August 1, 2010 was a life changing date for me. I stepped away from a full time job with a reliable salary and benefits and eagerly (maybe with a little crazy, or naiveté mixed in there) embraced the idea of writing blogs, which I had never done before, for a start-up organization called the Boot Campaign. I barely made a four digit salary the first two years but didn’t care because I loved what this organization was about! Those crazy Boot Girls also trusted me to write their bios, content for the web site, help with the 501c3 application and all sorts of things I had never done before! NINE years and many other “hats” later, my hair has changed lengths and colors multiple times, our youngest daughter who was in 5th grade at the time is about to graduate from college, our other two daughters are now married and I became a “Lolli” (grandma). I went from celebrating our 21st wedding anniversary just weeks after starting at Boot Campaign to staring at the cusp of our 30th this year. My husband Greg deserves a medal, or more appropriately a lifetime supply of Shiner beer for his patient support of this amazing, sometimes scary, often hard but always worthwhile and purposeful endeavor.
We believe in giving back. Our families are full of many who served, though neither of us did. Some of our family members were never the same when they came home. My uncle Bill for instance served from WWII through the start of Vietnam. His entire 30+ year career in the military was all in in combat. He could hardly function when he separated from service and passed away from complications of the physical toll multiple wars had on his body and mind. There were no services at that time to treat his desperate needs. These familial memories along with countless friends who have served over the decades are the fuel for staying the course and working this incredible mission. Most of us have the freedom to do what we want, say what we want, drive if we want (yes, there are countries still today that do not permit women to drive), are additional motivations for staying the course.
Amidst all the changes that have taken place in these nine years, there are two things that remain constant for me: the mission to tangibly appreciate, love and serve those who served who are now in need of funding for quality care when they return to civilian life and the countless people who have walked through the Boot Campaign doors. From veterans, active duty service members, program recipients, veteran ambassadors, Gold Star wives and families, employees, volunteers, supporters, board members, Boot Girls and the current staff, all have changed my life for the better in ways that are not quantifiable. I believe I am a better person today for all that have opened my eyes, made me laugh, helped me see things a different way, slapped me silly when I’ve erred and always locked arms to support a mission that continues to be critically relevant today. There is one element of this effort that remains fluid and ever changing. Our work at Boot Campaign is always to find the greatest needs and attempt to do our best to meet them. That’s why we switched in 2016 from providing emergency assistance to providing funding for a world-class health and wellness program that addresses the things most affecting service member’s long-term quality of life when they come home: addiction, insomnia, PTSD, TBI, headaches and more. I love that this organization is always looking for better ways to serve those who served.
Not going to lie, most of my “blonde” is really gray. Charity work is not for the faint of heart. The unknowns are frightening at times. It is hard work and requires (for me anyway) a deeply rooted faith in knowing that serving others is an outward expression of my gratitude to God for his love for us. And the same goes with our mission. Being part of Boot Campaign is an expression of gratitude for those who first fought to secure freedom for our great nation all the way to the present day with those who continue to defend her and our freedom every day.