VA Rocky Mountain Network
Behind Friendly Lines: 12 Days of Vet-mas
12 Days of Vet-mas
Gifts, websites, resources, and more
Most of us know the carol: “On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…”
It’s a celebratory song about the birth of Jesus and describes the time from Christ’s birth to the arrival of the Maggi.
This Christmas season, allow me a little creative license to make a slight modification and present to you the “12 Days of Vet-mas.”
This is not some silly carol with clever lyrics. But it offers superb resources – 12 of them – for our veteran community. Some of the items on this list could make great gifts, some are impactful organizations, and some are about people who make a difference in the lives of our veterans. All of them are on my list for nice (not naughty) veterans, and sharing this information does not constitute an endorsement by the VA.
1. Each week, VA emails its #VetResources newsletter to nearly 12 million veterans across the country. It’s jam-packed with free resources like concert tickets, farming assistance, workout programs, national park passes and veteran discounts—plus access to local events for Veterans and their families.
John Boerstler, VA's Chief Veterans Experience Officer, laid it out straight with me last month when he said, "The easiest way to learn about all the resources available to Veterans and their families is to sign up at www.va.gov/VetResources/, chat online with our experts at ask.VA.gov, or call 1-800-MyVA411 if you need help navigating VA benefits and care 24/7.
2. Alpha Coffee (tagline: “Fuel for Warriors”) is a veteran and woman co-owned business with a mission to provide premium, great tasting coffee delivered to you, while also giving back. They’ve donated more than 20,000 bags of coffee to deployed troops and given over $100,000 to charities. They offer discounts for subscriptions to veterans and first responders.
I met Carl and Lori Churchill while working for a nonprofit almost 10 years ago. Carl shared with me recently, “Lori and I are proud of our coffee, our team, and our mission to give back. What started in our basement 12 years ago, has grown because of our commitment to the Warrior ethos and a focus on providing excellent coffee and service.”
Full disclosure – I’m giving Alpha Coffee to my leadership team in the VA. Consider checking them out at www.alpha.coffee.
3. Adaptive Adventures is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that provides and establishes adaptive outdoor sports programs to serve underserved communities across the country. Their mission is to provide progressive outdoor sports opportunities to improve the quality of life for children, adults, and veterans with physical disabilities and their families. Their vision is to ensure that all individuals with physical disabilities have access to participation in outdoor sports regardless of their location, equipment needs, or economic status. Visit their website at www.adaptiveadventures.org.
Chelsea Elder, executive director, recently told me, "We are proud to partner with VA Medical Centers across the country with the goal of keeping our veterans active, healthy and engaged. We offer a collaborative approach utilizing adaptive sports as the catalyst for whole life health."
4. Mt. Carmel Veterans Service Center provides transition and employment assistance, health and wellness services, supportive services, connection to community resources, and a safe event space for veterans, military, and their families. For more information – or to donate to their worthy nonprofit – visit www.veteranscenter.org/.
I’ve known executive director Bob McLaughlin for nearly a decade. He recently wrote to me, “Veterans deserve our support. Service brings unique challenges, but many veterans transition from the military with a continued passion for service to others. Veterans are inspired to become active in their local communities, and they bring so much diversity and richness to everyday interactions.”
5. Since 1972 United Veterans Coalition of Colorado (UVC) has been a respected legislative voice locally and federally, advocating legislation that directly enhances quality of life for active military, veterans and their families. UVC helps expand the reach and effectiveness of its members through tools on its website: www.uvcoc.org.
UVC president, Rear Admiral Dick Young (U.S. Navy, Retired), proudly shared with me, “We are the leading voice for Colorado’s 411,000 veterans. We work hard with our 70 member-organizations to keep veterans informed and active, through our monthly UVC newsletters, website information, and monthly meetings. I am very proud of the many dedicated veterans and supporters who work as part of the UVC to accomplish our important goals for Colorado veterans.”
6. RallyPoint is the premier digital platform for the for the military community to come together and discuss military topics both socially and professionally. RallyPoint’s members include military service members, veterans, family members, caregivers, and survivors. Members build peer to peer relationships across branches, generations, and conflicts forged by the common bond of service.
I’ve known Ryan Callahan, vice president of marketing, for a few years and he told me last week, "RallyPoint is a trusted platform that will enable you to connect with people and programs that can help. It is important to stay connected to your battle buddies, especially during the holiday season.”
Sign up for free and join over 2 million members of the military community – and me – at www.rallypoint.com.
7. Vet Tix (Veteran Tickets Foundation) is a national nonprofit that has distributed over 14 million event tickets. Here in Colorado, they provided donated event tickets to all types of events: Denver Broncos, Nutcracker performances, distillery tour tasting, and the immersive Van Gogh Exhibit.
These tickets help reduce stress, strengthen family bonds, build life-long memories, and encourage veterans to stay engaged with their local communities and American life.
My friend Steve Weintraub is their chief strategy officer and recently told me, “Although Vet Tix operates nationwide, we have distributed in excess of 100,000 tickets to over 860 events to the more than 51,000 Vet Tix members throughout Colorado.”
I encourage any veteran to visit www.Vettix.org and sign up for this great offer.
8. Military Connect. This new platform is designed as a lifetime benefit that provides access to a wide variety of benefits, services, deals, and discounts for our verified military and veteran community. Sign up by visiting www.MilitaryConnect.com or download the Military Connect App. All verified members assert their own identity and choose to participate in the benefits they would like to learn more about (travel, golf, deals, skiing, education, etc.).
Kevin Sullivan, entrepreneur and founder of Military Connect, recently shared with me, “This is a personal invitation for your readers to view a new Military Ecosystem. Their benefits will continue to grow, and participants will never be charged for a Military Connect membership.”
9. Pocket Square Heroes. Pocket Square Heroes are the world’s first award and patriotic inspired fashion accessory brand for veterans, patriots, military, and first responders. Visit www.pocketsquareheroes.com to see their creative designs and take your fashion to the next level. I regularly wear either the American Flag Pocket Square or the Iraq Campaign Medal Pocket Square when I want to look my best.
Chris Costa, Pocket Square Heroes founder, shared with me, “Our creative pocket squares for men and freedom scarves for women are must-have accessories for veterans.”
10. Winter Sports Clinic. About 400 profoundly disabled veterans from across the country come together in Snowmass to experience “Miracles on the Mountainside” as they are provided with training in adaptive Alpine and Nordic skiing, sled hockey, and several other adaptive activities. I volunteered to serve at this event for the first-time last year and it impacted me tremendously. World class instructors from around the country come together to help veterans achieve their maximum potential. Visit www.wintersportsclinic.org to learn more.
Teresa Parks serves as the director – and my boss for one week each year – and recently shared with me, “The Winter Sports Clinic is the largest rehabilitative event of its kind in the world, and I’m so appreciate of the hundreds of top-notch volunteers who take time out of their schedule each year to coach our veteran participants.”
11. Next Chapter is funded through Colorado SB129. This act requires the Colorado State Department of Human Services to establish a veteran suicide prevention pilot program to reduce the suicide rate and suicidal ideation among Veterans by providing no-cost, stigma-free, confidential, and effective behavioral health treatment for up to 700 veterans and their families in El Paso County. Visit www.nextchapterco.org for more information.
Damian McCabe, director, Behavioral Health-Military Affairs, University of Colorado Health System, shared with me, “The stigma of seeking help has taken too many of our veteran brothers and sisters. We are at a crossroads – a crucial moment in El Paso County – where we can make a difference.”
12. Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) Mountain States Chapter is one of the most impactful Veterans Service Organizations (VSO) here in Colorado. PVA specializes in assisting veterans with spinal cord injuries (SCI) as well as neurological disorders like MS and ALS. They regularly visit VA Spinal Cord Injuries and Disorders (SCI/D) centers (the nearest SCI/D is at the Rocky Mountain Regional VA Medical Center in Aurora) to advocate for improvements, work with accessibility of government facilities, and team up with the VA to conduct the annual National Veterans Wheelchair Games.
Izzy Abbass, an Army veteran with MS, leads the PVA Mountain States Chapter, and shared with me, “I was diagnosed with MS in 2017 and wasn’t sure what to do. The former President of the local PVA chapter put his finger in my chest and said, ‘You need to get with PVA – they can help.’” Izzy did just that, and now he’s their local president. Visit https://www.mscpva.org/ to learn more.
Merry Christmas to all my readers and thanks for allowing me to walk alongside you behind friendly lines.