GRAND Magazine - September/October 2018 - 43

home
"After (Dale's) home celebration, we began to ask each other,
what makes Iraq veterans special? What about our uncles,
great-uncles, and grandfathers? How can we equalize the playing field so that veterans of all eras can receive the same level
of care? . . . [S]imply because we're disabled veterans, we're not
broken . . .we saw that life doesn't end and injury doesn't have to
define you," writes John Gallina in the book.
Their desire was to create a nonprofit organization providing
housing solutions for returning veterans, which would give other
veterans the strong support base that they had upon their return
home. This home base can be the start of receiving other types of
vital support. In 2008, following the market crash and loss of jobs,
they developed their plan for Purple Heart Homes.

Different wars, different
homecomings

Some of the homecomings from wars in our lifetime, as the book
points out, didn't have happy endings. That was certainly the case
for those returning from Vietnam, and to some extent Korea - both
wars of politics without the patriotic fervor of the World Wars.
Those servicemen are now aging and in need of home modifications and other services to live full lives.
"Until they feel accepted, they don't really come 'home,'" said John.
"They are different. They suppress. They want to be seen as normal
and blend in. They may physically return, but they don't emotionally
come home the same. We talk about 'moral injuries' today - when you
have witnessed something so barbaric that your brain can't handle it. It
makes you different. And you are injured again when the civilian world
pours salt in those wounds when they return home. They can be very
pessimistic about receiving help from us or anyone - even the VA."
"Starting Purple Heart Homes helped Dale and me heal," John
continues. "I was pessimistic at first about what we could accomplish, but when you see good people give something to a veteran
out of love and respect, it changes you. When I say 'I give my time
because I appreciate your service to our country,' it changes a veteran's life both physically and emotionally. That's huge."
43 GRAND

SEPTEMBER OCTOBER 2018

A call to action for civilians

Dale Beatty: The rest of the story

As the book, Wounded Homecoming: The Uphill Journey of
Wounded Veterans from Battlefield to Homefront, was coming
out, Dale Beatty passed away unexpectedly of a double pulmonary embolism. He is survived by his parents, his wife, and three
children.
John Gallina has committed to building on their joint legacy,
to create an organization that changes the culture for how veterans are embraced in our culture and ensure that all are in safe
and dignified housing.
Dale's own words express it best, "It's not just a simple mission
for one small veterans housing charity - it's also a display and
example of social responsibility. As soldiers we are encouraged to
live with the values of loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, integrity, and courage . . . yet, it's not just the military that embodies
values like these. Everyone is capable of these
. . . that in truth bind us together not only as
Americans, but as humans . . ."
Wounded Homecoming: The Uphill
Journey of Wounded Veterans from
Battlefield to Homefront can be purchased
here. All proceeds benefit Purple Heart
Homes.

As civilians, we can go beyond "thank you for your service." As the
book points out, less than 50% of veterans apply for the benefits
that they are due. This number is much lower for Vietnam veterans.
They suffer from low self-esteem and motivation and also experience
higher suicide rates. Those who aren't welcomed back to the community may distrust the programs and services designed for them.
We can volunteer for programs like Purple Heart Homes in our
communities to make sure veterans of every war have a real home and
can heal. John points out the need for collaboration among all veterans' service organizations - government and nonprofit - to maximize
the support veterans receive. Once veterans are home, they can benefit
from all a community has to offer - including jobs and the need for
transportation for disabled veterans. Jobs are critical - John calls veterans "strategists under stress" and says they are more than just fighters.
They've been trained to think under stressful circumstances.

John's favorite story

"We were working on a project for Mannie, an Afghanistan veteran
in Connecticut," said John. "More than 100 New York firefighters
came to frame the house. One was a Vietnam veteran who had
been coming all week. At the thank-you dinner he got up to speak
and broke down in tears: 'I've never felt like I was home. I've never
felt like anyone cared about veterans. For 40 years I've had this
anger and resentment toward America. I volunteered for service,
came home, and not only was I not welcomed, I felt unwelcome.
Seeing all of these volunteers and citizens come together to help
this young veteran has helped me let go of that anger.' That's why
we do this."

Lori Bitter provides strategic consulting, research and
development for companies seeking to engage with
mature consumers at The Business of Aging. Her book,
"The Grandparent Economy" is available here.


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GRAND Magazine - September/October 2018

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