Near the end of Timothy Whelan’s keynote speech at Heroes In Transition’s (HIT) 14th Annual Fall Gala at The Coonamessett in Falmouth last month, he spoke of the importance of individual donations in sustaining its services. “This organization cannot continue to do the great works that it does without the support it receives from people like you in this room,” he said.
Nearly 250 people who attended the Gala took Whelan’s words to heart, helping raise a record amount of funds for the event which will go to strengthen the programs HIT has which assist service members, veterans, military families, military couples, and military spouses in the region.
Since Marine Captain Eric A. Jones’s death while flying a combat mission in Afghanistan nearly 14 years ago, HIT has created 14 unique programs. “As a mother, I cannot imagine the pain of losing a child and I cannot fathom the strength it takes to get up each day and put two feet on the ground and just keep going,” HIT Executive Director Nicole Spencer said. “But that is what Cyndy and Ken did that October day [following Eric’s death] and what Cyndy continues to do each day.”
HIT was born out of Cyndy and Ken Jones’s love of their only son Eric. And it is what continues to drive the organization to this day.
That theme – a legacy of love – was tied to this year’s Gala which was co-chaired by Maria Raber and HIT Board Members Kristen Boyd and Sarah Daley. “When they told me what the theme of tonight was, my heart soared,” Cyndy said. “I couldn’t imagine a better theme and there couldn’t be a better topic to describe my past decade.”
Cyndy recalled the moment she and her late husband were waiting on the tarmac at Dover Air Force Base for Eric’s body to arrive following his death. “I grabbed my husband’s hand and vowed we would continue Eric’s mission,” she said.
She highlighted the ways HIT is doing just that by helping veterans “reestablish the brotherhood and sisterhood connection” they often lose in civilian life, by helping veterans assimilate into “the civilian world with love, trust, and acceptance,” and by providing veterans a safe haven where they are embraced with understanding and acceptance.
Whelan, a Marine who held a 21-year career with the Massachusetts State Police and served four terms as a State Representative for the 1st Barnstable District, said the power of HIT’s work is that it not only supports service members and veterans, but their loved ones.
As musician Ashley Jordan’s moving song, “Come Home,” which she performed at the Gala, shows, the impact of military service extends beyond those serving to military spouses like herself.
“Heroes In Transition takes it to another level,” Whelan said. “How many veterans programs do you see out there that include spouses, that include families? Not that many. And who is it besides the service member – who is it that most specifically suffers, but their family, the wife, the children.
“What they do is bring in the wife because the veteran cannot succeed unless their spouse is right alongside of them,” he continued.
Whelan referenced a quote President Abraham Lincoln made during his second inaugural address on March 4, 1865, in which he charged the country, “to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow, and his orphan.”
“Here we are 158 years later and we’re still fighting to continue to provide for that man and that woman that has borne the battle. In many ways the VA fails. In many ways, the state Department of Veterans Affairs fails. They just don’t have the resources to provide for those specific needs,” Whelan said.
It’s why organizations like HIT are so important.
HIT started, Whelan noted, in the most tragic of circumstances. Out of something so horrific, something beautiful emerged. How? Through love.
“Cyndy and her family took the darkest moments in their life, and they’ve turned it into his name, in his legacy — a legacy of love — they’ve turned it into a very bright and shining light to continue Eric’s commitment of looking after, defending, and protecting his sister and brother in service,” Whelan said. “And even though Eric is no longer with us in body, his spirit endures through these programs. His spirit endures and his priorities endure through the work that Cyndy and her team continue to do every day.”
This year’s Fall Gala was sponsored by Cyndy Jones, in loving memory of Capt. Eric Jones, USMC and Kenneth A. Jones, Co-Founder Heroes In Transition; the William & Linda Zammer Foundation, In loving memory of Bill Zammer; the Law Offices of Boyd & Boyd, P.C.; Devadigm; The Goosey Fund; Cape Cod Retractable, Inc.; Cape Cod 5; Asset Management Resources; Dellbrook|JKS; Rockland Trust; The Valle Group; Catalyst Architects; and Roche Bros. in Mashpee.