Last November, we honored our nation’s heroes by hosting a video and essay contest, where readers could nominate veterans, their family members and volunteers for their service to our communities. Three video submissions and four essays were selected as winners. Find inspiration from their stories* below, and perhaps some new ideas for your next volunteer role.
Video Winners - $1,000 each
A specialist in the 1st 158th Infantry Army of the Arizona Guard, Manuel served two tours (2007-2008 and 2010-2011). Since returning, he’s been an active volunteer, helping families and individuals, and inspiring his community as a cleaning and recycling program leader. You can follow Manuel’s lead and start a recycling program of your own, or contact your local VFW post to learn about opportunities as a volunteer.
He was an Eagle Scout and team captain of his football team. And like many of our service members returning from battle, he had difficulty transitioning to civilian life. But he discovered yoga and mindfulness. He never gave up. And he discovered a new way to serve, as both a teacher and a motivator. He also founded Mindful Memorial Day, and you can join him in honoring the fallen each year at Arlington National Cemetery.
As director of the National Center on Institutions and Alternatives Herbert J. Hoelter Vocational Training Center, Gary Antonio serves homeless veterans in the Baltimore area. His center guides participants through three vocational programs (automotive, CDL and construction), assisting them with certification and job placement. You can team up with Gary and help homeless vets find housing, find a job, and start making a positive impact on their communities.
Essay Winners - $750 each
For 20 years, she served her country. But she also served her family as a single mother of two girls. After retiring from the military, she became a mental health counselor helping individuals battling alcohol and drugs. She then transitioned to Veterans Affairs serving as a social worker for homeless veterans. Today, her non-profit organization offers free life development classes to underserved communities. Want to follow Patricia’s lead? You can help individuals suffering from substance abuse and learn more about the effects of PTSD.
The late Maj. Gen. Geral Sajer and his wife, Helen, have been on the frontlines of aiding veteran families. They founded the non-profit, PA Wounded Warriors in 2006. When their son Frank, then Lt. Col. Frank Sajer, came home from Iraq, Gen. Sajer and Helen looked at each other at Thanksgiving and said, "We need to do something for our wounded soldiers and their families." Last year, their all-volunteer organization provided $1.1 million in assistance to 1,400 families.
He was born in the south, and born to break barriers—standing up for what was right amidst racism, discrimination and segregation, and making history as a U.S. Marine. An original member of the Montford Point Marines, J.T. Inge entered service during the 1940s. And in the face of prejudice, became one of the first African-Americans permitted to defend our country in this branch of the military. If you’re inspired by J.T.’s legacy, you may be interested in learning more about National Association for Black Veterans and their advocacy at the federal, state and local levels.
Approximately 22 US Veterans commit suicide every single day. Through his organization, Twenty22Many, Patrick Seifert has been the voice of the growing veteran population suffering with depression. If you'd like to lend a hand and offer your skills, you can join Patrick in fulfilling his mission of ending veteran suicide by assisting our heroes with offering life-saving counseling and resources.
*Content is based on submission to the 25 Days of Honoring Heroes contest and has been edited for readability.