Four years ago, John Alexander helped Heroes In Transition (HIT) launch a new program based on a simple concept – organize social activities on a regular basis that would bring local veterans together to bond with one another. It started with a barbecue and has since expanded to bowling, target shooting at Cape Gun Works, attending Providence Bruins and Boston Red Sox games, hiking off-Cape, and much, much more.
When Kristen Alexander, John’s wife of 30 years, learned of her husband’s idea, she wanted to get involved by broadening the program’s reach to include military spouses and military couples. Together, they have added a deeper layer of engagement and support to those who are serving and have served our country, and their partners.
Along with organizing these activities which are held nearly every month, the pair also coordinate our Spring and Fall Couples Retreat, a weekend-long gathering in which military couples come together on Cape Cod to work on improving their communication and intimacy with their partner.
“It started as a group of guys getting together and doing something fun and it’s taken on a life of its own,” John said. “Now it’s become guys and girls coming together, which is even better, and we’ve created a family, a team, a tribe. It really has sort of gravitated towards becoming a community which I didn’t anticipate.”
On Saturday, November 6, the Alexanders will talk about that community and the impact it has had on those who have become a part of it, at our 12th Annual Fall Gala at the Sea Crest Beach Hotel in North Falmouth. The pair are serving as the event’s keynote speakers.
“Heroes is such a big part of our life. It is another family to us so I’m super excited to be able to bring the reality of what we do to the people who give us the opportunity to do it, meaning our donors,” said Kristen.As a military couple – John served in the Army and Army National Guard which included a deployment to Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Iraq for Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm – the pair know exactly the challenges posed by military life. It’s why they are so committed to giving back to ensure those we serve can overcome those challenges.
“Our military and veterans and their spouses live a different life and they very seldom ask for what they need,” Kristen said. “Being able to give back, you know there is going to be something in what we do that they will be able to use and utilize. It’s almost like there’s a lot of unwritten needs, unwritten rules, and unwritten guidelines that exist within the military community. When they’re surrounded by people that get it, they don’t have to explain it. They just get it, and it brings the level of stress down and the level of comfort up.”
That is exactly what the programs the Alexanders oversee have given Army veteran Jeff Whitecross and his wife Kaitlin of Mansfield. “Once you get involved in these programs, you’ll never feel alone again,” Jeff said.
“It has been lifechanging,” Kaitlin added. “We’re able to form these bonds with people we would have never crossed paths with. Heroes facilitates such a safe environment for people to feel vulnerable. Even if you don’t want to talk at their events, you can listen and you’re participating by just being here.”
HIT Executive Director Nicole Spencer said Kristen and John have been an invaluable asset to our transitional programs. Part of it, she said, is because “they understand what our members of the military face and are going through because they have gone through it themselves.”
The other part, she said, is they truly care about the people we serve.
Together the Alexanders have created a family-type atmosphere for veterans, military couples, and military spouses, giving them another layer of support to tackle everything from marital problems to illnesses, including cancer, to frequent deployments to relocating to a new region where they may have few, if any, connections to navigating VA services.
Providing this type of support, John said, is imperative, especially because of the sacrifices made by those who are serving and have served our country. “The bottom line is they put their lives on hold, they put all their hopes and dreams on the backburner for us,” he said. “It would be one thing if everything was peachy keen and their life picked up where they left off when they come back and everything was happy, but that is not often the case. There are transitional issues they have and we owe them the respect and commitment to help them along where they need it.
“They put their lives on the line for us,” he continued. “We owe them that much to at least get back to a place where they are supposed to be.”
To purchase tickets or make a donation to this year’s Fall Gala, click this link.