The military provides world-class medical care for injured service members. But sometimes gaps open up between the support the military can provide, and the support the injured and their families need.
The Yellow Ribbon Fund helps fill the gaps throughout the recovery process, from hospital to hometown.
Whether they’re recovering in the Washington, DC, area at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and Fort Belvoir Community Hospital, or back in their home communities, YRF provides real support for real heroes.
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VETERAN & FAMILY PROGRAMS
When a service member is injured, a family member or close friend leaves home to come help with the recovery, often for a year or longer. YRF’s FAMILY CAREGIVER PROGRAM has pioneered support for caregivers. We’re still one of the only service organizations to offer childcare and family-oriented activities, plus stress-relieving massages and spa visits, mutually supportive dinners out, and more — all at no charge.
We also provide free HOTEL ROOMS for visiting relatives desperate to be at the side of their injured loved ones.
We provide free RENTAL CARS and TAXI RIDES to give them some freedom and control at a time when they control very little.
As injured service members recover and become outpatients, we provide free, furnished APARTMENTS for families who otherwise would have to endure the added stress of separation or crowding into a hotel room.
Meanwhile, after a life-changing injury, our innovative MENTORING PROGRAM helps injured service members start planning for the future, with education and career guidance, networking, and job shadowing that opens doors.
Yellow Ribbon Fund volunteers and donors also make it possible for the injured and their families to enjoy sporting and cultural events, tours, outings, and get-togethers. Combined with those of the Family Caregiver Program, we organize MORE THAN 100 ACTIVITIES every year.
These events are more than just fun — they’re an important part of the healing process. YRF activities offer stress-reducing breaks from the grueling rigors of recovery, while reducing isolation, nurturing family relationships, facilitating mutual support, and building confidence.
After injured veterans return home, our AMBASSADOR PROGRAM connects them with volunteers all over the country. These “ambassadors” provide one-on-one support to help them build new lives and ensure no one falls through gaps in community safety nets. If needed, ambassadors can even refer veterans and their families to YRF-funded legal services.(Read the Ambassador Program brochure.)
Veterans facing more complex issues receive additional support from YRF’s WELLNESS PROGRAM. Our staff social worker help empower them to find short- and long-term solutions to financial, physical, emotional, legal, and family challenges. Financial problems and post-traumatic stress are the top two issues facing those in need.
We’re also building a supportive community of veterans in partnership with Blue Titan Fitness of Rockaway, NJ. The veteran athlete ambassadors on YRF’s TAKING UP FITNESS (TUF) TEAM have personally experienced the healing power of community fitness, and now inspire and mentor their fellow vets. (Visit the TUF Team website.)
In addition, our FAMILY CAREGIVER PROGRAM continues to provide support to the caregivers of injured veterans after they return home. Retreats and outings for mutual support, VA guidance, scholarships, and career mentoring help caregivers adapt to their new role.
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Veteran & Family Programs:
“YRF is in it for the long haul”
Each year, YRF organizes more than 100 events and outings for Walter Reed, Ft Belvoir, and the Ft Campbell area.
While some are designed specifically for family caregivers or their children, others, like the sampling of events highlighted here, are arranged for injured service members, either on their own…
…with their caregivers…
…or with their whole families.
YRF outings and social events are more than just fun and games.
They’re also mental health breaks from the grueling recovery process, both for outpatients…
…and inpatients who cannot get away.
They nurture relationships that must endure the stresses of that process.
They build confidence as injured service members learn how to get around, deal with stares, and other challenges.
And when our volunteers get involved, YRF events build bridges between civilians and the military community. That’s important in the long-term, since those who are severely injured will need the support of their fellow Americans long after they leave the military.
The young, combat-wounded veteran was under tremendous stress.
The wounds that ended his military career still caused him pain. He suffered from severe post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). He was in financial trouble. He saw no way out.
Last July, only a month after his discharge from the military, he came apart in a PTSD-driven outburst and threatened to kill himself. He was arrested, charged with wanton endangerment, and jailed on $500,000 bond – all this in a state far from home. He had no access to the VA or the proper medications for PTSD and pain management. His father was fighting cancer and his family had no money. His public defender didn’t understand the needs of veterans in his situation.
His desperate mother contacted every organization she could think of that might be able to help. The one that did: The Yellow Ribbon Fund’s Ambassador Program.
As YRF enters its tenth year of filling gaps in services, this young veteran is the new face of the injured service members who need and deserve our help going forward.
A decade earlier, YRF started out providing free hotel rooms, rental cars, and cab rides to the families who rushed to Walter Reed to be with injured loved ones fresh from the battlefield. Because the severe injuries of today’s wars often require years of outpatient recovery, YRF’s services soon expanded to support injured troops and their families during that time, too. Eventually, the injured vets returned to their hometowns to build new lives. But without their battle buddies, many found themselves with no support network. To fill that gap, YRF launched the Ambassador Program in 2011.
Program director Amanda Basek began with the list of thousands of injured veterans and family caregivers who’d been served by YRF and were now back home. One by one, she called them all. Some were doing fine, but some were not. The brother of one struggling veteran told Amanda, “It’s like a prayer was answered for me the day I received the phone call from you.”
For those who needed it, Amanda could offer hands-on help because she was recruiting a nationwide network of volunteer “ambassadors”.
“They assist with job hunts, college applications, VA paperwork, and referrals to free legal or social services,” she explains. “Sometimes they simply serve as a listening ear and watch for signs of depression.” Recently, veteran athletes, many of them combat-injured, began joining the volunteer network as members of the TUF Team.
The word on YRF is getting around. Increasingly, Amanda is hearing from people who are new to YRF – like the mother whose son was in jail. Amanda connected her with YRF ambassadors Dave and Rebecca Coatsworth.
They quickly got to work, with backup from Amanda and social worker Nicole Treiber, YRF’s Wellness Program director. Dave took the lead, working with the veteran’s mom, his public defender, the VA admissions office, and the jail’s medical department to build his support network. For months, Dave and Rebecca churned out emails and phone calls on the young veteran’s behalf. When he was finally released from jail, Dave was instrumental in securing permission for him to return to his home state to be near his mom for support. Dave also helped him find housing.
Among the brave Americans who served in Afghanistan and Iraq, many will be recovering for years to come. Nearly 20 percent suffer from major depression, anxiety, or PTSD. A quarter million are dealing with a traumatic brain injury. Fifty thousand were physically wounded. Looking ahead to our next ten years and beyond, the Yellow Ribbon Fund is proud to continue filling the gaps, wherever they may be.