Effective June 1, Hero’s Bridge expanded its Battle Buddy services to include Northern Virginia and seven other counties throughout the Valley and Shenandoah regions. This effort was funded by a grant from the State of Virginia, Virginia Department of Veteran Services, intended to address the suicide rate among the Commonwealth’s veterans.
Shortly after this ambitious expansion, we were surprised to be featured on a blog post that went out to over 13 million veterans across America. Within 72 hours, we received nearly 300 emails and calls from older veterans around the country in need of a Battle Buddy. Their messages are heart-wrenching, to say the least:
“I am a widower living alone since my wife passed away. Is there any help for me, maybe just a phone call once a week?”
“I don’t want any money or anything, just some company and someone to talk to about regular things. Loneliness is what I need help with.”
“I am a USMC veteran and live alone in the boonies of Wisconsin. Getting groceries and carrying them in is getting hard for me. Can anyone help? I don’t want to ask strangers for help.”
The veterans reaching out to us have many needs. At this time of year, there are many requests for yardwork, help to navigate the VA system, and improvements made around the house, and many, just want someone to talk to, to combat their loneliness. And when veterans or their family members leave a message with us, they express their surprise when we call back.
They aren’t even expecting a return call.
Last fall, during the Bush Institute Stand-To Leadership Program, I strongly asserted the country’s need for an aging veterans call center and appealed for support to do so. The overwhelming calls for assistance after one single blog post confirms this need.
We are no longer waiting for new support but are moving ahead with the support of those who have supported Hero’s Bridge from the beginning. We have officially established the National Battle Buddy Call Center. From our small office and modest staff, we are returning calls and fielding new ones. At the same time, we continue our efforts, with the help of our volunteers, to make a difference for the veterans who live in our region and we can meet in person regularly.
If you would like to volunteer for our new Battle Buddy Call Center, please click here.