I am going to tell you right now that the glue that holds HKY4Vets together, that gives it a solid foundation, that ensures it continues to evolve to best meet the needs of military families is our "Board".
For roughly the last 2 years (meeting basically every 2 weeks), this ragtag group of Hickory Metro veterans, company representatives and non-profits have volunteered their time to provide input and a good guiding hand to all of our work. They are a fun group that has really built up a strong camaraderie (I think you see that in the pic below from our yesterday's meeting, with all of the mini-clusters of folks talking to each other) and deeply care for this because they have either lived this transition themselves, seen others transition or are currently transitioning.
They additionally provide new energy each and every meeting. At our most recent meeting, we had two new members join the fun - Frank Ballentine (Marines) & Dave Willis (Navy) - making some great contributions to the discussion for our 2019 plan of work. And that will continue - someone else will get invited 2 weeks from now and they add to the collective, so on and so forth. We are always growing and adding new perspectives to the mix.
Having never served personally, I don't have that comparable life experience to group's time in the Marines, or the Navy, etc. They provide that grounding in "military life", while also reinforcing the continued need for our efforts because they saw first hand the lack of assistance and resources that existed for them when exiting military service.
Transition services for our nation's service members and spouses continue to improve each and every day, but they still have a long way to go. In the most recent Blue Star Families Military Family Lifestyle Survey (2017), largest and most comprehensive survey of active duty military and families EVER, of those veteran respondents who attended a mandated transition programming in their last 12 months of active duty, less than half (49%) felt the programming prepared them to successfully transition from active duty to civilian life.
Notice these folks haven't exited "service" to country or their community - that remains in their blood. I know I sincerely appreciate their kind acts of continued service on behalf of this initiative and wanted to ensure others were aware that they remain the glue for HKY4Vets.
The ragtag group of misfits include:
Cary Bowman (Army; retired), Danny Castillo (Navy; Peoples Bank), Dave Willis (Navy; Select Tech), Frank Ballentine (Marines; Catawba County Emergency Services), Joe Lutz (son of Air Force veteran; Sutter Street Manufacturing), John Helton (Marines; Catawba County Sheriff's Department), John Schading (Navy; US Conec), Lindsay Keisler (daughter of Army veteran; Catawba County Chamber of Commerce), Lynn Marilla (mother & daughter of veterans; Eagle Rock Camp), Michael Isenhour (NC National Guard; NC National Guard Employment Center), Nathan Huret (grandson of veterans; Catawba County Economic Development Corporation), Dr. Ric Vandett (Army; retired Hickory City Schools Superintendent), Russ Vickers (Army; NC Works Career Center-Catawba), Tiffany Chapman (mother to a veteran; Catawba Valley Medical Center), Tim Adams (Army; Catawba County Schools), Tim Herndon (Marines; retired-Booz Allen Hamilton); & Wendy Johnson (unfortunately can't remember familial connections..sorry Wendy!; Western Piedmont Workforce Development Board).