Veteran’s Day – How you can help!

Today America celebrates Veteran’s Day so this post is dedicated to all of those that have  bravely served our country!

I’m including some links below to posts about Charity work I’ve done with a military focus & a post about some shirts you can buy to support military charities. Hopefully this will encourage you all to show some support to these wonderful companies that are striving to help our military members and their families.

Happy 4th of July! @TAPSOrg @Macys @GotYourSix
Event Recap – @Macys #ChandlerFashionSquare supports @GotYourSix & @TAPSorg
Featured! Miss Al-Leigh on TAPS News
Event Recap – Charity! TAPS at the Disney 1/2 Marathon
Veteran’s Day: Shirts to show your Support!

I’ve also included a little playlist of “inspired” songs for this Veteran’s Day – fair warning – some of these are TEAR JERKERS!
IMG_3902What do you think? What charities do you support? Any other songs I could’ve added to this list? Please let me know, thanks for reading!

 

 

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#Happy4thofJuly! @TAPSOrg @Macys @GotYourSix @ShopBreaMall – #StoryTime !

Hey everyone!! I know it’s been a hot minute…I think of you all often & how I can engage with you (Follow my Social Media @MissAl_Leigh for more active engagement!) on a more regular basis & my current game plan is…to not have as much of a game plan. I’m going to try to relax & see what comes naturally. My first thought is that means more Blogs/Vlogs that are just me talking to you, story time!

Today’s Story Time is something I also discussed last year, click here to read that post! I am proud to say that I was again invited to speak at Macy’s at the Brea Mall regarding a promotion they have with Got Your Six. Today is the last day of the promo so if you’re a Macy’s fan or want to support this group effort, make your way to a store ASAP, give $3 & get a 25% Discount Pass – 100% of the profits will go towards benefitting the groups I’m talking about today & more! I was specifically speaking on behalf of a non profit I’ve volunteered for – TAPS – Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors.

My purpose for going to Macy’s is not really to discuss the promotion or the Charities in great detail. That information is given to the employees & easily accessible online – if you’re interested, please click the links above! My purpose is to tell my story & put a face to a name so that when they’re trying to encourage Guests to spend the $3 they can use me as a talking point or a frame of reference in their mind like, “Hmm, if someone “like her” could benefit, maybe this Guest will have a connection as well”. I am not the typical “military charity beneficiary”, after what I’ve been through most people are surprised I still volunteer at all, but that’s the type of person I want to be. I don’t want my demons to stop me from being a source of learning, growth, & positivity.  I will admit, these presentations are extremely stressful, writing this post is hugely challenging, especially because of the fear that the co-star of my story or his family will see this. Unfortunately for him, I will no longer be silenced.

About 6 years ago (Wow! Time flies.) I met a guy & we fell head over heels. Sounds great except that, even with all the demons I’d danced with, I’d never seen anything like his dance card. He was/is a Veteran, a Reservist in the Marine Corps, and had semi-recently come back from a tour in Iraq where he was on the front, serving our country as a “Grunt”. He had seen and done things that I will never understand & I thank him for that. I quickly became invested in “the cause”, doing research & becoming well versed on PTSD/TBI, Veteran’s rights/causes, & volunteering.
A wonderful relationship quickly became sour and eventually dangerous due to a combination of being too young/immature, moving too fast, and his refusal to seek help for PTSD. There are, of course, many versions to this story, but I think that sentence sums it up best. I stayed for 2 years, through a cycle of abuse & apologies. The hilarious part – HE LEFT ME. It was the best thing that ever happened to me but I felt like I had died. I felt like HE had died. This was not just giving up a guy, this was my LIFE. We had lived together, we knew each other’s families, we were “engaged to be engaged”, we had PLANS. I knew in my head that being with someone with that much rage was only going to end badly for me, but my heart kept telling me, “Be strong, stand by him. He’s going to get help & everything will go back to normal”.
It was extremely difficult for me to move on, especially because I felt so passionate about Veteran’s causes but now had no outlet. I tried to continue volunteering but every face looked like his, every voice sounded like him, it was too much. By chance, I stumbled upon TAPS, a group for SURVIVORS. They focus on those left behind when someone in the military passes away. I appreciated that their outreach included even the most seemingly removed people, random classmates, civilian co workers, GIRLFRIENDS – not just immediate family & fellow Vets. Additionally, the death could happen in any way, car accident, cancer, etc, not just war-related, so I felt like I had some “room to talk” based on the deaths I had been exposed to in my family. I have enjoyed volunteering with them ever since as often as I can because I feel I can identify with their volunteers & the recipients of their cause.

That is roughly the story I shared at Macy’s last Thursday morning in the hopes that it would make people think. Hopefully it makes you think & encourages you to get involved in whatever causes you’re passionate about. On another note, if you’re at all curious, I HAVE moved on & have been dating an AMAZING guy for almost a year, our anniversary is July 9th! He was my friend through the whole above mentioned ordeal & I’m grateful that the dark road I once walked down led me to the place I’m at now.
Thank you for reading, please don’t hesitate to leave me a comment or write me an email about anything I’ve discussed here – don’t be shy, I certainly was not!

#EventRecap – @Macys #ChandlerFashionSquare supports @GotYourSix & @TAPSorg

How would you like the opportunity to donate to some really amazing Military Charities AND get 25% off this weekend at Macy’s!? Interested? Keep reading…

Right now Macy’s is partnering with a Military Charity called “Got Your Six“. I have spoken about this group in a previous post, but briefly, GY6 is a group that works with Military Non Profits (like TAPS) & the Media/Entertainment Industry to work towards bridging the military-civilian divide & portraying our military in a more positive, realistic manner. Their partnership with Macy’s will 100% support TAPS & other military groups through a promotion going on this week! If you donate $3, Macy’s will give you a 25% discount pass to use this weekend, May 13th-15th! 3 days of discounts for only $3 plus the satisfaction of helping a worthy cause!

I was honored to be given the opportunity to go to my local Macy’s & speak on behalf of TAPS – Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors. Again, this is a group I have blogged about & volunteered with before, but I will give a brief explanation. TAPS was founded about 20 years ago by a woman named Bonnie Carroll after her husband, Brigadier General Tom Carroll, was tragically killed in an aviation accident along with 7 other soldiers. She has since received the Presidential Medal of Freedom for her efforts with TAPS. What I love about TAPS is they provide support to anyone that knew the Military member that has passed away, no matter their connection with them or how they passed away. I appreciate that TAPS recognizes that grief hits all of us differently & it doesn’t matter how close you are to the person. Sometimes just knowing that someone you used to see on a daily basis is gone, can really shake you & you deserve to have your feelings heard & your heart healed. My “mission” at Macy’s was to connect with employees, tell them a bit about GY6, TAPS, & how I connected to the group. By giving them this information, we hoped that when the time came for them to encourage Guests to donate, they would remember me & my story, & know that people in their neighborhood care about this, so maybe their Guest does too.

Here’s a bit of my story, as I’m sure you can tell, this post is basically what I said at Macy’s.
I became involved with TAPS somewhat because of my romantic relationship with someone in the Military. Seeing his struggles with PTSD & re-integrating into civilian life made me want to become involved with an organization that could help him and those like him, so I started volunteering with the Wounded Warrior Project. I was more than willing to help him fight his demons, but the relationship eventually became dangerous. After our breakup I was filled with an intense rage & grief. It was like he had died, & in a way he has, because the man I loved is gone. The person that remains is a stranger filled with hate & disrespect. If you watched Vlog #2, just by chance, I discovered TAPS. It appealed to me because it was easy for me to identify with survivors not only because of this painful breakup, but because I have been through the grieving process with the loss of my dad when I was a child, & the more recent loss of both my grandparents on my mom’s side.
Volunteering with TAPS is extremely rewarding. After my Macy’s talk, a woman thanked me for being there & said, “People just don’t understand, especially people your age. My husband was in Vietnam & he still struggles with PTSD. At first you think it’s just part of their personality, just how they are…” & I said, “Then you realize, they’ve seen & done things that have made them this way.” “Yes”, she said, “You’re exactly right. I’m so sorry for everything you’ve been through, & I’m so sorry your ex, someone so young, will probably struggle the rest of his life.” My ex wouldn’t want her to feel sorry for him, but I think he’s missing the point. Someone out there, a complete stranger, wishes for him to have a full, beautiful life, void of hardships & ugliness. I wish the same thing for him & all of us, so it’s comforting to find similar values in people. In moments where I think darkness will win, I remember people like the woman I spoke to today, I will remember there are others like me that want to help. Not everyone lets the demons win. I want to be someone that lets light in, & volunteering with groups like the WWP, GY6, & TAPS, among others, allows me the chance to do just that.

I’m hoping this Event Recap will help spread the word of this wonderful opportunity. Even if you don’t/can’t donate, hopefully this information will encourage you become involved in these groups somehow, or any Volunteer work you find valuable!

I have included links throughout this post, but here’s the information again.
Please click on these links to get more information, Donate, or become a Volunteer!
Got Your 6
TAPS – Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors
Wounded Warrior Project
If you’d like to read posts where I mention GY6/TAPS/WWP, please click these links.
Veteran’s Day: Shirts to show your Support!
Vlog #2 – Melrose Ave Adventures Part 2
Event Recap – Charity! TAPS – Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors at the Disney 1/2 Marathon

Event Recap – Charity! TAPS – Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors at the Disney 1/2 Marathon

Hi everyone!
Some of you may recall I mentioned TAPS – Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors in Vlog #2 when Jeremiah & I went to Sevenly. For the sake of space/time, please watch Vlog #2 or go to the TAPS website, I linked both above, to read more about their mission. Long story short, they are a military charity that provides support to those left behind after a member of the military passes away. I was really interested in getting to know their program better, so I drove down to the Disneyland Resort to help out at their booth at the Disney Half Marathon. Below are a few pictures I took at the event!

Overall I had a wonderful experience volunteering with TAPS. I handed out race packets to the runners on Team TAPS, answered general questions, & helped out where I could. I learned a lot about the people behind TAPS, the survivors the program benefits, & the program itself. I appreciate that TAPS provides support no matter how the military member passed away, it doesn’t have to be battle related. It can be anything from car accidents to long term illness, etc. I also appreciate that TAPS reaches out to more than just immediate family. They support ANYONE who is suffering after experiencing a military loss, from unmarried partners to best friends to civilian coworkers to church friends, etc. That’s really important because for the most part, support goes toward immediate family, which obviously is not a bad thing, but there are more people to think about. I’m not talking about monetary support, I’m talking about emotional support. Death affects everyone differently & you never know who is able to handle these types of situations on their own or who might need more help. The person that sat next to a military member every Monday & Wednesday night for English 101 might be feeling their loss almost as intensely as the immediate family – & certainly not for the same reasons, but does that make their feelings less meaningful or make them any less deserving of help? I don’t think it does.

I truly feel inspired after this experience. I have previously volunteered with the Wounded Warrior Project & have met special people through those amazing events, but there’s a bit of disconnect because I’m not a veteran or really associated with the military other than through my volunteer work. With TAPS however, I got to meet survivors, a position I can identify with more easily. While not military related I’ve experienced the loss of members of my immediate family & for a brief time, I was part of a military family & lived with someone that was working through PTSD. I watched him struggle & I know how helpless you feel as a bystander. It’s hard to watch someone you love be plagued by demons brought on by something that’s a huge part of their identity, they can’t just shake it off, it’s part of who they are no matter how much pain it brings them. One of the families I spoke with this weekend lost their military member to suicide & it just broke my heart. A majority of the military members being remembered this weekend looked like they were around my age. It’s one thing to hear the statistics, but to be face to face with survivors that have lost someone I could’ve dated, been friends with, gone to college with, worked with etc…makes me cringe to think how much we all take for granted. These military members will never see a beautiful Southern California day, never volunteer for a cause they’re passionate about, never run, never see their families, never go to Disneyland, never go on vacation, & their survivors will never experience these things without a tinge of sadness for the person they’re missing. Yet all of those activities occurred this weekend for other people & they probably didn’t give them a second thought. It’s crazy to think that I could have met any of these people under completely different circumstances, yet we were brought together because of the tragedies in our lives which have shaped our lives & led us to this place. To me, that’s the mission of TAPS. Yes, bad things happen & we all experience loss, but we’re never truly alone, we just have to find people on a similar path.

With all of that being said, I am HIGHLY motivated to continue volunteering at future TAPS Events & even to join Team TAPS…as a runner! I know! Me, running!? If you know me at all, you’ll understand this event must have really been special if it’s motivating me to start running, haha! As soon as I get medically cleared to start working out again, I’m going to start the “Couch to 5K” Training Program & get my butt out there! Click here to Join Team TAPS if you’re looking for a team to join for an upcoming Race Event – maybe I’ll see you at a race! Thanks for reading 🙂