Commentary #79: “Tiny Houses For Homeless Vets Makes A Lot Of Sense”

Today is Veterans Day. I waited to share this story, because I think it’s important.

In Kansas City, Missouri, former U.S. Army Corporal Chris Stout is definitely a hero. In more ways than one. Not only did he serve his country, but now he’s giving back to it. Through the Veterans Community Project, tiny homes have been built in the Veterans’ Village, all for veterans who are struggling with homelessness. Chris and several friends quit their jobs in 2015 to start the project, and it’s been blossoming ever since.

The first 13 homes were finished in January. Another 13 will be done by the end of this month. Each house is fully stocked – Furniture, linens, toiletries, food, and even welcome gift baskets.

However, Chris calls the houses the “sexy piece.” The bread and butter is the sense of community, camaraderie, and connecting veterans to the services they need.

In the interview, Chris stated that eight of the original 13 residents have found permanent housing. They take the furniture with them. It takes about 72 hours for a house to set up for a new resident.

The idea is for veterans to get back on their feet, with as much time as they need based on their goals, and get connected with the services they need. While starting the project, Chris found that many didn’t feel safe or have a sense of privacy with traditional shelters. The anticipated length of stay is six months, but as long as they are working on their goals, they’re welcome to stay as long as they like/need.

Another 23 houses are to set to be done by the beginning of 2019. In addition, a community center is nearly finished, which will have medical, dental, and veterinarian care, a barbershop, and a fellowship hall for group events.

When a veteran walks in, the staff gets to work with their bus pass, housing placement, job placement, legal services, food pantry, clothing closet, and emergency financial assistance. So far, the organization has helped more than 8,000 veterans.

More than 650 communities around the country have reached out to Veterans Community Project. They’re growing in Denver, Nashville, St. Louis, and more. Chris’s goal is to be in every major city, helping veterans with what they need.

Chris Stout has already been recognized as a CNN Hero. He’s in the Top 10. The hero with the most votes will receive $100,000 toward their cause. Voting ends December 4th.

Thank you to all veterans! We appreciate your service.

Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Book Review #66: “WHO KNEW? …Reflections on Vietnam”

I received this book as a gift! My dear friend, Lydia, sent a sweet card with the book, explaining that she knows the author, and wanted to send it to me after reading a blog post regarding my interest in Vietnam. Thank you, Lydia!

The best way I can describe this book is a mix of a memoir, photo album, and poetry collection, all wrapped up into a nice book. It gave me a sense of what Watts went through during her year of service.

While preparing to receive her undergraduate degree at Villanova, she knew wanted to travel. She wanted to join the Peace Corps, but they wanted her to start before graduation. Then, she found a brochure for the Supplemental Recreation Activities Overseas (SRAO) program of the American Red Cross.

What she ended up with was a year of service, and a lifetime of memories.

Watts blends photos, poems, soldiers’ artwork, and her memories into a powerful book. It made me feel like I was there with her.

I also learned about the SRAO program of the Red Cross, and how instrumental these women have been since World War II. I gained a new perspective, and a sense of gratitude. I know Watts and her crew were appreciated by the men in the jungles of Vietnam, during a very trying time there, and here at home.

Although I wasn’t alive during her service, I appreciate Watts for writing this book. It provides a unique perspective on a unique type of service during the war, and I’m grateful for her to show me, and others, this insight. Reading accounts like this makes me want to learn even more about the Vietnam War and the people who were involved, both soldiers and civilians.

Thank you again, Lydia, for this gift!

4 1/2 out of 5 stars.

Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Getting Personal #11: Memorial Day, The Military, And An Awesome Charity

With Memorial Day coming up tomorrow, I wanted to share my thoughts on the military, and tell you about an awesome charity that was highlighted by earlier this week.

Something I see online almost every year, around this time, is the the reminder that this weekend is not all about the day off from work on Monday, the road trips, the “unofficial start to summer,” and so on.

One of the images that I saw on Facebook being shared earlier this week definitely made me pause and reflect:

I’m not sure if the numbers under Iraq and Afghanistan are accurate anymore (unfortunately), but the numbers in general are stunning, breathtaking, compelling.

Also, the Gulf War was unfortunately omitted from this graphic, so I am adding 294.

Since the U.S. entered World War I in April 1917, a total of 619,594 U.S. men and women have died for our country.


I loved this article about Elsa Zarate. She started Bands4Courage, making custom bracelets and wristbands out of old military uniforms.

Image Credit: Elsa Zarate

Image Credit: Elsa Zarate

It all started when she took apart her son’s old boot camp uniform and made a wristband of parts and pieces, to keep him close to her while he was deployed with the Marines.

It was so unique that people started ordering bracelets and donations of uniforms started pouring in. She provides five free bracelets to anyone who donates a uniform. Bracelets typically cost between $5 and $10. One-half of the proceeds directly supports organizations that work with service members and their families. With every bracelet, Zarate includes a card with information about the uniform used in the piece and the person who wore it for our country.

Her son returned home safely and is stationed in California, but Zarate knows of those whose sons, daughters, parents, and other family members weren’t so lucky.  She made her first bracelet in 2011, and, to me, she is definitely proud of what she does.

I’m definitely going online and checking out Bands4Courage. As a proud Coast Guard brat and having other relatives serving and have served (grandfathers, cousin, extended family), I’m very passionate about the military. Throughout the last several years I have considered joining the CG, but ultimately realized that I’m just not military material. However, I will tell my kids about my dad and my family with great pride and admiration. And if they decide some day to go to one of the military academies for college, join the ROTC, or enlist in one of the branches of service, I will beam with pride as I encourage them to serve their country proudly and with great honor.

As we celebrate Memorial Day 2015, I will be thinking of my Grandpa Madan in heaven, who served in the Army. He married my Grandma Grace just five days before D-Day in 1944. He fought valiantly in Europe and received the Purple Heart. One of my favorite pictures of him is him in his Army uniform. I definitely miss him, he’s been gone for nearly seven years now, but I always think of his service. He never talked about the war, but I know his service left a lasting impact on his life.

Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂