The month of May is perhaps the best time for American Legion Family members to support veterans and servicemembers, especially those dealing with the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain disorder.
Officially designated by Congress in 1999, May is deemed Military Appreciation Month. May is also designated Mental Health Awareness Month, a time to support those who are dealing with PTSD and other issues.
Proceeds from The American Legion 100 Miles for Hope go to The American Legion Veterans & Children Foundation (V&CF). The foundation funds two critical America Legion programs that help veterans struggling with mental health and other issues, and Temporary Financial Assistance that provides grants for military families facing financial crises.
To help disabled veterans and military families, you have multiple ways through 100 Miles for Hope. There are two options to register and participate that are detailed here. For those who choose not to participate, they can contribute to the support of disabled veterans and military families with contributions to the V&CF through this link.
American Legion Past National Commander Denise Rohan said the V&CF pays for the training of accredited American Legion service officers who provide free assistance to veterans seeking help with their VA benefits.
“When a veteran sits down and talks with a service officer, they have someone who is really listening to them,” said Rohan, chairman of the Veterans & Children Foundation Steering Committee. “And not just listening for the one issue they might be there for but listening for other issues that might be going on.”
Sometimes, Rohan said, it can be a matter of life or death.
“I truly believe that meeting with a veterans service officer, and having that person really understand them helps not just the veteran themselves but the entire family,” she explained. “Once a veteran understands they are not alone in that situation, it helps with the 20 a day who are committing suicide. It’s getting them in the place they need to be. This fund helps train them because our veterans deserve it.”
Courtney VanZanten, department service officer for South Dakota, knows the highs and lows of the role. VanZanten, commander of American Legion Post 136 in Chester, S.D., is again participating in 100 Miles for Hope.
“My day job is as a veterans service officer for the Department of South Dakota American Legion,” she wrote during the inaugural challenge. “I absolutely love my work, as serving my fellow veterans is truly my life’s calling. Every day, I get to help people navigate their benefits they earned through service to our nation. What could be better?”
Army veteran Shawn Meyer deployed twice to Iraq and returned home with issues including PTSD. He is among the veterans VanZanten has helped.
“She said she could help me,” recalled Meyer. “She came and did all the paperwork right there at my convenience. I can't go too many places, I don't feel safe. So she came right to my house and we did the paperwork and she took care of everything for me. The award is nice, but I learned a long time ago money won't buy you happiness. Courtney gives me hope.”
Thousands of accredited American Legion service officers like VanZanten rely on the V&CF for their continued education, support and resources. Help her and others by supporting the 100 Miles for Hope challenge. Register or contribute a tax-deductible gift today.
To find an American Legion accredited service officer near you, use our handy search tool.