At the beginning of November. Heroes In Transition (HIT) held its 11th Annual Fall Gala. Like the 10 galas preceding it, this one was full of the usual touches, from the heart-filled National Anthem sung by Kirsten Atteberry to a moving keynote speech by Major Sara E. LaFranchise, Flight Commander for the 102nd Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Group.
Unlike the previous ones, this gala was held virtually, epitomizing the strange and difficult times we currently live in.
Heroes President Cyndy Jones highlighted the lesson that she, and our organization, has learned since March when the pandemic first hit. “I went to my source,” she told the more than 75 people watching via Zoom. “What popped up was the parable of the vinedresser. It actually turned around the pandemic for me and gave me a glimpse of hope.
“As the scripture states, ‘Every branch in me that does not bear fruit, He takes away. And every branch that does bear fruit, He prunes, that it may bear more fruit,” Cyndy continued. “Was this a divine pruning so that we all may re-route our lives to produce the best in us? It worked for me and it worked for us at Heroes In Transition.”
While the pandemic served to isolate us individually, it did not stop Heroes from continuing to connect those we serve. “It took less than a week for HIT to go into that military mode of improvise, adapt and overcome,” Cyndy said.
From increasing its financial assistance – Heroes provided supermarket gift cards to veterans and military families who had lost wages or jobs due to the pandemic – to shifting our in-person events to online ones, our work didn’t stop as a result of COVID-19.
We held weekly online gatherings for military couples, complete with friendly, but competitive games, to a Strategies for Coping weekly support group to help build resiliency and mindfulness for veterans and their spouses. Military families bonded with one another via Zoom while gathering for everything from art lessons and scavenger hunts (followed by a pizza party).
In early June as COVID restrictions were lifted, we were able to safely, and with new protocols in place, hold in-person events that included kayaking, Stand Up Paddleboarding, fishing, and equine therapy.
As veteran and Pastor David Berube said during his invocation, “Whatever our needs, whatever the challenge, Heroes In Transition finds a way to be there for us. What a great blessing. What a cause for joyful celebration and grateful thanks.”
A mother of three and the spouse of an Air Force Security Forces specialist currently serving overseas, Sara LaFranchise spoke to the support she and her family has received from Heroes since being introduced to them in 2019.
Since then, she said, Heroes has become “the LaFranchise family lifeline.”
And she is not alone. “No one is forgotten,” she said. “The love and passion to serve those who have served is clearly evident.”
It hasn’t lost that purpose even during the height of COVID-19 where Heroes “has blazed a path in chartered waters to connect during the impossible. Tonight is confirmation of their hard work,” LaFranchise said. “It’s what they are all about – selflessly and without hesitation meeting people at their needs, the very definition of servant leadership within our community.”