The VRS Journey
June 14, 2017
The purpose of this blog is to document the activities of Veteran Resource Services, Inc. and to offer praise to Christ for His work in this effort. Yes, I, Rebecca Williamson, am a Christian and am one of the founders of VRS. I want to first tell my story. You will find the reason behind VRS written within these lines.
I was raised by a Christian mother and was never exposed as a child to alcohol, drug or substance abuse, violence, or even yelling and screaming. I strayed from my Christian beliefs and picked the wrong people and ultimately the wrong husband. I didn’t see the red flags. I didn’t recognize the violence that laid beneath the surface of my husband. Curtis, who has since passed away, was a Viet Nam army veteran. He served on the front lines in the heat of battle. He suffered tremendous emotional pain that stayed with him for his entire life. To his dying breath, Curtis suffered from PTSD, with screaming nightmares, extreme substance abuse, and alcoholism. On the surface, Curtis was a mild mannered man…one who was easily liked. But underneath that façade, lay demons that tortured him. As a result, our household was violent. Three sons were born and each, in his own way, suffered at the hands of their dad. When the abuse turned away from me and onto the children, I chose to leave. But, I’ve always felt a bit guilty that I could not do anything to help my husband.
The years have passed, Curtis is gone, but my sons still have repercussions from the problems that occurred during their formative years. I never knew there was help for me and for my kids. I didn’t understand the VA system nor did I seek its help.
Several years ago, I found myself engulfed in a project that involved active and retired military. (I am an educator and a strategist so this was a great fit for me). In this project, I got to know many who, like Curtis, suffer from the pain, both physical and mental, of war. In my opinion, PTSD and depression are as damaging as a physical injury. In fact, I would say that this silent enemy does more to destroy and maim our young people. Our country is not a violent country. We are not raising our children in an environment where bombs and gunfire are an everyday occurrence. We still think beheadings are horrible and totally inhuman. And, our young men and women, still in their formative years, are being placed in hostile environments where every moment is filled with danger. When I think of this situation, I cry. I hate war! I hate the evil that man brings upon the world. I hate the fact that Satan uses all of this to destroy us. The Bible says:
For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against Spiritual wickedness in high places. Ephesians 6:12
This demonic activity results in the deepening scars of our wounded. I heard a few months back that the Extremists against who we fight made the statement that they did not care if they killed our soldiers. Rather, they were intent on sending our children back wounded and unable to function. And, so far, they are doing just this! There, I fight back. I wanted to do something to help our heroes regain a life they have given up for us. Mark Stefan and Charles Swanepoel came along with me on this journey and even though events have intervened in their level of activity, they have remained faithful to the cause and able to contribute on a regular basis, as you will see through this writing.
Veteran Resource Services, Inc. has been in existence since 2008. Its initial concentration focused on serving women veterans. In 2015, Mark, Charles, and I took over the organization, broadening its range of services to include all veterans, especially disabled vets, and their family members. We ultimately want to help individuals find their “heart” job…the one thing that they can become passionate about and work at to create income and opportunities. In order to accomplish this goal, we believe that we must take a broad attack on the issues that our veterans face. So, what are the issues?
PTSD & Depression
I list these issues first because I firmly believe that anyone who has served in combat has a certain amount of PTSD and/or depression. How could you NOT have these? How can you go day after day, not knowing where the next bullet or bomb may land? I think this is a perfectly NORMAL reaction to the circumstances. Each person must deal with these issues and again, since it is so personal, the ability to overcome these problems lies within the veteran. Sometimes, as in my husband’s case, you need a hand up….a bit of help to get back to a semi-normal life. VRS offers a form of counseling that has been very effective in helping overcome these problems and it does NOT involve the use of drugs. You see, the VA (God bless them) tends to push drugs on the veteran. “Oh, you have depression. Take this pill and you’ll feel better.” Great! Now, let’s look at the Pharmaceutical industry (God bless them too). Every chemical that we put into our bodies is unnatural. Pay attention to the TV ads….”take this for depression. However, you may have suicidal tendencies. Your blood pressure may go out the roof. Your memory may be affected. For that matter, you may go blind.” All very appetizing outcomes, right? You take the pill and now you need something else to counteract the issues created by the other pill. Personally, I call this “job security.” The more pills you push, the more you need. VRS, however, is focusing on getting veterans OFF prescriptions and self-medication. Is it easy? No! Let’s not fool ourselves. But, it can be done and we will walk with you through the journey, including the stops and the backtracking that may occur.
Many of our veterans are returning home with very devastating injuries….TBI, Amputations, Burns, etc. And, each injury adds to the PTSD and depression. The more severe the injury, the more assistance is need to get the veteran functional again. Thankfully, there are many organizations that will treat the injury. Now, how can we help? VRS is creating jobs that can be performed from home. If the person can interact with a phone and a computer, he/she can be employed. This may not be the “heart job” you always dreamed of, but it can adapt and help you help others, giving a sense of purpose and a goal for the future. Think about it…isn’t this better than just sitting or lying around, dwelling on the bad? Let’s work together to bring focus and joy back into our lives!
If you live in the US, you already know there are issues with our educational programming. For whatever reason, Johnny still can’t read. He can’t complete math functions with accuracy. He doesn’t know any history or basic geography. He may not be able to write a comprehensive paragraph and may not be able to speak in public with a certain level of confidence. So, VRS is preparing a transitional education program that allows adults to focus on their educational weaknesses in a way that is constructive and fun! By increasing knowledge and performance, the individual will prepare for a vocation or a college program, both leading to their “heart job.” Confidence in themselves and the ability to compete in today’s market will strengthen the veteran in all areas. We offer online programs in GED and High School diploma so even someone who did not finish school can do so now. We also offer in-person classes at our locations so there is no excuse NOT to better yourself!
Life skills training is an important part of VRS and its role in the transition of veterans back to the civilian life. Life skills includes but is not limited to topics such as financial management, parenting, basic computer skills, art, and any other topic that is deemed valuable and is supported by our clients. While we consider programming, we are also seeking people who can teach those topics.
VRS also offers college placement. In today’s world there are many universities and colleges offering a wide variety of programs, both on campus and online. So, the problem becomes deciding which school and which program leads to the right career? VRS will conduct an educational assessment paired with vocational/career counseling. Some folks will want a career that involves college. We will find the school and find the funding to help individuals get moving toward their goal. Others may want vocational training. VRS offers unique trainings in farming, ranching, advanced security, and more. If the veteran wants our programming, then we will work with them to get trained and placed in jobs or entrepreneurial situations. Further, VRS will help to identify vocational schools and programs that are appropriate for the individual.
VRS plans to hire veterans in a multitude of positions. As we grow, so do our employment needs. Veterans and their family members will be given preference for all positions within our organization. Many of our positions can be worked from home so they are appropriate for the individual who is home bound for whatever reason. Again, if you can interact with a phone and a computer, we can find work for you within or outside VRS. Further, we plan to set up a method by which we can assist our veterans in their job searches. We will support this effort with training programs that will be discussed further within the blog.
Obviously, shelter is one of the basic necessities of life and can sometimes be lost due to unemployment, lack of deposit money, and sometimes because of the stress related to PTSD and depression. VRS is partnering with another nonprofit Omega Ranch. This group is busy planning and building a community for veterans and their families. This housing can be temporal or can be long term. The housing, located outside New Smyrna Beach FL, will also potentially offer jobs within the community. More information will come on this at a later date.
VRS has also partnered with New Seasons Outreach, a nonprofit focused on providing a group housing situation that can offer a temporary solution to homeless veterans. New Seasons has opened its first home in Victorville CA where up to 10 ladies can live. They will have access to all the programming offered by VRS and can potentially work from home. New Seasons plans to open a second home in the near future for men. As we get stronger in our support, VRS and New Seasons will continue to expand this effort throughout the US.
Okay, I’ve written out for the day!
Blog Rules: You are welcome to submit your additions, questions, or concerns to me at firstname.lastname@example.org to be included in this blog. However, certain decorum should be observed when writing
1. No profanity allowed. If you want to emphasize a point, then get out the dictionary or thesaurus and find a word that elicits the desired emotion in your reader. Even though profanity has become the new language of our country, there are still some of us who just don’t like to hear or read it. Profanity will be blotted out before publication.
2. Don’t worry about being judged on grammar or spelling. I would suggest that you write just like you speak (without the profanity)… Have a conversation with us. If there is something major that needs correction, then we will do it and place that correction in parentheses ().
3. Write your story. I would love to hear from veterans and their family members about the journey and how we can help you…how we can help each other! Again, submit all posts to email@example.com.
Blessings for the day! Rebecca
Building the Sanford Office - Watch these videos to see the process
JULY 4, 2017
Happy 4th of July! This is a special day for Americans as we celebrate centuries of freedom. As we consider these freedoms, let's never forget to honor our heroes who have sacrificed through military service! May each of you be richly blessed!
Update on the Office: This has been a very busy two weeks in the life of our first physical location: 2921 S Orlando Ave., Sanford FL. This office space has been graciously donated to VRS by Stan Smith from Omega Ranch. Stan is partnering with us and is busy planning the first Veterans Village (name to be determined later). The office is located in a strip mall and provides approximately 2000 sq ft where we can provide services for veterans and their family members. We are planning to offer the following: filing for eBenefits; transitional education; mental health restoration; career planning; college placement; job placement; and life skills training. Omega Ranch will provide affordable housing for veterans, creating a safe environment with camaraderie and in-house services (provided by VRS).
The office space is in need of updating and some repair so I've been busy painting, mopping, and doing anything else to make the environment pleasant. Josh, my son, assisted these activities and helped tremendously! We have received many donations of office furniture that have enabled us to set up for at least 7 program participants. We need additional office chairs to increase that number to 10. Below are some photos and video links to show the before and current state of affairs. I will be taping during the remainder of the journey to our launch date of August 5, 2017.
Official fundraising began today. We are using a crowd funding platform that will allow us to receive much needed funding to operate the office. Please understand that once our programs are launched, we will become self sufficient in a relatively short time. But, just like any other business, the lights have to be turned on, supplies purchased, salaries paid, and other needs covered financially. So, if you are interested or able to help, please visit our funding site at:
Volunteers are beginning to appear....people who want to help and who will give their time and talent to make a difference. Included in this group of volunteers are our most wonderful Board Members. These folks are not paid to help but are investing their time and energy into this organization with the hope that one day we will be able to help our military families! Would you like to volunteer? If so, contact me and we will work with you to find your place at times that are convenient to your life!
Veteran Resource Services, Inc.
A 501c3 Nonprofit Organization