Boots on the Ground NY has walked a mile in veterans’ shoes. It’s that strong camaraderie that fuels the “keep veterans connected” philosophy.
“We have a board of five military veterans and a lot of the volunteers on the team are the ones we helped,” said service connected disabled veteran & founder and president Frank Bania. “My father is a Vietnam veteran and my grandfather served in World War II as a Bataan Death March survivor. Besides three years in the military myself, I understand vets. We are a different breed.”
Boots on the Ground NY steers its efforts towards collecting and delivering food for veterans and their families and shipping care packages monthly to military units that don’t have access to supplies. The organization sends 10,000 packages overseas each year. Back home, the door is open for veterans who need assistance, from food to a feeling of community.
“We want to make sure we are not leaving any veterans behind…Many veterans deal with a lot of underlying alcohol and drug conditions relating back to PTSD or service injuries and they end up on their own. We want them to know they aren’t alone.”
Boots on the Ground NY also reaches out to homeless veterans. In 2014, communities across America identified 49,933 homeless veterans. Though this represents a 67.4 decrease from 2009, the organization knows there is still work to be done.
Bania and his team accept community donations of food, furniture, mattresses and toiletries. Throughout the day, veterans or their families can come down to receive the supplies. The hope is to help cut living expenses.
All this takes place at the 2,700-foot facility known as the VAC (Veteran Activity Center). This building not only acts as the organization’s headquarters, it’s a place for peer groups, 12-step meetings, yoga classes and physical therapy programs. There’s even a television lounge with billiards and a coffee bar.
“We want them to feel at home in [terms of] good company and with their surroundings.”
Last Thanksgiving, they delivered 360 turkeys to veterans and their families, and hopes to deliver even more this year. But of course, Bania’s work won’t stop when the holidays end Jan. 2.
“We don’t even realize how many people we inspire. Some veterans come back and tell us how much we’ve helped them get back up on their feet, it makes us really feel like we are making a difference.”