From February 1st to February 15th, the United War Veterans Council (UWVC) embarked upon their 5th Annual Goodwill Valentine’s Caravan series – their effort to mobilize the public to send messages of love and gratitude for our veterans, military service members, and their families. I joined them on their visit to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, MD.
What can I say about my trip?
“AMAZING” does not do it justice! To see the gratitude, the joy, the smiles on the wounded veterans at Walter Reed - to see grace at its peak - conjured emotions I’d not yet experienced!
At times it was hard to hold composure. I wanted to hug the vets. I wanted to scream and say, “Why did this have to happen to such a young population that has such a long road ahead, a long life to live? WHY?” Then to hear a wounded soldier say, “At least I’ve been given the chance to live; my buddies never came home,” shook me to my core and brought me back to the present moment. The gratitude of this wounded soldier - his zest for life, his acknowledgment that, though he lost limbs, he was a better person for it, because at least he had his life and now valued life in a different way - reminded me of how lucky we are to live in a country in which we feel free to do as we please. Yet freedom is not free! This was a WOW moment, and I reflected upon it for a long time. I’m grateful for this experience and the emotions it conjured, even though, as a soldier, I’d been trained to “suck it up!”
We also visited Ft. Belvoir in Fairfax County, Virginia, the base I once knew as my home base. It truly brought up sentiments I had long forgotten. It has become a place of tranquility for wounded soldiers, a place that made me proud of having served, a place that seemed like home. It was a true joy to see the faces of the veterans when they received the Valentine’s Day cards made by staff and members of the Fountain House Clerical Unit, and vets particularly loved and remarked upon our hand-made bookmarks. I was delighted and honored to introduce Fountain House to the veteran community
As a nation, we grapple with how to provide the best mental healthcare for our veterans, but it makes so much sense for Fountain House-model programs to be part of the transition phase for veterans. It was clear to me how the Fountain House working community could be vital to suicide prevention for veterans.
Everyone from the United War Veterans Council exhibited a solidarity that flowed naturally. I was reminded of “one for all and all for one!” I am sincerely thankful to have joined the group that was traveling to DC to deliver “Unconditional Love.” To give without conditions, to give without expecting to receive anything in return - that is the true meaning of “giving of oneself.” I am forever grateful for this experience!
Although I separated from the Service in 2006, it felt like I never left; the camaraderie was automatic. I’m flattered and honored to have represented Fountain House to the community that has sworn under oath to serve and protect the United States of America. I am a proud American; I am a proud Fountain House staff!
Director of Human Resources, Fountain House