Help Veterans Who Struggle with Fireworks

by Military with PTSD Vetted since 2014
Help Veterans Who Struggle with Fireworks
Help Veterans Who Struggle with Fireworks
Help Veterans Who Struggle with Fireworks
Help Veterans Who Struggle with Fireworks
Help Veterans Who Struggle with Fireworks
Help Veterans Who Struggle with Fireworks
Help Veterans Who Struggle with Fireworks
Help Veterans Who Struggle with Fireworks
Help Veterans Who Struggle with Fireworks
Help Veterans Who Struggle with Fireworks
Help Veterans Who Struggle with Fireworks
Help Veterans Who Struggle with Fireworks
Help Veterans Who Struggle with Fireworks
Ashton Kutcher
Ashton Kutcher's support for veterans.

As the second year of the Explosion of Kindness campaign has ended, we have taken this down time to complete the first Case study on the program. I will be presenting the case study at Liberty University for Research Week in April.

While the signs have been a great first step, the signs are not the end goal for campaign. The last two years we have asked ourselves, what is the next step? The Explosion of Kindness campaign had two main objectives. One was to raise awareness and educate everyone on the effects of fireworks on veterans. The second was keeping the veterans in their communities and not isolating or running away from their homes. The signs offered a non-threatening way for veterans to alert neighbors that a veteran lived in the neighborhood and to please give a courteous heads up before lighting off unexpected fireworks. 

When we launched the campaign in 2015, we did not know what to expect, as the Explosion of Kindness was one of our first programs we launched as a nonprofit organization. To our surprise, the campaign went viral with thousands of veterans posting pictures of themselves holding their yard sign on social media. Veterans across the country who received signs garnered Nationwide news publicity. Although our organization appeared in many interviews as seen on MSNBC with Alex Witt, CNN, Fox News, NBC News, CBS News, Newsmax, The Daily Telegraph UK, The Washington Post, Time, Smithsonian, Good Housekeeping, Reuters, MSN, Medical Daily, and Military Times. However, it was the veterans themselves who began appearing in local interviews from coast to coast. Celebreties such as Ashton Kutcher and Mike Epps posted their support of veterans as well. The movement was met with gratitude, confusion, and even anger. While the veterans who received a sign were generally grateful and many stated the signs helped, civilians were either grateful for the education about how fireworks affect veterans or they were confused by the message. Many veterans who received a sign stated that the sign helped open conversations between neighbors.

Unfortuantely, the veterans who disagreed with the signs keet repeating that the sign is making veterans look bad and causing people to think less of veterans and get the wrong impression about PTSD. We looked to see how civilians were reacting to the signs, and found, for the most part civilians are very supportive. Even seeing some civilians telling veterans that they support the sign and are grateful for the education about how fireworks can affect veterans. However, after analyzing feedback we have started the next step towards reaching our objective.

While the Explosion of Kindness campaign made a substaintail impact that created change, at Military with PTSD, we are about the family. Understanding that sometimes children of veterans may not get to enjoy the fireworks could make them resentful towards their parent and PTSD. Currently, the signs were a good first step to raising awareness. However, with veterans who are against these signs, it may be more beneficial to look at noise cancelling headphones to help veterans.

In development right is the a headphone designed specifically to tune out fireworks. We believe these specially designed headphones are an important next step to help veterans start to participate in the fireworks with their family instead of avoiding them all together. In the end, we believe that is what is most important. We will continue with the Firework signs as we move forward in our mission to help keep families together. 

 

 


 

Daryl took his sign on vacation with him
Daryl took his sign on vacation with him

At Military with PTSD, we believe one of the best ways to help veterans battling PTSD when they return home is to educate and empower their spouses. We live by the simple motto of, “Seeing it from both sides,” because to change a situation you have to understand it first. Teaching family members to understand PTSD, how it changes the brain, learning new communication techniques, and changing your perception are all part of Military with PTSD’s approach. Keeping marriages and families together and learning to live with PTSD is our main focus.

In the beginning we realized there were numerous components to achieving our goal that needed to be addressed. We launched several programs to address the issue while educating veterans and families about issues surrounding PTSD. The Military with PTSD “Explosion of Kindness” campaign that launched in 2015 was highly successful; although we were aware of missteps early on that had the potential to compromise the entire organization. We learned so much from our first year and it showed during the 2016 “Explosion of Kindness” campaign. The blunders that were made in 2015 did not repeat themselves during 2016. This year presented new hurdles that challenged Military with PTSD to address.

The firework signs distributed during the “Explosion of Kindness” campaign were designed to educate the public and veterans to the aspect of sudden unpredicted firework sounds on veterans with PTSD. Military with PTSD is not the first organization to elucidate on the circumstances surrounding fireworks affecting veterans with PTSD. When we launched “Explosion of Kindness” we were extremely pleased with the results and were successful in achieving our goal to raise awareness.

During 2016, we implemented what we learned from the initial 2015 experience. We changed the materials used in the packaging of the signs which in turn made the process faster and smoother. The new materials also proved to be more durable which reduced incidents of damage caused during shipping.

Overall, the majority of civilians were still very supportive of the firework sign campaign, although some veterans did not agree with the premise of the sign. Due to the discrepancy of opinions surrounding the pictures of veterans with their signs, a decision was made to discontinue sharing the photographs by Military with PTSD.

At that point we realized the need to rethink our approach towards the campaign to avoid complete failure of the program. Each of us on the Board of Directors spent time exploring various possibilities and outcomes. The reality was, without generating revenue the ability to sustain the operational cost was going to be difficult. We all agreed that none of us were willing to accept complete failure. To ensure that did not happen, the board members funded the program as needed to get the signs out to veterans who were waiting. Due to our successful learning experience in 2015 we decided to conducted a systematic review to analyze prior and current obstacles and unseen pitfalls. While conducting the analysis it was revealed that we had been misinterpreting the results all along.

Nonprofits are completely different when it comes to operations and generating revenue. Output = numbers which are tangible results that demonstrates the reach of the nonprofit goals. The problem with the criteria of measurement being used is that it does not illustrate the whole story. Numbers or statistics can make you look good or bad, however by saying we sent out “X” amount of signs does not fully indicate the effectiveness or impact of our program. The failure by following this protocol is that Military with PTSD focused on “how many,” output . . . and output reports a number. Our entire nonprofit organization, and every program we created, was set up to demonstrate results. Due to this design, none of us at Military with PTSD had any idea as to the impact we made. It was during the review process that we noticed photos of veterans with their signs being posted on our Facebook page. Here are just a few examples of what we were noticing:

Jora, whose veteran received a sign, shared, “Thank you SOOO very much for getting this to my husband and I for the 4th of July, it made a huge difference and we've gotten to know of neighbors even better because of it. Knowing there are people out there that care truly touched me. Thank you again”

Daryl was excited to share this about his sign. “Had to take it on the road with me. Thankfully many RV parks will not allow fireworks. Where I am set up now will be having a fireworks celebration for the 4th. I will attempt to enjoy it with family and friends, but have a backup plan just incase.”

Amy, a spouse, shared this with us, “My husband just got his sign delivered! Thank You Military with PTSD!! I just ordered it a few days ago!! Quick delivery service!! So Blessed to have your organization here for the Veterans The HEROS my husband is MY TRUE American HERO!!”

Akose shared, “We received the sign! Thank you so much. This is a blessing. You all are a blessing, and a definite voice for the Veterans.”

Seeing post like these, helped us to really understand what the data was not. “Hey my name is Jeremy and I received my sign today. I am so thankful.”

Despite the fact very few photos of veterans had been shared by Military with PTSD this year, the news media started covering the stories of local veterans who had received a sign. It was at that time, were able to clearly see the impact of the “Explosion of Kindness” campaign.

When one realizes that the 2015 “Explosion of Kindness,” campaign had made such an impact that we saw a city in 2016 make Public Service Announcements for their area to raise awareness about fireworks and their effects on veterans it is difficult to not see the impact. This year, many VA centers requested signs to distribute to veterans. Additionally, police stations became involved to distribute signs to veterans as well. As a result, the Explosion of Kindness campaign did more than just educate people. Military with PTSD had made an impact that created change!

Looking back we clearly see the initial challenges in 2015 including the tragic loss of a veteran on the 4th of July, with the subsequent challenges in 2016, Military with PTSD was on the verge of closing down. An erroneous perceived failure in looking at the data; we thought we had failed. We thought we failed our main focus as well, keeping marriages and families together and learning to live with PTSD. However, by changing our perspective, while looking at our potential failure, we realized that the “Explosion of Kindness” campaign had more of an impact than we originally envisioned; perhaps not in the way we intended, but they are helping veterans and their families in a personal way specific to each of them.

Onix with his sign
Onix with his sign
Jeremy with his sign.
Jeremy with his sign.

Links:

SGT who received veteran firework sign
SGT who received veteran firework sign

Can we just tell you how awesome you are? We are finished with Explosion of Kindness 2015 and soaring into 2016 Explosion of Kindness.But first, we want to share how your support impacted the veterans helped. 

Roxie was the first female veteran to receive a sign she told us, "My sign work like a champ for me this 4th of July. I expected to have the sign torn down...not at all. Very respectful. Thank you Military with PTSD, I did not go to jail this year." 

Rachel's feedback, "My veteran and I received one of the signs and it was so very much appreciated and it did open up some healthy conversation amongst us and our neighborhood. We will be using the sign for years to come. Thank you so very much for doing this for veterans everywhere."

John told us, "I posted mine and surprisingly enough, people were very kind about. Most didn't realize the effect fireworks would cause, they did ask questions and those around me moved their fun down range and were very cool about it. Even asked the next day if they were ok. I think the sign, instills education opportunity and respect. Thank You"

Tim who told us, " Helped me ALOT! All fireworks around me have stopped! And it was a lot!!"

And Army SGT who told us when he received his sign, "Took six months to get it, but worth the wait to get my sign!"

We wanted to show you first-hand the impact your giving had on the veterans who received a free firework sign. We are looking forward to helping even more in a few short months, but we can't do it without your help! All of you are our team and it takes all of us to make an impact and a difference in each of these veterans lives. 

Roxie
Roxie

Links:

Andy
Andy

Wow has 2015 been a huge year for Military with PTSD Inc. As the year comes to an end, we wanted to go ahead and give you our annual report early. Some of the highlights of the year are: 

  • We started out with a goal in 2015 to give away 2,500 signs to veterans. We ended up not only hitting that goal, we surpassed it by sending out 4,372 signs to veterans this year! We also have an additional 2,739 veterans who have signed up and are waiting to receive a free sign. 
  • The Explosion of Kindness Program brought in $29,773.34 out of $31,157.91 total for program revenue in 2015. The Explosion of Kindness Program expenses was $34,764.26 out of $37,528.55 total program cost. 80% of our total expenses went to our program cost.  
  • We placed 3rd in GlobalGiving #FailForward Contest by analyzing our program and execution and discussing our shortcomings when launching the program. We learned a lot through this experience and embracing our mistakes shows our willingness to be completely transparent and helps us prepare and learn so we don't make the same mistakes again. 
  • Military with PTSD launched 5 programs in the last 12 months. The Explosion of Kindness Program was the biggest and most successful program at Military with PTSD. 

We can go on and on about the financials and behind the scenes at Military with PTSD, but the veterans that were helped can tell you the story much better than we ever could

Links:

"I'm a disabled veteran from Desert Shield and Desert Storm. I really really really need 2 of those signs. one for front yard and one back yard its right against major road.  I live Seattle area and every time the Seahawks play football everyone starts shooting off all these fireworks please help.!!!!!!!!!!" This is an email received just today from a veteran affected by Fireworks. It's October and we are still receiving emails like this one daily. 

The impact the firework signs had in 2015 was monumental. To see veterans come out and stand together, not ashamed of PTSD, and educating the public of how fireworks affected those with PTSD was absolutely breathtaking. With what started out as a way to help veterans and their families, turned into a opportunity for communities to come together and build bridges between civilians and military veterans across the nation.  
 

As we end the 2015 year, we are still sending out signs to veterans who are still signing up to receive a free "Veteran Lives Here Please be Courteous with Fireworks" yard sign. But as one door closes, another one opens. We are already gearing up for "Explosion of Kindness 2016" Kicking off the first of the signs going out in December in anticipation of New Years Firework Celebrations.  

As excited as we are about all of this, we were reminded just how serious of an issue this is when news spread the day after Independence Day that a Army Veteran in Georgia had died by suicide after being triggered by firework celebrations. Military with PTSD immediately connected with the community in Valdosta, GA and donated 200 signs to the community to help raise awareness in honor of Mike's memory. It is our hope to continue to help communities across the nation come together to support not just veterans and raise awareness of the affects that fireworks can have on veterans. 

Links:

 

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Organization Information

Military with PTSD

Location: Evansville, IN - USA
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @MilitarywPTSD
Project Leader:
Shawn Gourley
Evansville, IN United States

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