When Time Matters Most: Veteran Organizations Stand Ready to Fill the Gap

By: Robin Kelleher, Hope For The Warriors co-founder and president/CEO
February 8, 2019

When you’re a military family, everything is about time. 

So little time until the next deployment. Too much time until the homecoming. Quality time built into a strict schedule. Building trusted relationships in a short time. Living on borrowed time.

I remember when our family was stationed at Naval War College in Rhode Island. It’s a tour that typically lasts 10 months — a short window to move in, settle in and enroll kids in school. It was up to me to find the fastest normal for our family.

The night we unloaded the last boxes off the truck, I opened the kitchen drawer of our assigned base house to find a community phone book full of handwritten notations. The best place to grocery shop. Local merchants to avoid. Where to take the kids for fun in the summer. Not just circles and stars, but notes and names. The mother who lived there before left behind what she knew would be the golden ticket for the next resident mom: tried and trusted information to make a stranger’s — a kindred spirit’s — life easier. I’ve never forgotten that thoughtful act, and I return the favor everywhere we move.

Military families trust military families. They have to. Military culture dictates it. Time dictates it.

When the recent (and perhaps recurring) government shutdown left more than 40,000 Coast Guard families staring at an uncertain number of tomorrows without the promise of a paycheck, who do these military families turn to for support? Other military families, and their trusted networks. As a veteran service organization (VSO) that employs primarily military families, Hope For The Warriors understands this culture and how to reach families in need. We are trusted.

VSOs, like Hope For The Warriors, exist to support gaps in the lives of military families, no matter how they are created. The public notices those gaps during critical, high-profile times, such as a government shutdown, but the truth is they exist for thousands upon thousands of military families every day.

Hope For The Warriors serves post-9/11 veterans of all branches, providing comprehensive programming that addresses the unique needs of military families. Our mission is to provide holistic care to all members of the warrior community: servicemembers, veterans, their families, their caregivers and families of the fallen.

Nearly 90 percent of the staff at Hope For The Warriors has either served in the military or has family who has served. We possess a deep understanding of the journey of the military community, both as a whole and as individuals. And the partnerships we have built throughout our journey not only elevate our mission, but serve as a force multiplier of our service.

Hope For The Warriors and the Fisher House Foundation have worked together for 13 years to assist military families through countless transitions in their lives, always recognizing that time is of the essence.

Over the past 18 days, the Fisher House Foundation stood ready to provide critical financial resources to Hope For The Warriors as Coast Guard families affected by the government shutdown found themselves in a gap. Hope For The Warriors performed the yeoman’s work in our joint relief efforts. Our intakes team reached a peak of fielding an average of 10 requests for assistance EVERY HOUR from Coast Guard families. In under three weeks, together, we directly impacted over 1,500 Coast Guard family members from 37 states in the form of gift cards for essentials, such as food and fuel.

The tempo accelerated as Hope For The Warriors continued to serve other military families facing their own time-sensitive needs; we receive new applications for services at an average rate of 65 a week. In 2018 alone, HOPE issued over 14,000 services to the post-9/11 warrior community.

The ability to see a need and act upon it quickly and decisively comes with being a part of the military community every day. 

Recent events shed light on the important role veterans service organizations play. Providing a hand up, not a hand out, to our country’s heroes isn’t only necessary when there is a national crisis, our country is at war or when a holiday triggers patriotism. VSOs are relevant today and every day our military families need us.

Hope For The Warriors stands ready to serve.