Meeting the needs of veterans in Maine

By Hugo Bravo

The Salvation Army in Maine met a unique need for the family of Nicholas Chapman, a retired staff sergeant in the Army National Guard.

Due to a traumatic brain injury, Emma, Chapman’s daughter, had difficulty hearing her teacher’s voice in school. Emma couldn’t distinguish it from other sounds and noises in the room. To solve the problem, a specialist recommended that the teacher wear a unique auditory device that would serve as a microphone. A hearing aid in Emma’s ear would then pick up the teacher’s voice directly. This would allow Emma to listen to her teacher and process information without distractions.

The family began to raise money to buy the device, which cost between $5,000 and $6,000, through a GoFundMe campaign. Chapman also reached out to the Northern Maine Readiness Center, an organization for veterans as they transition to civilian life, to see if the Center would be able to help in any way. The Readiness Center contacted the Salvation Army’s ORS program in Maine, which provides services for U.S. military members, veterans, and their families.

Jeremy Kendall, ORS regional coordinator, said, “They told us about the Chapmans and Emma, and we replied that their situation is exactly what Operation Red Shield does.” ORS paid off the remaining amount needed for the GoFundMe campaign, and the Chapmans were able to buy the device for Emma. It immediately made a difference in her learning experience, and she is now thriving in school.

ORS is a passion project for Kendall, who is also a veteran. When he was medically discharged from the Air Force in 2005 due to PTSD and physical ailments, he realized that there were no services in his area to help vets.

“I had lost my unit, my brothers, my sisters, and a sense of who I was,” says Kendall. “But veterans are a very prideful group. They don’t like to ask for help, so when they do, it’s their last straw. I believe that a lot of veteran suicides could be avoided if they just came forward to say that they needed help putting food on the table or finding work.”

When Kendall came to The Salvation Army to work as a coordinator for Pathway of Hope, he asked if ORS was something he could also do. In less than a year, the Maine ORS received 300 referrals to help veterans.

“Operation Red Shield is whatever the person we’re helping needs us to be,” says Kendall. “We can be a provider agency for veterans, their families, or persons still in the service. We can show how to navigate the confusing aspects of the Veterans Affairs to get benefits. We can take up their cases to work on underlying issues that keep vets from holding down jobs or paying for their home. Or we’ll simply be there to listen to them or set up events where they can meet other veterans like themselves.”

Kendall hopes that one day ORS will be found in every corps. “It’s our obligation to serve those who have served us,” he says.