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Our CEO Shares Her Why


May 1st launched Military Appreciation Month, but was also the start of Shelly Kirkland’s 8th year at the helm of Boot Campaign.To honor both her leadership as CEO and our focus for the month, we asked her to share more of her why and her heart for what we do. 

All month long we’ve been asking those who have participated in our Military Appreciation Month efforts “What’s your why?”, so we’d love to hear yours! 

Fifteen years ago, I met several Veterans who changed the course of my career, and frankly, my life. Those who were on the front lines, protecting my freedoms, in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and other key locations around the world. Some returned home with marked differences than how they left. Some scarred physically; some scarred morally; some scarred mentally. All were certainly changed. And my encounters with them, in turn, changed me. 

These folks were quite literally putting their life on the line for me. And doing it selflessly. Courageously. Without question. It was humbling. It made me proud, and it made me more committed than ever to make sure that when Veterans come back, we give back in a meaningful way — a way that changes their life for the better and for the long-term. I’m inspired every day by those who wear or have worn the American flag to protect and defend our freedoms as part of the United States Armed Forces. They’re my why.

An important day happens during Military Appreciation Month: Memorial Day. What does this day mean to you and how can we encourage Americans to honor it not just during May?

May, Military Appreciation Month, is 31 days, with the final Monday of the month being Memorial Day; it is one nationally marked day out of 365 to honor those who raised their right hand to protect the Constitution, were willing to lay down their life and did. It is one day to remember the service and sacrifice of those who gave the highest, most precious gift of all to protect our freedom. 

It’s also one nationally marked day to remember the families of the fallen, those who live their lives each and every day longing for one more moment, one more minute, one more hour, one more day with their mother, father, husband, wife, sister, brother, son or daughter. 

For each of them – those who courageously died, those who live under the weight of a load that may never lighten, and those who are carrying our flag forever forward – it is our duty to show our gratitude each and every day, not just on one, or 31, out of 365. It is our duty to unite together under the stars and stripes and show all of those who have serve(d) and sacrifice(d) that they are not alone because there are many Americans standing at the ready to support them.

It’s our charge at Boot Campaign to make every day a day of remembrance, a day of honor, a day of reflection and most importantly a day of gratitude by showing Veterans and military families what so many need to see, hear and feel: Your service matters, your sacrifice matters and most importantly, YOU MATTER, and won’t be forgotten, not now, not ever.    

A lot has changed in the last 7 years at Boot Campaign. What do you look forward to and how do you hope to see our mission grow over the next 7 years? 

In my seven years as CEO and in our 14th year of existence as an organization, a lot has changed, but so much has also stayed the same. We have stayed true to our roots of standing up and showing up for those who serve(d) by lacing up a pair of combat boots as an expression of gratitude and uniting other Americans to do the same. 

I see our mission and our message only becoming more critical as more Veterans separate from service, needing the holistic and customized care we provide. Recent research shows that it takes an average of 11 years following a traumatic event for someone to seek help. And we see that trend in the veterans we serve, as well. In the next seven years, I see Boot Campaign continuing to remain dedicated to adapting to the most pressing needs of the Veteran and military community by individually treating invisible wounds of war and alleviating stress during trying times. Our vision is a nation where personalized and precision care is given to everyone who has laced up their boots to protect our freedoms.