

Alcohol is often used to self-medicate, and to “numb” the painful thoughts and feelings associated with mental trauma. However, this is a double-edged sword, because while alcohol may limit one from having to relive the emotional pain of a traumatic experience, it also encourages avoidance. This avoidance doesn’t help solve the problem, it usually makes it worse.

 

This month, DVNF wants to help raise awareness of the effects alcohol has on veterans – not only veterans in transition, but also veterans with PTSD and homeless veterans who are especially prone to substance abuse.

Please help us spread the word this April. We want to make sure that the men and women who served in our defense are equipped with the knowledge and resources they need to seek treatment. There’s no shame in getting help, and for those suffering from a substance abuse problem, treatment can ultimately save your life!

Please visit the VA’s Veterans Alcohol and Drug Dependence Rehabilitation Program for more information on getting help.


Sources

https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/arcr344/401-407.htm

https://www.ptsd.va.gov/public/problems/ptsd-alcohol-use.asp

Shipment to Albany Helps Veterans Displaced by Fires

Featured image

As part of DVNF’s Health & Comfort program, we help stock various veterans’ shelters with clothing and supplies they need to support the veterans who visit seeking support.

In some cases, it can be in the middle of an emergency. This was the case recently when we sent a shipment to Albany, NY to the Veterans Miracle Center. They keep a free “store” that veterans can visit to get common supplies they often struggle to afford.

DVNF’s shipment happened to come at a critical time. According to Barry Feinman, the organization’s administrator, January and February not only brought cold temperatures, but it also brought several fires in the region.

In one evening alone, seven veterans lost their homes and all their possessions.

Feinman explained how the shipment helped:

The day after the fire, the VMC was called upon to clothe the families and provide personal hygiene items for the Veterans and their families In all, we assisted 18 people from one fire. In addition to the blankets, through your donation to the VMC, we could provide each person with a crisis care package, warm socks, hats, gloves, and scarfs. Since the VMC does have coats in stock during the winter months our Veterans were all equipped to face the remainder of winter with everything they needed to stay warm.

DVNF supplied the VMC with a shipment valued at nearly $170,000. It contained Comfort Kits, blankets, jackets, other assorted clothing items as well as many first aid items.

“On behalf of all the Veterans, Active Duty Service Members and their families the VMC extends a sincere thank you to DVNF for the very generous donation.”

“Suit Up” Hiring Fair a Success for Veterans

Featured image

On Monday, March 13, DVNF, in conjunction with the Detroit VA and because of an incredible donation from Jos. A. Bank clothiers, was able to participate in a “Suit Up” event to get transitioning veterans ready to reenter the civilian workforce.

At the event, 110 Veterans were able to get a suit or other professional clothing, along with a $50 Visa gift card from DVNF to cover the cost of some of the alterations, that will prove useful as the attend this weekend’s military job fair at the Detroit VA.

This event was the follow-up to the first “Suit Up” on February 25th,  but was lightly attended due to poor  weather and the need to use an alternate location due to construction near the Detroit VA.

How this made a difference to veterans

Joe Sattler of Marine City was a Helicopter Pilot in the Army. He is confident that he’ll be able to transition into executive management once he completes his medical recovery from a hip injury he suffered while on active duty.

Kevin Smith of Detroit, told us he was hoping to have a good interview with Ford Motor Company at this Saturday’s job fair, and knows the suit he was given should help impress the recruiter. Kevin is a Navy veteran.

Reza Tatum of Detroit and a disabled Army veteran, has been an auto mechanic, but he’s hoping to get into automotive design.

Phil Ackley, a Marine from Detroit, was very appreciative of receiving the first suit he’s had in a long time and is excited at the chance to try and land a supervisory position in the medical maintenance industry.

Jim Miller from Leonard, MI was an Army Chaplain and is currently working in the medical field — 60 miles from his home.  He’s hoping to find another job a little closer to his home and family.

Introducing Our New Look

Welcome to DVNF’s new website!

In an effort to improve our image and our services to veterans, we felt it was time for a fresh new look. We were long overdue for a new website, and since we are turning 10 this year, this was a great time to pursue this endeavor.

I hope you’ll find a cleaner, more user-friendly website. We want veterans who are in search of information and resources to be able to access it effortlessly. We also want to tell our story to donors better, because we think it’s important for people to know about the struggles and the successes of those who have stood in our defense.

Our New Logo

Another change you probably noticed is our new logo. With this new look, we’re hoping to incorporate our feelings of pride in those who have served our nation, and also those who are still serving. But we also hope to demonstrate a more modern approach to our programs and our image.

As DVNF works to ensure that our veterans are cared for, we are working to build new programs, and expand our current services. We feel that this new appearance will help set a solid foundation for the present and the future of the foundation.

I want to thank you for all your support of DVNF and the veterans we work to help. I hope you’ll continue to follow our work, and hope you enjoy the new look!

Working towards a better future for our heroes,

 

 

 

 

Joseph VanFonda (USMC SgtMaj Ret.)
CEO
Disabled Veterans National Foundation

Back to Home Page

 

Our Thoughts on the Ft. Lauderdale Tragedy

I heard the news Friday afternoon – a man opened fire in the Ft. Lauderdale airport, leaving several wounded and several killed.

When situations like this happen the first collective reaction is usually suspected terrorism. But once the media began to report more information about the suspect, my heart began to sink.

It was then reported he was a veteran who served a ten-month deployment to Iraq in 2011 with the Puerto Rico National Guard. According to the LA Times, he began to suffer from mental issues when he got back from Iraq. He willingly sought treatment but struggled to gain access to Puerto Rico’s apparently under-resourced VA hospital, so he moved to Alaska to seek better services.

Today, I don’t want to start pointing fingers at anyone as to how this happened. I want to express my deepest condolences to the victims and their family members of this horrible and frightening incident. Our hearts go out to you.

Right now, I think it is very important to recognize something we’ve mentioned in the past. Similar to the veteran who inexplicably shot and killed Chris Kyle, this type of situation is the exception, not the norm.

The false narrative of the troubled veteran cannot stigmatize others who need mental health treatment for issues associated with their service. It is rare for these extreme reactions to take place for veterans experiencing mental difficulty associated with combat.

And for veterans who are still suffering from psychological wounds, please don’t let this tragic incident deter you from seeking help. It can truly make a difference in your life and your overall wellbeing.

We express our sorrow for all those affected by this terrible shooting. Our hearts are with you.