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Celebrated on the Tuesday following Thanksgiving (in the U.S.) and the widely recognized shopping events Black Friday and Cyber Monday, #GivingTuesday kicks off the charitable season.
Jarrod was living in a tent with his wife and four year old son when he was referred to Defenders of Freedom. I immediately put him in hotel and then assessed his situation to see how we could help him. He had previously been living with his Mom, who had been stealing from his disability income coming in every month. She also let his sister and her children move in which proved to be more than he could handle. Jarrod had been injured in Afghanistan and spent nearly 6 months in a hospital. He was sent home to Texas on a civilian plane, with no one at the airport to meet him, even though he was still active duty. He called his National Guard unit here and they told him to go home and wait for someone to call him. A week later, out of meds and in enormous pain, he called again and the Sergeant who answered the phone couldn’t believe someone from the Wounded Transition Unit at Ft. Hood had not picked him up and that no one had contacted him. They arrived around 11:00 p.m. later that night to pick him up, transporting him to Ft. Hood in the middle of the night. He was in excruciating pain. (Yes, I hear stuff like this all the time)
He was discharged with a 70% disability rating. He is 26 years old. He was lost, broken and feeling like a failure. Jarrod, as an Infantryman with the Texas National Guard, had been serving under the 10th Mountain in Afghanistan as a gunner on a Humvee. He loved his job and the men that he served with. He also told me that the only time he was really happy was when he was in the Army. He felt that he had purpose and direction, and that he belonged.
As we talked I noticed that his tooth was chipped as he would either cover his mouth or not smile. He constantly looked down and did not make eye contact with me. I could see that his confidence was low. He had no real direction and was limited on the kind of work that he could do because of his injuries. I asked him what he would do if he could do anything. He looked at me with a sheepish look and said he would love to be an engineer. I said “That is a pretty tough road” and he immediately shot back with “but I am really good in math and science”. I asked him what was holding him back, as he had not yet used his GI bill, so college was waiting for him. He looked at me with confusion and a bit of hope and said he didn’t know what steps to take. I gave him some direction and suggested his AW2 could probably help him more. I also suggested that he call an organization, RAW, who would fix his tooth at no cost to him. When he left my office, I noticed that he was standing taller, smiling and had a bit of hope. Jarrod subsequently took all his placement tests and started school in August! I am so proud of him and will be supportive of him through this journey. He had a couple of setbacks along the way; his wife left him, he has full custody of his son, he was robbed on the DART bus on his way home from school, and he is now juggling all that goes in to being a single parent. But he is hopeful and pushing forward as an Infantryman will do.
The continuing contributions that we receive are what made a difference for Jarrod and his son. We couldn’t do it without the support of so many. Thank you for your past support of our work. Jarrod’s story is unique, but certainly not uncommon for calls we receive on a continual basis. While many people tend to forget we are still at war, Defenders of Freedom has seen an increase in the number of request for assistance. I believe it is because we are seeing the fallout from downsizing the military and people finally stepping up to ask for help….because many are too proud to do so. They have been taught to adapt and overcome, and that is what they try to do, until they finally realize they need some help. It is very hard for most of them to ask. It’s one of the things I love about our Veterans. They are a proud bunch! I love being able to help them when they are down, give them hope, and then watch them soar.
To date we have helped with nearly $168,000.00 in direct support of 160 Veterans. Sadly, we have turned away over 45 Veterans for lack of funding. Will you consider making a yearend donation to Defenders of Freedom to help us continue to help Veterans? We don’t just pay bills for them, we give them hope, and where there is hope, despair is lessened. Please help us save lives. You can mail a check to Defenders of Freedom, 320 Highway 121, Suite 203, Coppell, TX 75019.
Wishing you a wonderful holiday season! Thank you!
Donna Cranston, Founder and CEO