How you can help a returning veteran
When a service member is injured during combat, the first priority is to get him or her to the best medical care facility and reunited with their loved ones to start the recovery process. But what if that service member is based out of San Diego and has to spend months recovering in Maryland? In cases like this, it can be challenging for family members and caregivers to fully support their loved one during the critical recuperation phase.
This is where the Yellow Ribbon Fund (YRF) comes in. Founded in 2005 to serve the injured coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan, YRF aims to keep families of injured service members together. They offer free hotel rooms and apartments for visiting family members, rental cars, cab rides and overall caregiver support.
Yellow Ribbon Fund is the official charitable partner of the 2018 Granicus National Summit and in order to learn a little more about their critical work and how people can get involved, we sat down with Mike Wilson, YRF’s Executive Director.
YRF provides practical support to injured service members and their families at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, For Belvoir Community Hospital, and in their home communities through two main services: housing and transportation and caregiver support.
The two programs aim to provide holistic support to everyone involved in a service member’s recovery. Wilson explained that the Crossroads Program provides housing and transportation to family members while the Keystone Program focuses on providing support for an injured serviceperson’s caregiver. “We have three main buckets of delivery for the latter program,” Wilson said. “These include peer-to-peer support groups, training and education during their stay, and resources for when they transition back to their communities.”
Wilson went on to explain that they are constantly trying to evolve the services they provide to effectively meet the needs of the community they serve. “For example, cancer has become a really big issue in the service member community, but it’s not particularly widely known,” he explained. “We’ve recently lost three active duty folks to cancer, so our support of cancer patients is a gap that we see needs to be filled.”
Recently, they helped support a special operations member who was transferred out of training and sent directly to Johns Hopkins Hospital to start receiving treatment for leukemia. Wilson and his team were able to get them an apartment close to the hospital, so he could continue to receive the treatment he needs. “For me, being that critical resource at a critical time is the most impactful thing we do, and I am incredible proud that we can do that for people,” Wilson said.
Looking forward, Wilson is excited to see how YRF evolves and continues to tell their story. “We want the community to know that even though the tempos of the wars have decreased, we are still seeing a lot of people come into Walter Reed and we want to be able to tell their story with respect, and ultimately bring some light to what they’re going through to increase awareness,” Wilson explained.
One innovative way the YRF is getting the word out there is by sponsoring the Granicus National Summit and hosting a service project during the Summit. Granicus Summit attendees will be able to make welcome baskets for people that live in our apartments. “Attendees will get the chance to serve a community they often work next to and might not even know it,” Wilson said. “Veterans are everywhere and hearing our story can help increase awareness and support that they need.”