Us4Warriors: Veterans Helping Warriors Live Stronger Lives
Veterans Helping Warriors Live Stronger Lives
Photos by Us4Warriors
The Us for Warriors Foundation, also known as Us4Warriors, is a San Diego-based non-profit corporation with a clear and impactful mission: do everything possible to support the troops, veterans and their families. Since the organization’s founding, its dedicated team has created numerous public programs and events that work to make the transition from military to civilian life easier. Us4Warriors gets veterans back on their feet and into a friendly network of like-minded individuals. Reintegration into society following military training can be difficult, but organizations like Us4Warriors remind the military community they aren’t alone in their struggle to return to normalcy following deployment. With a commitment to being veteran-run, successful outreach within multiple communities and individual stories of success and empowerment, Us4Warriors offers a unique understanding of “the whole veteran.”
Us4Warriors was born from the vision of three Navy submarine veterans: American Legion Post Commander
of Chula Vista Tony Stewart, clinical research specialist Ken Greenawald and New York Times best-selling author William Craig Reed. Following the group’s collaboration in an effort to fill the gaps of veteran care, Stewart assembled another team of veterans including Christopher Yates, Manny Ottero, Charles Camarato and Howard Darter. So began the Us4Warriors organization.
The team’s first year was a success as they quickly established two of their largest projects: the Veteran Volunteer Force—consisting of veterans that Stewart has volunteered with in his many years of community service—and the Liberty Pass Project. Stewart, Us4Warrior’s current CEO, notes, “The second program, the Liberty Pass Project, really put us on the map that first year. Just like how the military uses a liberty pass to give active duty military breaks from the rigors of their duties, our Liberty Pass Project is designed to enrich the lives of military members, veterans and their families through arts, entertainment, sports and recreation by giving back through events, projects, training and special activities.”
The Liberty Pass Project initially began with the arts—thanks to William Craig Reed’s acclaim in the publishing world—and gave way to Us4Warriors’s first event, The Veterans Military Book Fair. 4,000 people arrived at the USS Midway Museum that day, including many notables in the publishing and media realm, and donated $55,000 of autographed books to the organization. The Liberty Pass Project, while still inspiring veteran authors through conferences and workshops, also extends to those with other artistic and recreational passions, including providing funding for flights and training programs for many hopeful paralympians.
Us4Warriors's immediate success and heroism was not without difficulty. Like any non-profit, finding funding can
be a challenge, especially given Us4Warriors’s innovative and untested ideas. The organization’s structure is unique because the board members are all volunteers, so their only overhead costs are what is needed to sustain the organization. Stewart expresses that while some frustration was unavoidable, he knew persistence was key to further his platforms. He says, “Anything in life worth doing is not only worth taking your time and doing it well, but it is imperative to commit to your team, your cause and yourself to see it through. Funding is always the leash that holds the lion at bay. But we roar anyway.”
And the group’s mission—helping veterans fend for themselves—is important given the little-known difficulty of transitioning from military to civilian life. When asked about bridging this gap, Stewart replies, “The difficult truth [with] the transition of military to civilian life is that a service member’s post-service experience is not part of the training you learn in the service.” Because of the organization’s full-veteran staff, they understand these obstacles better than anyone and allocate their resources accordingly. In many cases, veterans and their families receive personal attention and support from members of the organization. This holistic approach is the foundation of the organization’s Life Armor Alliance Program and of Us4Warriors as a whole. Stewart describes the program as follows: “When there is a need, we collaborate to form an alliance to serve as a piece of ‘life armor’ that can help that veteran or family member get back on their feet or get the help they need.”
In addition to crucial services offered to various veteran communities, Us4Warriors boasts a track record of hosting fun events with great turnouts to boost veteran-owned businesses. The organization’s VOB MOB event, for example, finds veteran- owned hospitality venues and invites several veteran-owned businesses to share their ideas with each other flash mob-style. Stewart adds, “It’s like a happy hour where we bring the fun, prizes and activities along with advertising and marketing the event to make it a success. We have doubled the clientele at each one we have done thus far. And along the way, we have learned about more veteran-owned businesses that we can help.”
Using and supporting veteran-owned businesses is an important part of Us4Warriors’s ideals; they believe in bolstering the military and veteran community through actions, not just donations. Illustrates Stewart, “Connecting with people that we meet when we host a food drop, visit a hospital or bring wheelchairs is an incredible feeling as we give them a [proverbial] fish for a day. But when we host a leadership seminar, help that new veteran-owned business or have a veteran succeed to the point where they are ready to help us help others... [T]hat is an amazing experience, to feel that we have helped them fish for themselves.”
If you’re interested in witnessing one of Us4Warriors’s events firsthand, join FINE Magazine for our 2nd Annual Art, Rhythm and Wine Festival; a portion of the proceeds will help support Us4Warriors and local veterans. Active duty military personnel, veterans and family members can learn more about the Veteran Volunteer Force, the organization’s backbone that maintains continual efforts to help the community, at VVForce.org. If you’re a believer in helping those who fight for and serve our nation, visit Usforwarriors.org and learn how you can assist Us4Warriors in helping our troops, veterans and the families of veterans to overcome hardships and find their unique voices within society.
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