While we should be thanking our firefighters, police, paramedics and EMTs every day, October 28 is National First Responders Day, which offers a unique opportunity to show our appreciation. These heroic men and women are the first ones on the scene, no matter the incident, whether it's an accident, tragedy or natural disaster. They devote their lives to making the world a better — and safer — place.
The creation of National First Responders Day
The day of recognition is a relatively new holiday, but it was a long time coming. Congress made October 28 National First Responders Day in 2017, though the first bipartisan resolution passed through the Senate in 2019.
At the time, there were about "4.6 million career and volunteer firefighters, police, emergency medical technicians, and paramedics serving communities all across the United States," according to the Department of Homeland Security. Even before the creation of National First Responders Day, Americans knew how valuable and necessary they were.
First Responders: The heroes of the pandemic
Only a few months after the first recognition of National First Responder Day, the COVID-19 pandemic would sweep the globe. First responders were the ones who stepped forward when no one else could.
Often first on the scene, emergency responders are exposed to unique and stressful situations that increase their likelihood of contraction. According to The Associated Press, many first responders have lost their lives as a result of COVID-19. And while the height of the pandemic is behind us, it's still just as crucial to support these brave front-line workers.
Continuing to Champion Public Safety
Outside of the pandemic, natural disasters caused destruction across the U.S. in the last few years, requiring firefighters, EMT providers and other first responders to show up in unprecedented force.
According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, nearly 60% of the topsoil and subsoil in the U.S. is experiencing moderate to severe drought. This has led to a staggering increase in wildfires. The National Interagency Fire Center reports that over 22 million acres of land were burned between 2020 and 2023. Firefighters from around the nation risked their lives and left their families to protect the environment and American citizens.
Beyond the pervasive fires, the U.S. has faced an increase in floods, droughts, hurricanes, blizzards, earthquakes and other natural disasters. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's data shows that there have been 23 weather disasters in 2023, as of September 25, with the number steadily rising since the 1980s.
Supporting Our First Responders Act
During the pandemic, it quickly became clear that the additional burdens placed on first responders were causing strain on the system. As a result, the same emergency situation could receive vastly different responses depending on where you live.
To combat these issues and provide greater support to critical responders, Representatives Andy Kim (D-NJ) and Mike Carey (R-OH) have proposed the bipartisan Supporting Our First Responders Act.
This Act would authorize $50 million each year for the next 5 years for the new Department of Health and Human Services grant program. The aim of this program is to help both EMS providers and the personnel on the ground with:
- Recruitment and retention
- Mental health care
- Training reimbursements
- Facility upgrades
- And more
While the bill hasn't passed yet, it would undoubtedly help ease the stress put on EMS providers from the start of the pandemic.
Commemorating National First Responder Day
When National First Responders Day was announced, Chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) explained the reason for the new day of recognition.
"Our first responders save countless lives every day, and many tragically pay the ultimate price in the line of duty — a sacrifice we should never forget. Designating a day to honor their service and sacrifice is the least we can do to express our gratitude," he said in a June 7, 2019 press release.
The 116th Congress wrote in the act that "During times of national crisis, first responders have consistently been a source of aid, hope, and comfort for all Americans."
Show your support for America's brave first responders by thanking them for their service or donating to a first responder charity. Here are a few to choose from:
- National Fallen Firefighters Foundation
- National Association of Police Organizations
- NAEMT Foundation
- Responder Rescue
- Code Green Campaign
National First Responders Day is your opportunity to show gratitude and recognize the professionals who play an important role in ensuring the safety of every American citizen.
Responding to emergencies is some of the most vital work in society — and simultaneously some of the most demanding. It's only fitting that first responders go into action equipped with the latest and greatest in technology.
From more advanced sensors and tracking systems to reliable communications networks, there is a wide array of tech tools that can make emergency personnel more effective and safer on the job. Developing new gear, along with the techniques to use it effectively, is an effort taken up by a wide variety of organizations, companies and agencies.
By diving into the current state of first responder tech, as well as the ongoing process of testing out new solutions, you can gain a new appreciation for this equipment and the brave people who use it.
Spotlight on DHS First Responder Tech Development
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) realizes the need for first responders to go into the field with only the best in advanced equipment. That's why the agency, through its Science & Technology Directorate (S&T), spearheads new research and development.
The first step in developing any tech tool is to find out what users need — what's the problem that a new piece of gear could solve? S&T consults with a panel of 120 current and retired first responders, called the First Responder Resource Group (FRRG), to figure out needs that are going unmet by existing equipment. The agency also listens to specific requests from teams dealing with extreme and unique circumstances, such as firefighters battling wildfires.
Some of the development projects targeting these currently observed needs include:
- Enhanced globes for helicopter rescues: Performing aerial hoist rescues is remarkably hard on emergency workers' hands. This demands new glove materials and designs that can take the strain.
- Lost Person Locator software: Searching for missing persons is most effective when there is a set of consistent protocols and data sets available. This new software tool aims to deliver those capabilities widely.
- Routing software for vehicles: When commercial-grade navigation software isn't up to the task, first responders need a specialized tool set to get to emergencies in a timely manner. This new system accounts for weather, vehicle type, road conditions and more.
- Smart chemical sensors: New wearable sensor technology can help first responders determine exactly what they're encountering in the air. The devices can give alarms if personnel reach exposure limits to dangerous substances.
- New firefighter respiratory protectors: Firefighters battling wildfires sometimes spend hours in areas containing vapors, particles and carbon monoxide. A scarf-like respirator can protect them from these substances for up to 12 hours.
NIST Researches Communications Tech
DHS isn't the only agency putting research hours into new first responder tech projects. The National Institution of Standards and Technology recently conducted an extensive, over-five-year survey of communications needs by first responders.
The more than 7,000 people who shared their opinions stated that they need technology that is trustworthy, controllable and not frustrating to use. NIST explained that these values should direct the development and purchasing of tech, and gave six guidelines:
- Improve current systems as a first resort before creating wholly new products.
- Reduce unintended consequences of new tech adoption, such as distraction.
- Avoid "one-size-fits-all" approaches because public safety is a varied field.
- Don't develop tech for its own sake but rather to meet real, observed needs.
- Lower costs of products and services to make tech scalable for wide adoption.
- Focus on usability so first responders find it natural to get correct outcomes.
The steady march of tech development is always ongoing. Putting new offerings in the hands of first responders ensures that these breakthroughs are serving the public good.
There are few days in U.S. history more consequential or somber than September 11, 2001. Every year since the deadly attacks that took nearly 3,000 lives, Americans have paused on September 11 to remember those who died, and to dedicate themselves to serving their communities.
In December 2001, Congress designated September 11 as Patriot Day, and in 2009, as part of the Serve America Act, the day also became a National Day of Service and Remembrance. By attending a memorial service, sharing your personal memories and experiences or by giving back to your local community this Patriot Day, you can ensure that the indefatigable spirit of the victims lives on.
What Happens Every Patriot Day?
In keeping with its solemn tone, Patriot Day is a time of contemplation and service. In the official White House announcement proclaiming last year's Patriot Day, President Joe Biden described some of the ways the government would be commemorating the anniversary.
All flags flown by government branches, agencies and departments fly at half-staff on September 11. A moment of silence is observed at 8:46 a.m. eastern time, acknowledging the time when the first World Trade Center tower was struck.
There is also an annual observance ceremony carried out by the National Park Service at the Flight 93 National Memorial. This quiet location in southern Pennsylvania is the place where that flight crashed on September 11 when heroic passengers and crew prevented it from becoming part of the attacks.
The public service organization AmeriCorps also designates September 11 as one of its two annual National Days of Service, alongside Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. The group encourages individuals to pledge to serve their neighbors and offers web resources that connect people with opportunities to help out near them.
Beyond these nationwide and local commemorations, each person can go into their community and perform acts of service on their own to ensure they are showing a resolute, civic-minded spirit on this tragic anniversary. This is an opportunity to put good into the world as part of mourning and remembrance.
What Are Some Ways to Observe Patriot Day?
At first, it can be difficult to know how to mark a somber day like September 11. However, there are numerous ways to remember the tragedy and honor the sacrifices of those who died that day through giving back to your community.
Perhaps the most fundamental part of observing the National Day of Service and Remembrance is simply showing love and kindness to the people in your life, friends, family and strangers alike. This attitude is a good foundation for acts of service, and a way to show that you honor the sacrifices of those who gave their lives.
In a more concrete sense, you can also take part in volunteer projects. The National Park Service recommends getting out to serve, and runs its own events, some in conjunction with groups such as The Mission Continues, a nonprofit community impact group that helps veterans acclimate to lives at home following after they've served.
You can also share memories and reminiscences to ensure the sacrifices of those who perished on September 11, 2001, as well as the first responders who gave so much of themselves to provide assistance on that day, lives on. One of the legacies of September 11 is that everyday people can find heroism within themselves, and honoring that is part of Patriot Day.
We at AFBA hope you'll join us in honoring those who gave their lives September 11, 2001, and those who committed brave acts of service that day, on Patriot Day 2023 and beyond.
When you imagine a first responder, what comes to mind? This role can come in many forms, but in times of emergency, they are on the scene to help stabilize a situation. This could be a police officer, firefighter or emergency medical technician (EMT). They are the people who help ensure everyone on the scene has the best chance of survival no matter the situation.
When you pick up the phone to dial 911, you know that a first responder will be on the other side of the line to give you the help you need.
But this wasn't always the case, and the role of a first responder dates back centuries. Let's uncover this rich history and gain more appreciation for those that dedicate their lives to the safety of others.
The initial concepts of a first responder
As people started to come together to settle into communities in one place, their way of living grew more technical. Along with cooking, a fire was used for light and warmth inside individuals' homes — which were typically made of mud, wood and dried branches and leaves. When a fire broke out, people had little control over how to manage the fire when it caught hold of multiple buildings at once.
In ancient Rome, during the times of Augustus in 62 BC to 14 AD, there was an office called Aedile which overlooked the procurement and maintenance of public buildings. Because people in the city lived in such proximity, it wasn't uncommon for a fire to break out in a flash. The aedile developed a group called the Vigiles who were responsible for managing the fire and putting it out as soon as possible before it caught on to other buildings.
EMT history wasn't too far off from what it is now — besides the extensive medical technology packed within emergency vehicles today. In the 1400s, carts were used to transport patients from their homes to the hospital. This method was developed during the Spanish siege of Málaga by the Catholic Monarchs against the Emirate of Granada in 1487.
Saving lives in the 20th century
War times can bring about a lot of innovation when people are in trouble, in need and incapacitated. In the early 1970s, President Richard Nixon had just taken office and inherited a report done in 1965. It noted that the leading cause of accidental death was car crashes. And, in 1965, the number of deaths overshadowed fallen soldiers in the Korean War.
From here, the "White Paper" made several recommendations for how to counteract these avoidable tragedies including an outline of what we consider first responders: a brigade of police officers, ambulances and firefighters trained and ready for action at a moment's notice.
Evolving to stay one step ahead of emergencies
Since the 1980s, first responders have established the best practices, medicines and care we know and expect today. Like many modern conveniences we experience daily that make our lives safer and more simple, the history of the first responder came when necessity called for it. Every day we can give thanks to the people who stand up to answer the call of duty.
Paramedics are the front lines of any medical-related 911 emergency — they’re the ones who are expected to respond to repeated life-or-death scenarios in a calm, collected manner.
This tolerance for extreme stress while maintaining a steady hand is a special skill all paramedics must have. That’s why not everyone has what it takes. But choosing to become a paramedic is an honorable — and challenging — way of performing public service.
Decide if being a paramedic is for you
Paramedics are similar to emergency room doctors in that they deal with medical crises that often put the patient’s life in their hands. However, their roles in the process aren’t the same. A paramedic’s job is to stabilize a patient so they’re fit to be taken to a hospital or clinic, then drive them there in an ambulance (or sometimes, a helicopter or airplane).
The ability to stay calm in an intense environment is critical. Problem-solving skills are also a must, as it’s up to you to decide what the best course of action is after you assess the situation. You’ll want strong communication skills; you’ll need to effectively talk to patients and families who are in distress and may not be able to speak clearly.
You should know what to expect from your education, including paramedic school, which will put you in a high-stress environment to prepare you for the intensity of the job. Your physical fitness will be tested to ensure you have the proper amount of strength and endurance to handle a wide variety of situations in rapid succession. Many paramedics work 12-hour shifts or more, including at night, so you’ll want to be in top shape.
Consider your personality type and aptitudes before you decide to pursue a career as a paramedic.
Get the right education
Paramedics, while extensively trained, do not need to pass medical school and they don’t have letters after their names. In short, they’re not doctors.
However, this is not to imply paramedics don’t require a great deal of education. A license is required to be a paramedic, and obtaining one requires unwavering dedication and physical and mental endurance. Start by graduating high school or earning a GED, and then you can expect to go through this sequence:
- Get your EMT-Basic certification. Normally, this takes six months. This will teach you the basics, such as cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and non-invasive treatment.
- Work as an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) for at least six months. Many paramedic schools prefer you have some experience as an EMT before you apply.
- Enroll in paramedic training. This generally takes 1-2 years to complete and is much more intensive than getting EMT-Basic certification. It’s essentially an advanced course, where you’ll learn invasive treatments such as intubation.
- Earn your license. Next is passing the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT) exam, which will put you through tests such as out-of-hospital training scenarios, trauma management and dynamic cardiology.
- Pass the state-specific exam if needed. Some states require this; others don’t.
If you’d like to get started, check out the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians guide of where to start training.
If you think you have what it takes, step up and become a paramedic
If you can become a paramedic, congratulations are in order: You’ve earned the honor of being a vital first responder. Becoming a paramedic and serving as one is by no means easy — but if you’re willing to test your limits, you too can join the honored ranks.
Virtually everyone has used insurance at least once. It comes in a wide range of forms covering practically everything, from life and auto insurance to protection for parcels in the mail. You can even insure items like your watch or smartphone against being lost or stolen. The list may genuinely be endless.
If it can be insured, someone probably offers coverage for it. But do you regularly compare your insurance needs with the insurance you own? Are you getting what you need at the right price?
Do you need life insurance when you’re young (you do) or should you wait until you’re older? How likely do you think you are to be in an auto accident? Are you covered if you become ill or injured and need an emergency room visit or hospitalization?
Depending on the answers to questions like these, you may wish to alter your insurance plans. That’s what National Insurance Awareness Day — observed on June 28 every year — is for.
Insurance has been available for thousands of years
Some of the earliest civilizations had insurance. Somewhere between 4000 and 3000 BCE, Babylonian sea merchants would purchase bottomry contracts. These had a ship’s owner use their vessel as collateral in exchange for a loan including interest. If the ship was lost at sea or heavily damaged, the insurer would be out of luck; but if the ship returned safely in good condition, the loan and its interest would be repaid.
Marine insurance continued to develop in new forms across the world, including in ancient Greece and those who traded with them. The Romans, while they were busy revolutionizing civilization, invented life insurance.
In the 17th century, the famous and still-existing Lloyd’s of London was founded. Its founder, Edward Lloyd, would gather information about shipments from docks and compile them into the Lloyd’s List publication. While its information-gathering is a little more sophisticated than when it began, Lloyd’s List is still being updated today.
Why evaluate your insurance needs?
First, consider what you want to be insured. Medical bills and your automobile are some of the most popular options. Other types such as life insurance are all too often passed over.
Even if you have all the insurance you need, you may be paying too much. Rates are constantly changing, and it’s worth the time and effort to shop around for the best price.
If your life circumstances change, so should your insurance. Have you taken a new job that requires driving in dense traffic? Has your health changed? What about your marital status? Many life events warrant taking a fresh look at your insurance options.
You don’t necessarily need to shop for a new insurance provider and go through the paperwork all over again. You can talk to your current company and ask if they have other choices or promotions that might better suit your life situation. Many insurance companies allow you to customize your plan online.
Seeking out other ways to lower your insurance costs is something else to consider. Have you purchased a new car with advanced safety features? Bring it up with your auto insurance company. Are you taking care of yourself better? Maybe hitting the gym more, eating well and better controlling your weight? You could be eligible for health insurance discounts.
Look at your insurance options on National Insurance Awareness Day
It’s strongly recommended that you take the time annually to look at all your insurance options and find the best policies and rates that fit your specific needs.
Perhaps the most important thing you get from insurance is peace of mind. Knowing you’re covered in the event of an incident makes you feel better with less stress and worry — which can mean a longer lifespan and better overall health.
Father’s Day is a time to celebrate dads everywhere. But serving dads — whether military dads or first responder dads — deserve special appreciation for the uncommon challenges they face while serving, whether directly or indirectly.
The different types of serving dads
All serving dads are included in Father’s Day, but what does that term include?
Military dad and first responder dad are terms that can apply to many people. It can be a father serving in the armed forces or a first responder unit to a mother, son or daughter at home. It includes a dad supporting a serving mom. Just as the term “military family” refers to any proud kin who’s there for a related servicemember, a military dad is any type of serving dad.
Unique challenges serving dads face
Depending on the role of the military or first responder dad in their family, each faces unique challenges to be recognized and appreciated on Father’s Day.
Serving dads can be called to duty at any time, leaving their families for as long as their service is needed. Military dads are often required to relocate frequently, perhaps staying in one location for no more than a few months before being redeployed elsewhere. This forces them to leave shallow roots in their former place of residence to grow new ones elsewhere, which can cause stress to everyone in the family.
Being in the armed forces or a first responder unit inherently involves a degree of danger. For the serving dad, they must come to terms with the worry they may impose on those at home. The serving dad works all hours, day or night, whenever he’s called to action, which can potentially make communication with family members at home difficult.
The dad who supports his serving family member is on the other end of this. Perhaps they worry for a mother, son or daughter who serves. Maybe they, too, are facing the difficulties of keeping in touch when their servicemember could potentially be halfway around the world, or a first responder works 12-hour shifts, from evening to morning the next day.
Serving dads sacrifice uncommonly to serve their country and community. It is important to acknowledge this on Father’s Day, whether you’re a friend or family member of one.
Ideas for celebrating serving dads
What a serving dad may appreciate most differs from one to the next, but almost all would cherish a special gesture or two on Father’s Day. Here are a couple of ideas to get you started.
Write them a letter by hand
The difference between a phone call and a letter is permanence. Serving dads would almost certainly appreciate a phone call, but having a genuine letter carries a special significance. When times are toughest, the serving dad can take the time to stop, feel the paper in their hands and read the letter as many times as they wish.
Include a printed photo as an added bonus that they’ll be sure to appreciate.
Pay them a visit
If possible, go to where the serving dad is and spend some time with them.
Being a good listener can come in handy here. A serving dad to a military or first responder family member may have fewer opportunities than they’d prefer to talk about their challenges.
If you think they’d appreciate it, take them out to a favorite place of theirs, whether it’s a park, restaurant or some other special location.
However you show your appreciation on Father’s Day, do it with sincerity
Feel free to use one of these ideas or think of something special yourself. Few are the serving dads who wouldn’t feel their spirits lifted at a Father’s Day gift — especially those that carry a sincere gesture from the heart.
High blood pressure, or hypertension, affects about 65 million Americans, according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Left unchecked, it can increase your risk of many different conditions, including heart disease, stroke, vision loss and kidney damage. That’s why it’s so important to be aware of your blood pressure and measure it daily.
Here, we’ll outline the why and how for effective blood pressure monitoring.
The importance of tracking your blood pressure every day
Not only should you measure your blood pressure at least twice each day, but you should also do it at the same time. Your blood pressure can change as the day progresses. The better you stick to these times, the more likely you are to get an accurate and consistent reading.
This is a good habit to get into even if you’re healthy. But for those who suffer from high blood pressure or are at risk of it, measuring it can be the difference between life and death.
Tips for tracking blood pressure
Not every time is appropriate to take your blood pressure. For example, you shouldn’t take your blood pressure as soon as you wake up in the morning. Instead, wait at least 30 minutes. Feel free to perform your morning routine before you take a reading.
However, it’s not a good idea to take your blood pressure immediately after breakfast, as both food and drink (especially if it contains caffeine) can affect your levels and prevent you from getting an accurate reading.
Good times to choose from might include right before you leave for work, after you come home or before bed. Ideally, for the most accurate results, you should have an empty bladder before taking your blood pressure.
While you can visit a doctor’s office to get readings, you don’t necessarily get the most accurate one there (especially if you tend to get nervous at such places). Devices that can check blood pressure, including pressure cuffs, are readily available over the counter.
There are a few key things to keep in mind when choosing:
- What can you afford? Blood pressure monitors vary significantly in price. Sometimes, insurance will cover the cost. Check before committing to a purchase.
- Does your cuff fit comfortably? It’s best to ask your doctor about this. They can take measurements and tell you exactly what size suits you.
- Can you read the display? Make sure the numbers on the screen are large enough for you to comfortably read.
- Is the device reliable? Ensure you choose a quality brand and model.
The benefits of tracking blood pressure
The primary benefit of tracking your blood pressure, even if you don’t knowingly suffer from high blood pressure, is to give yourself a chance to catch potential issues before they become big problems. If you find that your blood pressure readings are abnormally high for several days in a row, it could be a sign of illness.
If you suffer from high blood pressure or are at risk, then you also want to know if your treatment is working. There are many prescription treatments for high blood pressure and the only way to tell if they’re working is to measure the results.
Checking your blood pressure at home is a quick and easy way to stay safe
Use High Blood Pressure Education Month to learn all you can about how to better take care of yourself. To better stay in control of your health, you should know what your usual blood pressure is and check for changes. By doing this, you can ensure you’re as healthy as can be.
It is your heart we’re talking about, after all. Is there anything more vital to your well-being?
If you’re a servicemember, veteran, dependent or any other eligible type of passenger, you may qualify for free accommodations on Space-A flights if a vacancy is available.
What is a Space-A flight?
Space-A stands for space-available flight and is also referred to as military hopping. If a Department of Defense (DoD) aircraft has vacancies when traveling between air bases, eligible persons may fill these seats at no charge, according to the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act. The purpose of Space-A is to give certain types of people the freedom to travel on flights that have vacancies.
Space-A flights can be on commercial airplanes, but they might also be on fuel tankers or cargo aircraft.
The different categories of travelers
Depending on who you are and the reason for your travel, you’re placed in one of six categories. When Space-A considers who gets priority when someone requests to fill a vacancy, the lower categories get picked first. Here are the different categories and what they might include:
Category 1: Emergency leave travel
The emphasis here is on the word “emergency.” People who might qualify for this category include DoD civilian employees who are stationed overseas or full-time American Red Cross employees serving in a military capacity.
Category 2: Accompanied environmental and morale leave (EML)
This might include DoD Dependent School (DoDDS) teachers on vacation or sponsors traveling for EML purposes.
Category 3: Ordinary leave, house hunting TDY
Those on ordinary leave or military members who are house hunting (following PCS orders) generally qualify for this rank.
Category 4: Unaccompanied dependents on EML
Family members on EML are in this tier. This also encompasses DoDDS teachers and their family members.
Category 5: Permissive TDY, students, dependents, post-deployment/mobilization respite absence
If their sponsor is stationed overseas or in Alaska or Hawaii, students fall into this group.
Category 6: Retirees, dependents, reservists and disabled veterans
This category would apply to these types of flyers on vacation, for example.
How to sign up for Space-A flights
Signing up for a Space-A flight is very different from booking a seat on a commercial aircraft. You won’t be using traditional airports or booking accommodation at all; instead, you’ll communicate with an Air Mobility Command (AMC) Passenger Terminal to reserve a spot.
These are instructions to keep in mind, according to AMC. More information can be found on their website.
- Ensure your eligibility. There are six categories of travel that determine your eligibility for Space-A, with lower categories getting higher priority. This includes emergency leave, unfunded travel, and accompanied or unaccompanied environmental and morale leave (EML). Which category you fall into depends on the reason behind your travel and your duty status.
- Check which locations are available. Review your closest AMC Passenger Terminal through their social media page or website.
- Make sure your documents are in order. Look at which travel documents you need to prepare before your flight. This includes your passport (with visas, if applicable).
- Register at an AMC Passenger Terminal.
- Look at flight schedules. There is a 72-hour flight schedule on the American Forces Public Information Management System (AFPIMS) web page.
- Check-in at the terminal counter. Familiarize yourself with any newly updated flight information and declare that you are present. If everything is in order, the terminal will give you a Space-A call when they’re ready for you to board.
Roam the skies for free with Space-A flights
While not everyone is eligible to ride on a Space-A flight under all circumstances, as long as you meet the basic requirements, you can take advantage of this perk. For more information, contact your nearest AMC passenger terminal.
There is still a strong stigma attached to mental health. Mental Health Awareness Month is the perfect time to help shatter that perception and inspire those who need it to seek out help.
One group that experiences increased rates of psychiatric illness are first responders and armed forces servicemembers, especially those who were in combat. Too many suffer in silence, though they don’t have to, as there are many programs available specifically for veterans and first responders alike. Operation Resiliency is one such example that aims to help servicemembers deal with mental health issues by encouraging interaction between soldiers who share bonds forged through combat in the military.
The underlying concept behind Operation Resiliency is that soldiers who form bonds in combat can help each other cope with trauma. Operation Resiliency hopes to assist both active duty and veteran service members better manage their mental health by bringing them together with no-cost retreats close to their homes. They also follow up with these individuals in an effort to keep connections strong among these soldiers.
Since the end of 2022, Operation Resiliency has served 468 service members. The project aims to hold six more retreats throughout 2023.
The origin of Operation Resiliency
The concept for Operation Resiliency came from Sarah Verardo, whose husband, Mike, was badly wounded in Afghanistan.
Verardo served in Bravo Company, 2nd Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 82nd Airborne Division. This unit fought in the especially deadly Arghandab region in Afghanistan, where nearly half of the soldiers in the team were awarded Purple Hearts. When several of these infantrymen committed suicide, Sarah called retired Army Command Sgt. Maj. Donald McAlister, first sergeant for Bravo Company in the Arghandab. They conceived of Operation Resiliency as part of their joint belief that they should do their part to prevent further tragedy.
McAlister led the first retreat for veterans in Bravo Company in North Carolina, where nearly 100 veterans of the company showed up. He believed he should lead them with full transparency of his own difficult reality to encourage others to do the same. “…Leading by example was being open and honest, and letting them know that mentally, physically, I’ll never be the man I was before…But at the end of the day, that’s OK…I told them, ‘You know, it’s OK for us all to not be OK, as long as we, as long as we acknowledge it. We can see the enemy, see what’s coming at us,” said McAllister, according to a report by the U.S. Department of Defense.
Psychiatric illnesses are not a sign of weakness
One in five adults suffers from mental illness, as claimed by the National Institute of Mental Health. This statistic is the same for first responders and those who serve in the armed forces. No one — no matter how tough the person may be — is immune, and no one can “power through” psychiatric disorder through sheer force of will any more than they can a broken leg.
If you’re experiencing a crisis or if you feel you may hurt yourself or others, you can dial 988, which connects you to the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. Calling 911 is also an option.
Bravo Company is an example of the strongest among us recognizing their experiences and reaching out to their combat brothers for relief. Programs such as Operation Resiliency give these soldiers hope — which is what they require most in their time of need.