As many parades and gatherings are canceled this Veterans Day, a campaign to honor veterans is taking to social media. Organizers hope it will bring togetherness and attention toward those who have served and sacrificed.
“When I returned home from serving on active duty, when I took my uniform off for the last time, I felt like I’d removed my purpose right along there with the uniform,” said Mary Beth Bruggeman, who served eight years in the Marine Corps as a combat engineer.
Bruggeman was deployed to Iraq, where she led more than 100 Marines and dozens of vehicles across the border during the Iraq invasion. Yet, when all of that was over, she felt empty.
"So, for me, finding a way to serve again was the thing I really needed and the other challenges I had that I was facing in my life came after the ability to really find and connect back to that purpose,” Bruggeman said.
Bruggeman is the current president of "The Mission Continues.”
“It connects veterans with the opportunity to find purpose again through additional skill building and then repurposing those skills in community,” Bruggeman said.
While Bruggeman’s organization’s work is always ongoing, this Veteran's Day, its latest mission is on social media through the hashtag "Honor Through Action" campaign alongside USAA. The way it works is simple. Draw a V on the palm of your hand, feature initials of a special veteran whom you'd like to honor, and share it on social media.
Bruggeman displayed the people she's honoring through a V and initials on her hand.
“BB is 2 people, Brian Bruggeman and Brad Bruggeman, who was a Vietnam veteran,” Bruggeman said. “I’ve got PH, a classmate from the naval academy who was laid to rest yesterday. He was a tremendous man, wonderful friend and classmate, and my husband's best friend who was killed in a helicopter crash who we continue to honor today and every day.”
“We were created in 1922 by a group of 25 Army officers who couldn’t get anybody to insure them so they insured themselves and that model still is how we were organized today,” Mike Kelly, assistant vice president of Military Affairs for USAA, said. “We are a member-owned association. We were formed by the military we serve the military with insurance, banking and life insurance products.”
Kelly says there are 18 million military veterans in the United States who have served. He also served 25 years in the Air Force and says Honor Through Action is about togetherness during a time when we need it most.
“I hope people gain a greater appreciation for the service and sacrifice that our military members and our families make for this nation. We’re not really looking for anything other than connecting America to the veteran community,” Kelly said.
Kelly added the campaign will “bring some positivity back to the nation, take our eyes of the political storm that’s happening and the COVID response and really recognizes those who have served our country.”
It's sharing a meaningful symbol to pay tribute to those whose mission continues, even off the battlefield.
“This group of veterans needs something very different,” Bruggeman said. “They want to feel connected but they want to do it through action; they want to do it through service. The way they feel, they need to connect isn’t the same as what it was when way our parents and grandparents came home from war.”
Both organizations urge you to share your Honor Through Action this Veterans Day. Though the hashtag may seem simple, the meaning and the mission is everything.