Breezy Grenier knows what it’s like to hit a low point in life.
The U.S. Coast Guard veteran and member of American Legion Post 60 in Danbury, Conn., started her own business just weeks before the pandemic forced business lockdowns across the nation. One of the businesses she’d contracted with went bankrupt. And a second business she started had to shut down because of supply chain issues.
In addition, she lost both parents within a short period of time and went through a divorce. And though she never ended up slipping into homelessness, she learned through others how big of an issue it is within the women veteran community.
That’s what drove Grenier into the Ms. Veteran American competition, in which she’ll compete in the finals Sunday night in Orlando, Fla. The winner of the Ms. Veteran America competition serves as an ambassador for Final Salute Inc., a nonprofit that provides homeless women veterans and their children safe housing, along with food, clothing and supportive services.
“Even in the back of my head, I could have easily been homeless,” Grenier said. “If my parents didn’t have a house, I would have been homeless. One thing can trickle and lead to something else.”
Campaigning for Ms. Veteran America has given Grenier an opportunity to raise awareness about homeless women veterans and the issues that face them – and herself learn more about the issue. “When I started my campaign, I had four of my friends – one I’d served with and a few I know had served – and they came forward and told me they had experienced homelessness at one point. I had no idea. They’d always been well put together, well dressed, employed. They never let that show that they were in trouble or needed help or anything, which blew my mind.”
Grenier also is an advocate for raising awareness about veteran suicide and sees a connection between The American Legion’s Be the One mission and how issues such as homelessness and financial insecurity can play into suicidal thoughts and actions.
“In my hometown during the pandemic, we had a huge increase in suicides,” she said. “A lot of it was financial distress, not having a job, not having a purpose. I lost three people I served with during the course of the pandemic.
“So, I started having people come in and speak to our (Sherman Veterans Association) – especially to our Vietnam-era vets,” she said. “Having someone else come in and talk about (suicide) … as soon as I had our speaker come in … all of the sudden (the veterans) started talking. They never knew about survivor’s remorse, that guilt.
“When so much else is going wrong, suicide can easily come up. And it’s how can we prevent that? We can give all the resources and information, but it’s being in the right place at the right time that’s really the key.”