It seems like every day someone is voting for something, so recently, I started to pay closer attention to what this meant.
It meant a lot.
The Aprons in Action contest is through The Home Depot Foundation, an organization dedicated to improving the homes and lives of U.S. military veterans and their families through volunteerism, grants and product donations. They select a monthly winner, and based on online votes, an organization wins an incredible $25,000. Then the winners go on to compete for first, second and third prizes-- winning up to $250,000. It all depends on daily votes from the public.
And in April, we had a local winner! Saratoga County Rural Preservation Company- VETHELP, is an organization based out of Ballston Spa, NY providing transitional housing for veterans and employment and training assistance. As the $25,000 monthly winner, VETHELP was able to provide additional living space in a transitional home for homeless, female veterans who are trying to rebuild healthy lives and regain their independence.
This month, I had the opportunity to meet a professional from Saratoga County VETHELP, and she was telling me about the female veterans and their struggles in seeking employment. We also talked about this blog, and the subject of hearing loss came up. It's a subject veterans know very well.
According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, about 60% of deployed military service men and women have noise induced hearing loss, tinnitus (ringing in the ear), and other hearing injuries. In fact, impairment of auditory activity and tinnitus are more likely to occur in Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans than post-traumatic stress.
I recently talked with a veteran, and he explained that while soldiers are given ear plugs to protect their hearing, in combat, they want to keep their senses working at full capacity. He went on to tell me that muffling sound can be a dangerous circumstance. Upon returning home, this young man lost 60% of his hearing in one ear, and 40% in the other.
My research also led me to an article about a retired army captain, Mark Brogan, who served in Iraq six years ago. He had been near a suicide bomber who detonated his weapon; as a result, the captain lost his right arm, suffered from brain injury, damaged his spinal cord, and returned home with great post-traumatic stress.
In an interview, he stated that of all his injuries, his hearing loss was the worst of his physical traumas. It impacted almost every activity in his life.
Recently, I happened to meet a woman through an online cochlear implant support group. The woman is not in the military. However, she has been hearing impaired since her teenage years, and only now- at 55 years old- is she considering treating her hearing with a cochlear implant.
The reason? After 40 years of significant hearing loss and straining to understand those around her, she's at the point where she doesn't feel she is able to work anymore unless she does something.
I get that.
I know from personal experience how depressing it can be feeling that a disability hinders job performance. I know how painful it is to avoid an opportunity because a circumstance beyond your control causes frustration and doubt. I know the strength it can take just to carry on with a challenge, let alone persevere with one.
Let's face it: Work is a big part of all our lives. "What do you do?" is one of the first questions a person asks a stranger. How we make a living is a defining factor in all of our identities, and employment- and our ability to support ourselves and our families- highly determines how we feel about ourselves.
So, based on all I've told you: I've certainly become emotionally invested in the Aprons for Actions contest. I want the women supported by VET HELP to not just carry on, but to rise far above the challenges they've been handed. We can help, but it's not going to be easy.
The big cities have a substantial lead, but I have faith in the power of social media. Share, share, share-- with your friends, your coworkers, your cousins. It takes 2 seconds to vote.
Log on to facebook and please vote for Saratoga VET HELP today, and every day. Then share on Facebook, on twitter, via email. Keep voting.
They deserve it.
|CLICK TO VOTE FOR SARATOGA VET HELP.|