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'The military gave us so much and we want to give back'
Richmond Hill group Combat Boots 2 the Boardroom looks to aid veterans
CBoots2Boardroom logo

Combat Boots 2 The Boardroom will hold a fundraising auction Friday night, Nov. 8, from 6 to 10 p.m. at the Richmond Hill City Center. The group aims to help veterans and their families in a number of ways.

 Here’s a Q&A with one of the founders, James Smith.

 Q: Who are the people behind this effort?  

James Smith: The individuals involved in this effort are myself, my wife, Lynnetta Smith, Hazel Monroe, my mother-in-law and board member, our daughters, Blythe and Nicole, as well as many of our friends and family.

Some of the businesses who have provided support for this event are: Walmart, Food Lion through their Food Lion Feeds program, Build A Bear, Kroger, AMC, the Atlanta Braves, the Atlanta Falcons, Kendra Scott, Total Wine, Savannah Bananas, Milos, Panera, Rack Room, Nothing Bunt Cake

 Q: What is your group, what is it currently doing, and what will it do down the road? And, of course, what is the fundraiser about?

 James Smith: Combat Boots 2 The Boardroom is dedicated to providing an about-face approach to the men and women of the U.S. Armed Forces, veterans, and their families as they transition to the civilian sector by providing them with resources to achieve success in both their professional and personal life. We are going to accomplish initially through our three programs: Vets Inspire Attire, Kits 4 Kids, and our Rainy-Day Fund.

Vets Inspire Attire was designed to help veterans and their families in their search for a new career path. We will do this by providing business attire, working with businesses in the local area to sponsor job fairs, resume writing, scholarships for veterans and their families and many other things that will help them be proud contributors in society. One of the things that will make this program unique, is we have first-hand experience of the challenges that military families experience We can use these experiences to relate to veterans and their families.

Kits 4 Kids will provide military children with the necessary items and skills that will allow them to express their feelings, provide a means to cope, foster communication, and maintain a sense of routine while their parents are deployed. This program was started by Nicole and Blythe Smith based on their own experiences with a parent who was deployed and how they were able to cope with his deployment.

The Rainy-Day Fund was started in an effort to help veterans and their families in their time of need. One of the greatest challenges to veterans and their families is having enough for the down payment for a new home and having enough money to purchase household essentials after they purchase a new home. This program will help cover some of those costs. This program will also be used to provide assistance to military members, veterans, and their families in emergency situations as well.

The purpose of the fundraiser is to bring awareness to the issue’s military members, veterans, and their families face and raise money in order to provide services to assist them.

Q: When is the event, and beyond that, when will your group do what it does?

 James Smith: Combat Boots 2 The Boardroom’s Inaugural Silent Auction will be Friday Nov. 8 at 6 pm. We have another event scheduled on the following day, Sat. Nov. 9, at the Richmond Hill Chamber of Commerce building, where we will be passing out teddy bears donated by Build A Bear to children who previously signed up to receive them. Additional upcoming events we will be giving toys to children of active military and veterans for Christmas, date to be determined.

 With some of the proceeds for the event we will be identifying and providing boxes through our Kits 4 Kids program to the children of current and former military members.

 We are currently working to establish connections with people and businesses in the area to establish networks to provide veterans and their families with the resources to achieve success in their transition. We are working to establish a sort of Veteran’s, Spouse’s, and Children’s Keeper program, where we will have an established network of individuals who can provide one on one assistance to each group.

 We are also working to establish our Rainy-Day fund, so that we can provide assistance to military members, veterans, and their families who are purchasing a home or in an emergency situation.

 Some of the events we are looking to host in the future: Build A Bear give away, Toys 4 Tots, Kits 4 Kids delivers gift boxes to military children, job fair, both a veteran and spouse conference to discuss issues and solutions, and additional resources available to provide assistance, group meetings geared toward providing an additional outlet to help cope with stresses of life, a veteran meet and greet (so veterans can meet people who have similar experiences and establish a network)

 WHERE: The auction itself is going to be at city center. Where will your group work from and where will it focus on – ie, all of Bryan County, just South Bryan, etc.

 Our focus will be Bryan, Liberty, and Chatham Counties and we will work from Richmond Hill.

 WHY: Why did you folks decide to do this? 

Every year thousands of military veterans are making the transition from life inside the military to life outside. With this transition comes the added stress of not only starting a new career, but how to do it as well. This stress is felt not only by the veteran, but also by their family members. As someone who recently retired from the military, my family and I know first-hand the challenges that veterans and their families face and the impact placed on the family. Additionally, many veterans separate from the military with a disability, making the transition that much more difficult. As a service member who separated with multiple disabilities, chief among them PTSD, I can say for those veterans suffering with disabilities life outside the military is even more challenging and the impact on my family is even more challenging. These disabilities can either leave a veteran suffering in the dark, because they do not want to burden or worry their family, or it can lead to them taking their frustration out on their family.

This added stress is often felt by the families of veterans as well. They are expected to take on more of an understanding role, often having to place their needs and feelings to the waste side in order to attempt to help the veteran cope. This often leads to resentment and broken families. This is one of the major reasons divorcee’s in veterans have increased over the last few years. This increase in divorcees has contributed to an increase in suicides not just in veterans, but families of veterans as well. While this? is a contributing factor to suicides in veterans and their families, there are several other factors as well.

We started Combat Boots 2 The Boardroom as a way to help eliminate some of the stress that military members, veterans, and their families face. We understand the importance of a good support structure for them and how it can beneficial to helping to make them successful. Having not only friends and family who have gone served and transitioned from military to civilian life, as well as experiencing it first hand we have an idea of what can help. We do not want to be one of those families who provide lip service, we want to take tangible steps to help, because the military gave us so much and we want to give back and we understand the struggle these families face.

This is something that is personal for us, as a result something we are truly passionate about. We want to be able to help, not because we want credit, but because we genuinely want to them to succeed not only professionally, but personally as well. To illustrate how personal this is for us and how we are trying to use our own experiences to help, our Daughters Nicole and Blythe started Kits 4 Kids based off their own experiences. Our oldest daughter wanted to share how she dealt with her father being deployed, and how she kept him engaged in her life. She used to make me “Daddy Boxes,” with the help of my wife. She would either send these to me or save them until I got home and we would look at everything together. These "Daddy Boxes" provided me happiness and kept me involved in her life and everything that she experienced. we would go over everything in them, depending on how long I would be gone. In these boxes she would put all of her schoolwork and any other important things that I missed. Being deployed/ separated from your family you miss a lot of things and this was a way to keep me involved. This was helpful for the both of us, because it gave us an additional opportunity to bond. However, through our Kits 4 Kids program we will be taking this idea and not only using it as a tool to share information with the parents, but we will be using this idea as a way to give thanks to the children. Because they are often overlooked in this whole process. No one truly understands the stress and the sacrifices they have to make. It is not easy for them, but they do it and are expected to adapt and deal with it. This is hard enough for the spouses, but it is something that is even harder for the children. So through our Kits 4 Kids program we will be sending items to the children as a way of saying thank you and to help them express themselves and cope.

As we all know life in the military is difficult, but it gets even more difficult as you transition from a life you have known for sometimes at least 20 years to something that is totally new to you. Where everything changes, not just your job, but your way of life. This change not only impacts the veterans, but the entire family. This new change, whether you have been in over twenty or less than five brings stresses that the average citizen doesn’t have to deal with or understand. As a former military family, we have experienced the highs and lows of not only military life, but during transition as well. As a result, we want to take what we have learned from our experiences and those close to us to help make it a little easier for other families. Because ultimately, we view our help as a ripple in the ocean, it starts out as one, but it ends up being many that never end. 

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