Volunteers Build Heartfelt Addition to a Home for a Local Hero

Vets H.E.R.D. – short for Helping to Empower Returning and Disabled Veterans – is an organization made up of local veterans. They recently built an addition to the home of the parents of Marine Staff Sgt. John Stanz, after he returned from a military hospital in Germany.

More than 20 local contractors and suppliers donated their time and materials to help build a bedroom, bath and living area for John, to help him with his recovery. Vets H.E.R.D. also organized a four-day vacation for the family while the addition was being finished.

“John to me is my brother,” said their vice president Jordan Strong. “When family is in need, you help them out.” John is part of MARSOC – the top one percent of the Marine Corps serving in special operations. Strong continued, “They do the missions no one knows about. They take the risk that no one knows about, to ensure our freedoms, to keep our country safe. We owe it to them to help them. He’s helped and protected us in ways we can’t begin to understand.”

John suffered a catastrophic head injury, his second combat injury, while serving in Afghanistan. He had  received his first Purple Heart after being wounded in Iraq.

Vets H.E.R.D., located in western New York, is a group of veterans and their families and friends whose mission is to raise awareness of the lack of veterans’ resources in their local community while ensuring that no veteran or service member is forgotten upon their return to civilian life.

If you are currently looking for assistance within New York, visit the Warrior Gateway’s directory. If you know of similar organizations not already in our directory please add them here!

To view the Buffalo News original article, “A heartfelt home for a hero,” click here.

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Happy Military Spouse Appreciation Day!

Let’s face it:  Military spouses are superheroes. They manage kids, pets, carpools, schedules, jobs, households, all the while ready to help others at a moments notice.  Often without ceremony or fanfare, they are the backbone of every military community.

Today is Military Spouse Appreciation Day, and the Warrior Gateway asks you join the country in thanking the women and men who bravely and graciously take on what is arguably the most important role in the military.

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Upcoming event: Military Spouse Career Expo at Ft. Meade

This Saturday May 8, from 9:00a-3:34p the USO of Metropolitan Washington and Joint Employment Transition Services (JETS) will be hosting the 5th Military Spouse Career Expo at Fort Meade.

Here are the details from the organizers:

  • Saturday May 8, 2010
  • 9:00 am – 3:45 pm
  • Military ID required

Attendees receive:

  • Access to Employers, Home-based Business opportunities and Military Service Organizations.
  • One-on-One Job Search or Resume Review Consultations.
  • Give-Away Bags to first 100 Attendees.

Topics  include:

  • Spouse Education (MyCAA &  9/11 GI Bill)
  • Resume Writing Skills
  • Spouse Hiring Initiatives (Fed. Executive Order, Spouse Preference, Army Spouse Employment Partnership)
  • Exploring Entrepreneurship
  • Interviewing to Win
  • Federal Employment Applications
  • Stress Management and more ….

For more details, contact:


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April is the Month of the Military Child

April is the Month of the Military Child — the time each year when we turn an eye to the role of children in the military family.

The official site of the Month of the Military Child has a good list of events and relevant resources, like suggestions for events, art and craft project ideas, and lesson plans and projects designed by teachers.

Another good resource for military children is Talk, Listen, Connect, a project of Sesame Street. Talk, Listen, Connect focuses on issues related to military families — deployments, homecomings, death of loved ones — and presents useful information about the emotional difficulties of these situations, all with subject matter and tone appropriate for children.

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For the Veteran, By a Veteran

Minnesota NPR has a good story on Michael Mills, a member of the Minnesota National Guard who has become a local voice for the issues faced by returning OEF/OIF veterans. Mills served in Iraq, where his convoy was struck by a roadside bomb, causing him to sustain several broken bones and third degree burns on much of his body. He came back angry and depressed, but eventually came to terms with his experiences through the help of his family and a psychiatrist.

Michael Mills (right) poses with fellow veterans Jeff Butler and Bruce Billington. Photo courtesy of MPR

Michael Mills (right) poses with fellow veterans Jeff Butler and Bruce Billington. Photo courtesy of MPR

And now he’s seeking to help other veterans going through issues similar to his own. He runs a website called For the Veteran, By a Veteran, which tells his story and provides some resources for medically discharged veterans.

“I started For the Veteran for a couple of reasons but the main reason is I got tired of losing my friends to suicide,” said Mills, who fears that many vets are killing themselves because they first turn to drugs and alcohol.

Because many veterans may be ashamed to ask for help, for a Veteran aims to inform them about available government and private services.

Mills also sits on the board of Project New Hope, an organization which holds retreats for members of the military community, covering topics like money management, navigating VA resources, and anger management. The program is unique in its inclusion of a veteran’s entire family. “The VA is only able to help the soldier,” said Bruce Billington of Cross Lake, who founded Project New Hope. “We help the entire family. We try to provide resources that the VA is unable to give.” Project New Hope began in Minnesota but now hosts retreats in New York, Wisconsin, and even Canada, in addition to several locations in Minnesota.

“When I first joined the military and before me and even up till now, you’re told, ‘if you’re not bleeding, you’re not hurt,’ ” Mills said. “And that’s not really true because there is pain without the blood. There is mental pain, especially being in a combat zone.”