A lot of wheelchair van customers at Vantage Mobility happen to be veterans, so it’s no secret they’ve stolen a special part of our hearts. We’ve developed relationships, listened to their stories and supported them in any way we could. For the Fourth of July, we felt like it was only right to highlight some outstanding vets that serve as good role models and give them the praise and recognition they deserve.
But after talking to a Scottsdale-based veteran, Bob Grazes, we learned something we didn’t see coming. Sure, we should’ve known instinctively, but it wasn’t until we spoke with this vet that it really hit us: Why do we only honor vets on patriotic holidays? Why would a story about a veteran seem untimely or strange in say, September?
We chose to interview Bob Grazes because he served our country —a selfless, heroic act on its own— and because after 20 years of service in the army from 1976 to 1996, he’s still working to make others’ lives better today.
He is in his 15th year of being commander of the 22nd chapter of the Disabled American Veterans organization in Arizona. Bob Grazes does not confine his acts of kindness to a few days a year that are pre–marked as holidays on a calendar, and the veterans of this nation do not leave their families behind for a few days out of the year.
Veterans are among a special subset of people; As Grazes explains, “It takes people who want to step up and stand up for their country to ensure our neighbors the rights that they have.” And they do it for months, if not years, at a time.
So why would we honor our veterans only a few days a year? The answer is we shouldn’t.
Grazes works as commander by planning and executing various fundraisers in the state that provide financial assistance to local vets. He says the organization helps everywhere from paying for transportation to and from medical appointments,helping when vets lose their jobs, or when they’re at risk for losing their home and becoming homeless, and more.
The Chapter 22 DAV has raised upwards of $150,000 in the last 15 years, Grazes estimates. One of his proudest moments with the organization was when they gifted $500 to a vet who had lost his job and was close to losing his apartment.
“The $500 that we gave him is what stopped the dominos of his life from falling over,” Grazes says. “He’s been working for Intel ever since. He owns a home; his kids are in college. So, it makes you feel good when they come back and say thank you.”
Now you may be thinking – It’s not that I don’t appreciate our veterans, I just don’t know what I can do to help out. This is a perfectly reasonable response and also a very easy concern to address.
Helping veterans is simple. It’s simple because there are so many different ways to get involved. The first is to research local veteran organizations in your area and see if there are volunteer opportunities. For a resourceful list of veteran service organizations, many of which have state chapters, click here. If you have the capacity, donating to these organizations is another option that can have a positive impact on our vets.
The second option is to acknowledge veterans and show gratitude for their service. Operation Gratitude is an organization that sends thank-you letters and care packages to military members and veterans. The organization started in 2003 and has since sent more than 1,500,000 pieces of gratitude. Visit their website to see how you can send a letter and/or care package.
Finally, honor veterans by not taking your freedom and family for granted, and by being there for your neighbors.
“(My family and I) grew up with the sense of looking after our neighbors and our neighbors looked out after us,” Grazes says. “I wanted to do something for my country. I wanted to do something for my neighbors.”
The point is…
Veterans gave up time with their families so we could enjoy happy and safe lives; they are without a doubt some of our nation’s best role models, so mimic their behavior and be like a veteran by being there for your neighbors, too. And the next time you see a vet out and about, say thank you.