Where did you serve and what did you do?
How are you #StillServing?
VFW-Warfighter Advance PTSD Benefit Committee
The members of the VFW-Warfighter Advance PTSD Benefit Committee pictured left to right are:
Willie E. Stokes, WI Post 7908 – Co-Chair
PSC Dewitt “Woody” Woodworth, WI Post 1530 – District 11 Commander
Jim Crigler, Department MN Post 1287 – Co-Chair & Board Chairman Warfighter Advance
Gerald “Jerry” Parchem, WI Post 987 – Member
Steven “Steve” Thomas, WI Post 5970 – Quartermaster
Christopher P. “Chris” Sepich, WI-Auxiliary – Secretary & Walmart Project Chair
They are flanked by Michele Rathke, WI Post 1638 – Wisconsin State Commander on the left and Gundel Metz, WI VFW Post 1318 – VFW National Council Representative on the right. Photo courtesy of Volkman Photography.
Back in 2019, after hearing the Voices of Service, a quartet of U S Army veterans who were performing on “America’s Got Talent”, Chris decided that we have got to get them to come perform in La Crosse. Chris then contacted Jim and Willie who then contacted the agency representing the Voices of Service. The Center for American Military Music Opportunities provided the new Co-Chairs with the procedure to request the VOS in having them come to La Crosse to put on a performance. One of the specific requirements was that monies raised from their performances must absolutely go to the treatment of active duty military and veterans suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
The decision was made to coordinate this action through the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the largest combat veteran’s organization. VFW Wisconsin Department Headquarters was contacted and the State Adjutant provided the then State Commander with the proposed benefit’s vision. After reviewing the objective of the benefit-plan, the decision was made that this effort would be undertaken as solely a District 11 project. This would be a first for the VFW to join forces with the Warfighter Advance Organization to host a benefit to raise money to help STOP our returning warfighters suffering with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) from committing suicide. All monies raised from the planned benefit would be split 50/50 between District 11, Department-WI and Warfighter Advance Organization (including all expenses) and in holding with the understanding of VOS that monies raised will be used strictly for PTSD programs. The rest of the committee was formed as COVID-19 surfaced and plans to proceed were temporarily put on hold in 2020. VOS events and activities had already been cancelled for 2019 and their schedule was moved up a year, our newly formed VFW-Warfighter Advance Committee was forced to move our plans for the benefit-performance to October of 2022, with a gifting of two locations where the benefit would be held; the Weber Center for the Performing Arts in La Crosse, Wisconsin and the Trygve A. Mathison Fine Arts Center at Holmen High School in Holmen, Wisconsin.
Not letting COVID-19 dampen their efforts, the Committee began contacting businesses, financial institutions, foundations, and others organizations to obtain sponsorship and contributions. Shortly after the committee’s efforts began, a member was contacted by the Walmart Corporate Office and was informed that the Walmart Corporation wanted to be part of this effort. The committee would now be allowed to contact twenty of their SuperCenters and Sam’s Club Stores within a specific radius of La Crosse. This effort was 95% successful with two SuperCenters outside of the radius joining into the grant program and the formed PTSD Benefit received $21,525 in Community Grant funds plus another $3,500 from other grant programs, now totaling $25,025 at the writing this story.
The Committee had together set a goal of $400,000 by year-end 2022 and are currently at 71% of that goal with sponsorships and donations totaling $255,260 plus the grants. The VFW-Warfighter Advance PTSD Benefit Committee is still accepting donations at this website: www.ptsdbenefit.org either on-line or by direct contributions being accepted by mail at the address cited on the website, payable to District 11, VFW-Warfighter Advance. The VFW-Warfighter Advance PTSD Benefit Committee wants to thank all the veteran organizations, i.e., American Legion, D A V, AmVets, VFW and other veterans for their support and contributions. The donations from you, your Post, and we do not want to forget our Auxiliaries, totaled $280, 285.25 that we have received as of December 1, 2022.
To attend a Warfighter Advance Program-Evolution, the ADVANCE 7-Day, go to our website, click-on the Warfighter Advance “logo” followed by clicking on the ATTEND box to complete the registration form. Warfighter Advance is now accepting applications for 2023. There is NO COST to attend as a participant, which includes lodging, all food, and the entire transportation cost to get there and return home.
These 6 Committee Members have now joined ranks with #STILLSERVING, all other identified comrades and their respective communities.
Voices #2: Photo courtesy of Gundel Metz.
Weber Center – Voices of Service (VOS) all US Army
Caleb Green, VA VFW Post 1503, Retired Master Sergeant VOS
Ron Henry, Retired Staff Sergeant VOS
Michele Rathke, WI Post 1638 – Wisconsin State Commander
Gundel Metz, WI VFW Post 1318 – VFW National Council Representative
Christal Rheams, Retired Sergeant Major VOS
Jason Hanna, VA VFW Post 1503, Retired Sergeant 1st Class VOS
Why do you do it?
We have too many of our comrades committing suicide each day.