The years after military service can be fraught, as many veterans are dealing with both physical and invisible wounds of war.
A new campaign hopes to draw attention both to the struggles those who have served in the military face and the ways veterans have overcome adversity.
The “50-50-50” campaign -- kicking off on Veterans Day 2021 -- celebrates the 50th anniversary of Help Heal Veterans (Heal Vets) by bringing together 50 stories from the past 50 years -- one from each state.
Heal Vets is a nonprofit organization that has donated tens of millions therapeutic arts-and-crafts kits to veterans and active-duty military.
These craft kits help injured and recuperating veterans improve fine motor skills and cognitive functioning, manage stress and substance abuse, and cope with symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury, all while also improving their sense of self-esteem and overall physical and mental health.
Among the 50 stories featured in the campaign are:
• New Jersey: In 1998, Heal Vets partnered with the Hobby Industry Association (HIA) and the Association of Crafts & Creative Industries.
During this time, Heal Vets enrolled sixteen Craft Care Specialists in HIA’s Certified Craft & Hobby Teacher program, ultimately ensuring that thousands of veterans would have the opportunity for quality involvement in the creative arts.
• Texas: Since 2018, Southwest Airlines and Arise Veteran Foundation have donated more than 300,000 pounds of leather upcycled from airplane seat covers to Heal Vets, helping to make well over 100,000 craft kits.
• California: In 2018, Mark Kaleimamahu, 62, moved into the Alpha Lofts, a housing facility in San Diego for veterans who have experienced homelessness.
A little more than a year later, COVID-19 cases began sweeping the country, creating another long-term stressful situation.
To cope with stress and anxiety during the pandemic, the Marine Corps veteran turned to what some may consider an unlikely source of comfort: crafting kits.
• Washington D.C.: In July of 2020, Heal Vets launched a pilot program in partnership with the Department of Veterans Affairs Voluntary Service that provided “Quarantine Kits” to veterans diagnosed with COVID-19 who were recovering in isolation at home.
Each kit included VA educational materials that identified local resources and provided tools to help deal with anxiety and stress in addition to leisure reading materials and a variety of craft kits.
Heal Vets has shipped more than 690,000 free craft kits since the beginning of the pandemic.
To learn more about Heal Vets and the organization’s efforts, and to find out how you can help, visit HealVets.org.
To read more stories from the “50-50-50” campaign that show the power of craft-related therapy, visit HealVets50.org.
If you would like to help support Help Heal Veterans visit https://support.healvets.org.
“We’ve supported generations of veterans, from the remaining World War II and Korean War vets who are still with us to the Vietnam generation who suffered in silence for many years.
As our latest generation of warfighters returns home from 20 years of conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan, supporting their healing is a priority,” says Joe McClain, USN (retired) CEO, Help Heal Veterans. (StatePoint)