Last week Ranger Schlitz and I went to Los Angeles. Mike had some doctor appointments at the UCLA Medical Center, provided by Operation Mend and when he travels he needs a fill-in caregiver so Momma Schlitz can have a break. Mike knows I’m always looking for ways to get to LA to work on veteran issues, so he invited me to come along. Here’s a few of the things we did.
We held the first LA “First Saturday” event on 12/7. Held at a cool spot in Hollywood and with a dozen attending, a new tradition has begun. We have a vision of First Saturday breakfasts all across the USA – Informal breakfasts where veterans can come to meet other veterans for networking, new relationships, opportunity, sometimes just someone to talk to. We don’t want anyone to have to make reservations or even buy anything if they can’t afford it – but someone has to take charge, identify a place and get it on the schedule. Is there one in your neighborhood?
We were beyond privileged to be invited to stop by Nick Vujicic’s birthday party. This phenomenal man was born without arms or legs. Life Without Limbs tells about his work and ministry. Nick wants to partner with GallantFew to help reduce veteran suicide and I have a follow up call already on the calendar.
Next up, Pro-bono Legal Services for veterans launch – hosted by the law firm Akin Gump and 1st Ranger Battalion Veterans Attorneys Richard Welsh and Jeff Zuidema, this new organization helps veterans in the LA area with legal services. GallantFew has a motivated group of veterans who are now attorneys organizing all across the country. If a veteran needs legal advice we want him or her to be able to have the initial discussion with a veteran attorney.
Navy Special Operations (and Ranger) veteran Casey Gray asked us to speak at the LA Veterans Committee. This group brings together political figures, the American Legion and the Bar Association. Look for a 1st Saturday event to pop up at American Legion Woodland Hills Post 826 soon. Casey also organized the 1st Saturday event.
Mike Schlitz is now a Gary Sinise Foundation Ambassador. Gary invited us to “lunch” at his office which turned out to be half office Christmas Party and half Mike Schlitz recognition. Gary presented him with a framed certificate honoring Mike’s sacrifice and service. “Lieutenant Dan” is a very special person – a celebrity who doesn’t act like a celebrity and who pours his heart and soul into caring for active duty and veterans. If you’re looking for a charity to support (other than or with GallantFew) I can’t recommend the Gary Sinise Foundation any higher. First class.
A visit to LA would not be complete without seeing Ranger veteran Rafe Delli-Bovi. Rafe is a former Director of the US Army Ranger Association and is a Senior Veteran Service Officer with the DAV. If you are in the LA area and need help with your claim, Rafe’s the man.
Finally, we had a wonderful meeting with Patricia Kennedy who founded Step Up 4 Vets (we met her at the LA Veterans Committee meeting). Trivia – Patricia was one of the finalists to play Lois Lane in the 80’s Superman flick, but she lost to Margot Kidder. Our gain, though – as Patricia has turned her talent and passion for the arts into a program that helps veterans. We are looking forward to partnering with Step Up 4 Vets in LA, NY, and (hopefully) Dallas!
We’re moving now into a time of the year that can be incredibly painful for veterans and families. The holidays that fill so many with happiness and joy for others are stark reminders of hurt and loss. Keep your eyes open for warning signs – we all follow different social media groups, and it’s impossible to list specifically what you should watch for – but if it looks off to you, dig in a bit more. If it worries you reach out to me or to Clarence. You’ll find our contact information at the top of the GallantFew webpage.
RLTW and V/R Karl