Walking with Service Legs

I have always been fascinated with leg tattoos. When I saw the word Selfless” on the calf of a fellow veteran, I had to inquire. What did it mean? Ronie, a contract employee at Project Sanctuary, then proudly showed me his other leg which read Service”.   Wow, this takes “walking the walk” to a whole new level!

Selfless Service– that’s what volunteering is all about and my brief exchange with Ronie hit this home for me when he explained that his service to veterans and their families at retreats with Project Sanctuary is just a natural extension of his duty when he served in the US Army. ProjectSanct_Sign2 This past weekend I was happy to serve others as a volunteer at a powerful retreat which helps military families reconnect. Project Sanctuary is a special organization with a spirited and dedicated staff and hundreds of volunteers.

I put on my Platoon Leader/Project Manager hat for this event and coordinated the attendance of nine coworkers who assisted over the six day retreat at the YMCA Snow Mountain in Granby, CO.   Most of us are part of a Denver Military Veterans Network group at work and are focusing our efforts on increasing awareness of veteran issues and being of service to others.  Selfless service without the leg tattoos.


My coworkers who volunteered at the retreat


The volunteer experience was positive and uplifting and provided us with greater insight and appreciate for the “invisible” wounds that many returning veterans suffer with PTS ( Post Traumatic Stress) and TBI ( Traumatic Brain Injury).


Witnessing the power of peer mentoring, counseling and plain old fun and games in the healing of strained relationships and broken family connections was most impressive.   A large majority of the staff and volunteers at Project Sanctuary are prior service/military members which reinforces Ronie’s idea of continued Selfless Service.  He and many others like him are Walking the Walk with Service Legs.

The need is great for the programs and benefits that Project Sanctuary provides and there are more than 1,800 families on the waiting list to attend a Retreat. In 2014, 19 retreats were held and 164 new families were served.  This year 21 retreats are scheduled at no cost to the veterans and their families.

So let’s step up and help support more military members and their families heal and reconnect with this innovative and powerful program.

To make a donation to Project Sanctuary click here.   LegTatoo_Freedom

The Power of the Poppy

I’ve known for a long time that the power of the poppy was strong and now, based on the events of the past 3 months, I feel that the significance and impact of the fragile, red flower is immense.

One hundred years ago today, 3 May 1915, the “In Flanders Fields” poem was inspired and is an enduring and powerful symbol of the sacrifices made on the battlefield.SmallPoppypillow

In the coming days, I will share with you the story of a former Poppy Queen who paid tribute to her veteran Father and now wishes to honor and remember another Veteran and Father who recently passed away, but not before he proudly watched his daughter be crowned the Poppy Queen of VFW Post 1.

Now I take up the torch and hold it high for all to see so that those who fought so valiantly are not forgotten.


In Flanders Fields 

by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, May 1915

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Thankfulness: A US Veteran’s Perspective

Thankfulness:  Awareness and appreciation of a benefit.   Expressive of gratitude.

This year I am thankful for the love and support of my family and friends. I am also very appreciative for the freedom we have in the United States and feel that it should never be taken for granted.

As a US Army veteran who served in the Gulf War in Saudi Arabia and Iraq, I have seen first hand countries and governments that limit the freedoms and rights of a large percent of their populations.  I am proud and grateful to be US citizen with certain unalienable rights:  Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.

I believe that we should be thankful for our active duty service men and women who are deployed in various conflicts around the world.  These brave Americans have volunteered to put their lives on the line to ensure that our country remains strong and free.  They are sacrificing their own personal freedoms and comforts so you don’t have to. When you thank a Veteran for their service please keep these thoughts in mind.

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Members of VFW Post 1 marching in the Veterans Day Parade in Denver. Nov 2013. Photo by Marla Keown.

This year I am thankful for a number of strong non-profit organizations that are tireless in their efforts to help veterans and their families in need.

This year the following organizations stand out as exemplary:

  1. Team Rubicon- Their mission is to unite the skills and experience of military veterans with first responders to rapidly deploy emergency response teams.   Many Colorado flood victims this year were assisted by this great team.  http://teamrubiconusa.org
  2.  VFW Post 1– The nation’s first and oldest Veterans of Foreign Wars Post has the youngest and most active membership.  This post in Denver, CO actively supports programs and partners who assist veterans and their families in the community.  www.vfwpost1.org
  3.  Fisher House Foundation– Best know for a network of comfort homes where military and veterans’ families can stay at no cost while a loved one is receiving treatment.  http://www.fisherhouse.org

US Navy Veteran, Dana Niemela, working with Team Rubicon to help Colorado flood victims. Sep. 2013