CULLMAN, Ala. – Local nonprofit veterans’ service group Saving Forgotten Warriors (SFW) is finishing 2019 in a huge way with very visible projects like its veterans’ home in Hanceville and the 800 Club to provide free Stellate Ganglion Block (SGB) shots for veterans suffering from PTSD, but the organization has been hard at work throughout the year.
According to founder Jeremy Hogan, SFW’s 2019 achievements include:
• More than 1,200 meals to veterans and their families
• More than 160 trips to the VA hospital
• 87 utilities bills paid
• Two cars given to veterans in need
• 60 days of hotel expenses for homeless veterans
• One bathroom remodeled
• Five handicap access ramps constructed
• Seven veterans provided permanent housing
• One mobile home underpinning replaced
• 23 tanks of gas filled
• Five vehicle repair bills paid
• 34 children sponsored for Christmas
• Four major home cleanup projects
• One veteran SGB procedure
Hogan added, “And a whole host of other odd assistance requests filled like taking garbage cans to road for garbage day, toenails clipped, lawns mowed, etc.”
SFW’s biggest projects came close to the end of the year. The veterans’ home in Hanceville, which has a capacity of up to 12, represents the initial phase of a much larger project that Hogan hopes to see come to pass in Cullman County: a three-campus veterans’ transition center that will get veterans from across the state off the streets, provide them training in occupational and life skills and give them a foundation point from which they can successfully transition back into civilian life. The transitional program will last for up to 2.5 years with another 2.5 years of ongoing support, for a total of up to five years of assistance.
The plan includes:
• a 120-bed facility in the Logan community that will provide initial services like life skills, education and occupational training through partnerships with entities like Wallace State Community College, and addiction recovery for those who need it. The remote facility will also give vets an opportunity for plenty of quiet time and, as Hogan put it, “self-enrichment.” The facility will become self-sustaining, maintained largely by the residents themselves.
• short-term residential homes in Hanceville and Vinemont: one for men and the other for women
• long-term apartments near the residential homes where vets can live for 2.5 years after completing the residential program
Said Hogan of the issue of veteran homelessness and his plan to combat it, “I really, truly believe that, if they come out and have the proper educational training and prior training to transitioning back to civilian life, that we can take a huge chunk out of that problem, and change a lot of what happens right now.”
In December, SFW announced the creation of the 800 Club, a program to take veterans with PTSD to Annapolis, Maryland to receive SGB injections. The shots, which can cost $1,600 or more for civilians and are being offered to veterans for $800, are not currently covered by insurance, so SFW launched the club as a fundraising effort to provide for veterans who cannot afford the shot, and to transport them to Annapolis, where the shot is being offered at the reduced cost by physician and former Navy Seal Sean Mulvaney.
Army veteran and Cullman businessman Bo Winfrey joined SFW’s project after receiving the shot and experiencing its benefits for himself.
He was enthusiastic in describing them to The Tribune: “Dude, I’m telling you, I wouldn’t go in a crowded place; I did, but I was always on my guard. And the very next morning after the shot, we went shopping right after the shot. And I hated shopping; I was always the type: ‘Hey, we’ve got to go. Let’s go, let’s go, let’s go.’ And I was in there; I didn’t say nothing. It didn’t bother me anymore. And the next morning, we went to eat. And I usually sat in the back of the restaurant, and I said, ‘Let’s sit here today.’ And we walked in and sat right in the middle of the restaurant, people to my back. And she (his wife, Jen) even made the statement that morning, ‘It’s like I’m with a different person.’ And it’s been like that since. Dude, it saved my life; it really did.”
Volunteers make the difference Hogan told The Tribune, “We have three individuals that volunteer their time daily to keep this program running. We have a large group of volunteers that help us behind the scenes with administrative stuff; most all have full-time employment and work with us as volunteers just as many hours in a week as they do for their paid job!
“A few we would like to highlight, not that they all shouldn’t be highlighted, but these individuals spend many hours per week helping Saving Forgotten Warriors:
“Pam Whitt, CFO and office management. She is also my devil’s advocate and always keeps me on the right path! She has been with us from the start of the program and really always gives her whole heart when she gets involved!
“Julie May Hogan, events/logistics management. She not only has to put up with me all the time, but she gives just about every hour she has per week not working or taking care of our family to help me keep on track with merchandise, event coordinating and inventory management. She is a rock star at organizing our events and set ups. She is a godsend and I thank the Lord for her daily!
“Tamara Maddux, office assistant/transportation coordinator. She started off driving for us and has just recently started helping us more with the administrative side. She is a pit bull when it comes to getting the veterans the help they need when they get to the VA and has a huge heart for our men and women who served.
“Linda Johnson, fundraising/admin. A go-getter from the start, she is always willing to step up and help whenever and however she can. She has volunteered within the veteran community for many years and is always eager to get going in the next project.
“Mary Connolly and Joann Oswald are two special ladies. They probably think I am the most unorganized guy out there because I come into the office like once a week, if possible, and then dump all my paperwork and receipts, and it’s like a tornado comes through. They are sweethearts and have really helped us out a lot in the office getting things in order. “Brian and Rachel Monk, these two are amazing; they have been helping us for a little over a year now and both have very valuable skills needed to make all this happen! They also volunteer a lot of their time at the local VFW Post 2214 and made the partnership between VFW and SFW work seamlessly.”
Hogan also recognized new staffers and volunteers
• Casey Hunt, creative director – “Amazing talent and a hard charger; he is always ready to jump in where needed and keeps our media graphics, shirt designs and all our other marketing materials on point! We are very glad to have him on board for 2020!”
• Jimmy Payne, project management – “He is coming on board to help me keep all these projects in order. I enjoy having Jimmy around, especially because he takes a huge load off of me when it comes to the work being done at the Hanceville houses.”
• Dan Raley, transport driver – “Dan is new to the team as a physical volunteer but has been a huge supporter from the start and helped us raise money with all the in-kind donations he gave us at the beginning. Very dependable and loves his fellow veterans! We are so glad to have him on board!”
• Mick Whitt – “Also another of our board members that has been with us from the start. He is always lending a hand to help where he can. He has his hands full with The Fillin Station (restaurant) but is always advocating and supporting our needs.”
• Josh Speakman, PR – “Is the all-around guy, someone you can call in a pinch when needed to get support in a hurry, always eager to make the program shine. His main focus for us each year is building a bigger and better Thanks-Giving dinner for veterans at the Brandin Iron in West Point.”
• Trent Barron, “Our newest board member and president of the Regulators MC North Alabama chapter. His members always show up when needed and have been Johnny on the Spot when we needed it most!”
• Richard Neese “and his team are one of our partners with this housing project and Richard has been a huge supporter for a few years now. I’ve enjoyed the partnership so far and we have huge plans for 2020!”
• Bo and Jennifer Winfrey – “They are new to the team but have come with the right passion and are already making waves in the support system. Their passion toward our mission and their willingness to step up and get this new 800 Club program rolling has really been impressive. We look forward to their help in 2020!”
• Daniel Lauderdale “is one of those you can count on to be at every event and every project. He is always giving his all to help his brothers and sisters and has become a huge part of the team! We look forward to continued support into the future.”
Hogan also expressed his gratitude for “the hundreds of other volunteers that give their time, business, family and friends to the mission,” and concluded, “It’s amazing to see where we have come from where we started in 2016.”
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