Veterans Making a Difference
By Eric Stoudt
Challenges Facing Veterans
We have all heard the stories. We have all seen the movies about the brave men and women who serve our country. Maybe a story from a relative that served in Iraq influenced you, or a movie like Saving Private Ryan. Real people lived through the wartime situations depicted by stories and movies like these. Our fellow Americans have fought to protect the freedoms of that make our country great. We might not know each person’s story or the details of the sacrifices they have made, but these heroes walk beside us every day. We pass them in the produce aisle or pump gas at the next nozzle over. We sit next to them at restaurants and wait in lines behind them. Sometimes, they sit on city sidewalks, with pain and hurt in their eyes and we walk right by. We will never get the opportunity to know all of them, but we could all make it a priority to get to know at least one. They fought for us and they served for people they would never even meet.
The statistics concerning US military veterans are nothing short of alarming. There is not space to quote the details here. Veterans are more likely than non-veterans to experience depression, develop addictions, suffer mental health issues, commit suicide and even go through a divorce. Their personal battles can often be a direct result of their experiences while enlisted. If not properly cared for, veterans are highly susceptible to dependency on prescription drugs, or worse, an addiction born from efforts made to self-medicate. There are so many extra challenges for our service men and women to overcome. Dealing with the hardships is burdensome for their families as well.
Veterans Making a Difference
Fighting against these bleak statistics is the mission of Doug and Liz Graybill. They are so passionate about it they named their organization Veterans Making A Difference. The Graybills along with a team of volunteers, offer hand ups and ongoing support to men and women who have served our country in the armed forces. Both Doug and Liz have the military experience necessary to understand, relate and effectively help those who are still battling the pains of war and dealing with the sacrifices military service had on their lives. Doug served in the Marine Corps during the Vietnam War. Liz served for 23-years in the Army, though five deployments to Bosnia, Saudi Arabia and Iraq. Their combination of experience has equipped them to understand the needs of veterans caught in a cycle of hardships.
Breaking the Cycle of Hardship
Doug and Liz pour their hearts into helping veterans overcome their struggles. For the last 10 years, they have taken in donations and given them away to veterans in need. Most of the people they have helped are men battling homelessness, but there are no limitations to who receives their support. Whether someone served for a day or for a lifetime in any military branch of the military, the Graybills are ready to help. They distribute everything from food to sleeping bags and while doing so they take the time to talk with those in need. Doug and Liz understand the pain and the feelings of those they support and offer to help in many ways. Quite often that means providing more than a meal and clean set of clothes, although, that is a great place to start.
Hope is what Doug and Liz love to distribute more than anything else. By offering kind words and prayers, they offer the hope that can inspire someone who is struggling. Sometimes a person’s greatest need is a reminder that people still care about them, or that their current situation is not permanent, or that help is available even when life is messy or that starting over is possible, or most importantly, that God loves them.
What They’ve Done
The Graybills are on a mission to help as many veterans as possible. In 2014, they turned their passion into a non-profit organization. Over a year ago, the Veteran Social Center opened in the lower level of the Hope Rescue Mission. Doug and Liz now have space to accommodate the storage of their donated supplies and the room to gather with those they support. The Veteran Social Center has the capability to host food pantry distributions and other weekly events. In October 2018 the center celebrated its first anniversary with a veteran’s lunch. Volunteers came in to serve food and the Veterans Making A Difference strategic partners of supported the event. The local radio station even performed a live broadcast from the center as a part of the celebration.
What the Future Holds & How You Can Help
The vision for the organization is that the first 10 years is just the beginning. Veterans Making A Difference is planning to continue taking their mission to the next levels with the help of volunteers and community support. Doug and Liz hope to provide veterans with even more support opportunities. To learn more about what lies ahead, discover opportunities to get involved, and find ways to support veterans in the Reading and Berks area, follow Veterans Making A Difference on Facebook or contact Liz Graybill directly at email@example.com or (484) 577-6898.