Actions Speak Louder than Words for America’s Veterans
by Kelly Altschwager
I wasn’t raise in a military household; however, I do specifically remember being raised to know why we, my sister and I, were afforded the greater things, such as freedom, opportunity and safety in life. Each year, we went to the Memorial Day service at a cemetery in Hazelhurst, Wisconsin, and talked to men who had served with or known Grandpa, who served in World War II. We listened to their stories and learned what they had sacrificed for our freedom, opportunity, and safety.
While service men and women, or even the military in general, weren’t exactly a constant focal point in our young lives, we were always reminded to be grateful and not waste any opportunity in life. I’ve been blessed to be given the chance to raise my children the same way. In my case, a daily focal point is teaching my children to be mindful and appreciative, and to give back to those who have served to keep us safe and free.
Both of my boys join me regularly in doing 22 pushups each day…which has given us incredible perspective. No, we don’t have a member of the military in our immediate family, but we focus on being great supporters of those who are called to serve. I think most kids are so far removed from any sort of awareness or realistic outlook on so many things, especially things connected to military life. It’s scary. Their view or knowledge of the sacrifices being made daily to keep our freedoms is very much one of those unknowns. I refuse to let my children grow up that way. My husband and I may not have served, but my kids will always know of the sacrifices made by others. They will know as civilians that we can “serve” by giving back to those veterans struggling or in need of help.
Over a year ago, I was nominated via social media to do 22 pushups for 22 days to help spread awareness about veteran suicide. It hit me hard that 22 veterans commit suicide each day. Since I was nominated by three different people, I thought I’d do them for 66 days. Around day 25 or so, it really hit me hard that these 22 pushups represented 22 veterans…22 human beings who sacrificed so much and felt so overwhelmed to the point of taking their own lives. Who doesn’t have 30 seconds to 1 minute every damn day to do these pushups? I had time. But why would I stop at 66 days? So, from that moment, I decided to turn the 66 days into a year. That, then, turned into an ever-bigger fire and greater drive to make a difference and help.
Initially, I wasn’t completely sure how or what I was going to do, but I wound up getting the chance to put on a small, local event to raise money to cover the costs of different services and therapies for veterans dealing with PTSD and TBI, two of the many reasons that veterans are suffering. I agreed to run 22 miles and do 22 pushups at every mile. People could come join in for a mile or more…it was completely up to them. That little idea turned into 6 people completing all 22 miles, and 4 of those 6 people did all 22 pushups at each mile as well. On top of that, our community members added on an additional 89 miles and 123 sets of 22 pushups.
People came out of the woodwork in our small community to support our veterans and give back to them. That little, very local, event raised just shy of $4000 in a very small amount of time. It was humbling and inspiring to see so many people come together, veterans, active duty and civilians alike. It was a firsthand look at how, when we come together for the greater good, we can make one hell of a difference. Every little bit counts, always.
Since then, I have been lucky enough to join up with the MOAR Foundation, which stands for Mother of all Rucks. I am rucking across the country, from San Diego to Washington D.C., with the four combat veterans who created the foundation. We’re on a mission to spread awareness about veteran suicide, and also we want to help veterans along the way. We want to be a catalyst for others who want to help, but don’t know how or where to start.
Every last penny the MOAR Foundation raises, goes directly back to helping our veterans in need in a multitude of ways. No one’s taking a salary. That was a commitment by all involved from the very beginning. I’ll tell you right now my teammates are the salt of the earth, kind-hearted humans, a force for good. I’m insanely grateful for the opportunity to be a part of the foundation and a part of the team. Everyone is there for the same reason, and everyone cares greatly about improving the lives of our veterans.
I honestly wish every civilian could get the chance to do what I’m doing and would do it. Before embarking on this journey, I felt like I had good perspective, but it’s been broadened even more since joining MOAR. I’ve been taken in and made a part of a team without hesitation. They’ve fully embraced the passion I have to help our veterans, regardless of the fact that I’ve never served or been in combat or even have a clue what that’s like. It’s about making a difference first and foremost. It’s about coming together no matter what to bring about a positive change for those struggling. It’s about saying this is what I can do…and then dedicating yourself to doing it, not just talking about it.
Talk is the easy part. Action is where we shy away or fall apart all together. It’s really unfortunate because action is where you find purpose and passion. Action is where you become inspired or inspire others. Action is where lives are changed. Action is where lives are saved. Action is where you find humility and become humbled, and remember just how lucky you are, how grateful you are, and how good life is. If you are reading this, choose action today. Make a difference. Discover what is missing from your life. You won’t regret it.
If you are interested in donating to a credible non-profit, please donate to The Mother of All Rucks Foundation.
Kelly Altschwager is 32 years old and lives in Wellington, Colorado. She is married to Andy Altschwager, and they have two boys, Cash, 11 and Cole, 5. Kelly works as a Personal Trainer, Sports Performance Nutrition Specialist, and Rider/Equestrian Fitness Specialist, and is also the head of Equine Health and Wrangler Logistics for Comanche Wilderness Outfitters.