Joining in Giving Thanks

Posted November 25, 2013

By: Barbara Van Dahlen, Ph.D.

Our country has been at war for a very long 12 years. During this time, the men, women, and families who serve have experienced significant stress, suffered many losses and sacrificed a great deal. Fortunately, many individuals, organizations, governmental entities, and corporations have stepped up to support our military and veteran communities so that those coming home have the support they need and the opportunities they deserve.

As we approach Thanksgiving, I am thankful for the opportunity to work with many of the dedicated and compassionate men and women connected to the initiatives and efforts that exist to serve those in uniform and those who love them. Many of the colleagues I trust and respect the most are my partners in the Got Your Six campaign. And while many military families remain in need and much remains to be done to ensure that those who come home successfully reintegrate into our communities, I am confident that our efforts will continue and our mission will succeed.

I am thankful for my dedicated staff at Give an Hour and our generous mental health volunteers who together have succeeded in delivering over 100,000 hours—valued at over $10 million—of critical mental health care to returning troops, their families, and their communities. In addition, our network of volunteer providers can now use an amazing “gift” developed by our friends at Google. We are very thankful to Google for creating a new tool that allows Give an Hour providers to offer services to the military and veteran communities through Google’s online Helpouts platform. We will soon be better able to reach veterans and military families who live in rural or remote areas of our country—men, women, and families who would be unable to receive critical mental health care and support were it not for Google’s expertise and generosity.

I am also thankful for the compassion and generosity of Detroit Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander. On August 28, I was privileged to join Justin for the launch of his Wins for Warriors Foundation. For years Justin has quietly been supporting veterans in Detroit by bringing families to his private suite at Comerica Park to watch Tigers games. Justin donated $1 million of his own money to launch Wins for Warriors, which focuses on the mental health needs of those who serve. His foundation selected Give an Hour—along with The Mission Continues—to identify and coordinate services in Norfolk and Richmond, Virginia, as well as in Detroit. I am proud to know Justin, and we at Give an Hour are eager to serve with his team to support the military and veteran communities.

And on this Thanksgiving, I am especially proud of and thankful for the partnership we have formed with Team Rubicon (TR). Several months ago our two organizations began working together to strengthen the mental health support available to TR, which deploys veterans to assist in the aftermath of a disaster. Give an Hour created a staff position, hired a military spouse to fill it, and began working with our TR friends to identify needs and develop steps to ensure that all who serve with TR are able to receive the support and care they need before, during, and after deploying on their TR mission. Soon after the devastating Typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines in early November, Team Rubicon began sending teams to the affected areas. Give an Hour’s staff member joined them on their mission.

So as I approach Thanksgiving, in addition to feeling blessed to have a wonderful family and community, I give thanks for the men, women, and families who serve our nation. And I give thanks for the good friends and colleagues who work hard every day to ensure that those who protect and defend our land come home to lead the lives they deserve.