ALTON — A new veteran support organization with a fresh approach has been established in Alton to serve the Illinois and Missouri communities.
The US Veterans Foundation was formally established in September 2014.
The foundation is licensed in Illinois as a nonprofit organization and is classified by the IRS as a 501(c)(3) public charity. Its mission is to provide support services to military veterans and government civilian contractors deployed with the U.S. military abroad.
The organization is open to anyone serving the U.S. armed forces. This includes active duty, guard and reserve personnel as well as veterans, government civilian contractors who have served abroad with the military and anyone who wishes to support the organization.
The group’s founding members are veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, Desert Storm era and Vietnam. Foundation board director and current president is Jason Thompson, an 18-year veteran of the Marine Corps, the Army 101st Airborne and the Army Reserve.
The foundation’s immediate focus is to establish a community presence through service-oriented programs that benefit the military community and civilians who have served with the military. Thompson explains the organization conducts public events at which veterans can connect with people who can help them get services and find resources.
“We will be bringing other organizations who help veterans to our events,” Thompson says. “It will be an opportunity for veteran military personnel to get connected with resources and find help.”
One such event was held Saturday, June 13, at Ted’s Motorcycle World in Alton. It supported fundraising for a future memorial motorcycle for Cpl. Chris Belchik, who was killed by a roadside bomb in 2004 while serving in Iraq. The event had individuals available on site who could assist veterans with resource needs.
The event included the Dream Riders’ restored 1951 Chevy pickup truck. The Dream Riders honor the children of fallen military veterans. The truck is a rolling memorial to Lance Cpl. Phillip Vinnedge and all 25 3rd Battalion, 5th Regiment Marines who gave their lives in Afghanistan.
The foundation will be involved in campaigns to raise money to assist veterans in need of housing, utilities, food, clothing and personal items.
“Events such as the one Saturday allow veterans to connect with individuals, not just a 1-800 number,” Thompson says.
Thompson explains through the camaraderie and networking with other veterans, there is opportunity for mentoring of younger veterans by those who have already been through the transition in terms of education and career options. In addition, they can assist them in dealing with some of the other challenges that returning veterans face.
He says there is a belief shared within the organization that every veteran or government civilian contractor who has honorably served deserves the future opportunities they have fought to defend and they want to help those veterans realize those opportunities.
Thompson explains another primary objective is to connect with other veteran organizations that share some of the same goals to increase the awareness of post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury, and to help identify treatment options through these connections.
“We’re losing 22 veterans and one currently serving military member a day to suicide,” he says. “That is unacceptable and we want to do something about it.”
The foundation has adopted the motto, “Until They All Come Home.” Thompson explains their goal is to help veterans truly come home. He urges people to come to fundraising events. He notes the foundation is locally headquartered and all proceeds go to the foundation to provide support for the veteran community.
Additional details on upcoming events and how to contact the group can be found on their Facebook page.