Now through Veterans Day, you’ll likely find me walking. I’m walking with a purpose. I’m walking for our nation’s veterans and youth.
In August, The American Legion launched its 100 Miles for Hope campaign to support our Veterans & Children Foundation. We are asking American Legion Family members to walk, run or ride bicycles for 100 miles in the 100 days from Aug. 3 to Veterans Day. American Legion Riders are encouraged to participate by riding 100 miles.
For a $30 registration fee, participants receive a slick tech shirt(available in men’s and women’s sizes), a sign to display and a certificate of accomplishment when they finish. Posts can participate, too, by creating their own events for members. Some are organizing events around Patriot Day (Sept. 11), American Legion Day (Sept. 16) and, of course, Veterans Day.
Learn more about this initiative online at legion.org/100miles and register through Emblem Sales at emblem.legion.org.
Why 100 days? Walkers can break that number down to a mile a day, roughly 20 to 30 minutes. That happens to be the activity level many health experts recommend. If you haven’t started yet, there’s still time to join the challenge. It really doesn’t matter how you cross that 100-mile threshold. We just want you to join us in strengthening our Veterans & Children Foundation, so that we can provide American Legion service officers the training they need and continue to support military families with Temporary Financial Assistance (TFA) grants.
Much of what service officers do is behind closed doors, for privacy reasons. We want to shine more light, though, on their efforts. In small towns and big cities, our accredited service officers help veterans navigate the confusing, sometimes frustrating process of receiving the benefits they earned in service to our nation. Quite often, this assistance goes beyond paperwork, as service officers steer veterans in the grip of depression out of some of their darkest moments.
Courtney VanZanten is commander of Arthur T. Peterson American Legion Post 136 in Chester, S.D., and her department’s service officer. In Lake County, which numbers about 12,000 residents, she has met with several veterans at risk of self-harm since February. Drawing on her training and other resources, VanZanten was able to connect them with the mental health assistance they desperately needed.
“I had a veteran who was dealing with a lot of stress reach out earlier this year,” she says of a former servicemember who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. “We were able to get him admitted to a short-term mental health clinic. He is doing well now, and I am relieved he got the help he needed, both from a mental health perspective and a TFA grant.”
There may be no better time than September, which is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, to rally behind our unsung heroes like VanZanten. And there is no better time than now to get off the couch, put on a “100 Miles for Hope” shirt, and show your support for America’s veterans and youth.