Beyond Welcome Home: Banding Together to Help Veterans

By Staff Sgt. Tommy Rieman
February 17, 2015
Eight soldiers with camo gear walk with their arms linked together on a beach towards the ocean.

Being a part of the military has a different meaning for every veteran. For me, it was an opportunity to see the world outside of Kentucky while protecting our nation’s freedom at the same time. Serving in the military is a true honor and something I knew I wanted to do at a very young age. I can’t think of a more rewarding experience. But like anything else, it came with difficulties and challenges.

As an Army staff sergeant who has served during several deployments, two in Iraq and one in the Balkans, I was on the front lines of combat. Upon returning home, I found myself in a dark place as I suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and dealt with the repercussions of a brain injury. This was one of the lowest times in my life and I couldn’t seem to shake the weight off of my shoulders. At that time, I never turned to others for help because I didn’t want to put that burden on them.  

However, people were quick to see what I was going through and stepped up to recognize that something needed to be done. My friends, my family and my community wrapped their arms around me and helped me to lift that weight off of my shoulders. It was a long road and it wasn’t easy, but I overcame the inner struggles that I was facing.

With their help, I started to rebuild. After receiving support, I realized the impact that others had on my wellbeing. Immediately, I thought of several other veterans – friends and brothers – who needed the same help.

As I’ve said before, one man on the battlefield is never enough. A team on the battlefield is what makes a difference. I feel the same way about helping our veterans at home.

Today, I’m honored to share my story at the Welcome Home North Carolina kickoff event in Charlotte as the Walmart Foundation announced a $1 million grant to the Institute for Veterans and Military Families. The initiative will support a three-year pilot program to identify ways in which non-profits, government organizations and private companies can better work together to serve veterans.

It’s really encouraging to see so many different groups come together in support of veterans. It can be difficult for veterans to navigate through all of the resources that are available, so anything that can help is essential. I can’t wait to see the impact this will have the Charlotte community and beyond, and I’m touched to see people working together to give back to those who have already given so much.