Hays: First stepsWritten by Pam Hays | | email@example.com
At an October 2011 meeting at a local library, I heard these words: “Seriously, Pam? You want to have an event to honor veterans who have traumatic brain injury (TBI) and post-traumatic stress (PTS) and call it ‘Dancing With The Military Stars?’”
Yes! Yes I did!
Dancing and veterans — at first no one thought that was a great idea except me.
The Arms Forces’ mission and my personal goal is to educate civilians on the military and to help them understand the invisible wounds service members can have as the result of their military service. That is a lofty goal and not one that’s going to be achieved by asking you to come to a conference to see a bunch of PowerPoint slides.
I wanted to create a way that you, the entire community, could get to know the truth about our veterans — our heroes who now live with TBI and PTS — while also celebrating their lives and their service to our country. Dancing with the Military Stars (DWTMS) was born and our first event took place in May 2012.
DWTMS is a celebration of life. Dancing, throughout history and most cultures, represents joyous, celebratory times! You don’t have to dance (unless you want to) because we have professional dancers who have been teaching celebrities from our community how to dance for months. In full costume, they will be dancing to some good ol’ country music this year! We have celebrity judges and our honorary chairperson is Dan Rogers from the Cherry Street Mission.
This commitment from the pros and busy leaders, including a TV anchor, business owners, a professor and even an international beauty queen is commendable. Why do they do it? They understand what our veterans have done for them. They get it and that is why they have given their support to the mission of The Arms Forces and this event. Also, community businesses, the media, faith-based organizations and a loyal group of volunteers make the event possible. They all come together with our organization and use their time, talents and resources to assist with all the details that go into an event of this magnitude.
I often say that it takes a community to lift up a veteran and DWTMS proves this to be true.
I recall people coming up to me after the first two events in 2012 and 2013, saying they were touched in ways they had never anticipated when they made their reservations. Some told me they had never talked with a veteran before that night and it was great to meet them socially and interact with them. Some cried and said their eyes were now opened and they would never again take for granted anyone who had served in the military.
The veteran honorees from past years who were leery about agreeing to be honored so publicly, told me the experience was very helpful to them in moving on with their now civilian lives. They were somewhat shocked to find so many who didn’t even know them before the event cared.
Seeing veterans, active duty military and civilians come together for what was once thought of as a silly idea (naysayers never deter me) has become a must-attend event with over 460 people on the scene last year. Yes, it is a fundraiser and has live and silent auctions but the food is always amazing and this year is a Country Meets City Buffet, supported by local restaurants and a caterer. The dance performances are entertaining and the live band and soloists are fantastic.
But it is our veteran honorees and their families who are the stars of the show. Though the event is fun and entertaining, we have a serious message to relay to the community. Our veterans need support from organizations that understand their challenges and are willing to do what it takes to make sure their lives get on track and stay there. Our organization, The Arms Forces, needs your support so we can be there for our veterans.
I hope you will consider attending May 10 and experience Dancing With The Military Stars. For more information, visit www.DancingWithThe MilitaryStars.com.
Pam Hays is president and founder of The Arms Forces. Learn more at www.thearmsforces.org; call her at (419) 891-2111; or visit Facebook.com/thearmsforces.