At the breakout session on starting your own blog at SpouseBUZZ Live in San Diego, we talked a lot about OPSEC and safety. One attendee suggested that we set our blogs to private, so that only invited friends and family can read. While I certainly understand the importance of staying a tad incognito in a world where creepy things can happen, I know for a fact that if my blog had been set to private, I never would've met some of the most cherished people in my life.
Nearly four years ago, I got an email from a retired Air Force fellow about a post I had up on my blog. That one email started a hearty exchange of ideas and cross-linking between our blogs. Mike Reed and I became best blog-friends. He always woke up at the crack of dawn, so he was always the first person in the US to read my blog posts from Germany. His was always the first comment of the day, and he was there to help me through the rough spots in my husband's deployment. I'd like to even think I helped him a bit, since both his Marine and Soldier sons were deployed as well.
Two years ago today, I lost my best blog friend when Mike Reed died suddenly of a heart attack. His last blog post was a link to me. His passing left a hole in my heart and my life that still hurts to this day.
His obituary suggested that memorial donations be made in his name to Homes For Our Troops. It is because of my friend's death that I know about this wonderful organization, which is why I want to share it with you today. It's Mike's legacy, in a sense.
Homes For Our Troops is another stroke of genius from a regular American who wanted to fill a need for our servicemembers. From their FAQ page:
John Gonsalves started the organization in 2004 after watching a news report of a severely injured service member who had returned from Iraq. He thought to himself "what now, what happens to this person now?". He searched for an organization that he assumed was already in place where he could donate his building expertise for a few weeks. When he found out that none existed, he quit his contractor job and started Homes for Our Troops.
The Homes For Our Troops webpage sums it up their mission quite nicely:
Homes for Our Troops is a non-profit, non-partisan 501 (c)(3) organization founded in 2004. This organization is strongly committed to helping those who have selflessly given to their country and have returned home with serious disabilities and injuries. We assist severely injured Servicemen and Women and their immediate families by raising donations of money, building materials and professional labor and coordinating the process of building a new home or adapting an existing home for handicapped accessibility.
*All services provided by Homes for Our Troops are at no cost to the veterans we serve.
You can even see some of the homes they've built and read the stories of the lives they've touched. You can watch the feature on the Luce family from the Glenn Beck program or the compilation of stories that's available on YouTube. Homes For Our Troops has even worked with Extreme Home Makeover on some of their projects. You can donate your services in construction, you can donate land (if you've got extra land lying around!), but mostly what they need is money to keep the construction going. Most of us have more bucks than tracts lying around, so if you've got a little extra, this is a great place to give. There's nothing like watching a video where a soldier who lost his arms proudly shows off his new toilet (how do you wipe your bottom without arms?) to make you realize just how much goes into helping these servicemembers live as close to normal as possible. Every year on the anniversary of Mike Reed's death, I contribute again to Homes For Our Troops. And I'm excited to see that this year they will be included on the Combined Federal Campaign list. It's such a worthy cause.