Thankful for our veterans and service members

Staff Sergeant Donnie D. Dixon

Staff Sergeant Donnie D. Dixon

I have something new to be thankful for this Thanksgiving. Let me explain. Earlier this year, Easter Seals partnered with retired U.S. Army COL and former Special Assistant to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff David W. Sutherland to form the Dixon Center for Military and Veterans Services.

Dixon Center is named in honor of Staff Sergeant Donnie D. Dixon. He was a career soldier — and a husband and father — who was killed during his second tour of duty at the age of 37 in Baloor, Iraq. Dixon’s mother said, “he died doing what he always wanted to do … serve his country.”

It’s a unique project: under the leadership of COL Sutherland and Kimberly Mitchell (I’ll be telling you more about Kim in a post coming up soon) Easter Seals gets to be a huge part of a nationwide network of collaborative, community-based services and supports for military service members, veterans and their families.

An article in the Washington Examiner refers to a white paper COL Sutherland co-wrote while serving in the Pentagon. That white paper reports there are more than 400,000 registered websites for donors and organizations supporting service men and women. The article explains how Dixon Center aims to become a clearinghouse for finding the best local, state and regional services. COL Sutherland is quoted about why this is so important:

“We realize that there are some things that government just can’t do that independent groups in communities can … More than anything else, we’re looking for community leaders to connect with those who have served.”

Before hearing COL Sutherland speak last May, I didn’t know much about what is going on overseas and felt very removed from military-related issues. After hearing him tell several real-life stories about his friends who just needed a little help with reintegration in order to thrive, I came to the realization that these people have faces, families, injuries that need care and communities that can help. His talk completely transformed the way I think about the military and veterans. I am thankful for their continued service and for my heightened awareness around the difficulties so many American families face. Thanks to them, we all have a lot to be grateful for this Thanksgiving.


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