I am so happy that I have the opportunity to work with many non-profit organizations. I feel like I’m called to do something positive that will help our veterans and/or the community. I have always had the passion for serving others and am so grateful that at this point in my life I am able to do so. One non-profit organization that I happen to be a part of, thanks to the American Legion Auxiliary Unit 392 in Panama City, is the Booyah Veterans Bus Project.
The Booyah Veterans Bus Project started as a story, shared by Pam Hilburn-Mathis to Shane Johnson owner of Booyah Mortgage, about a woman, Ellen Gilbert, who was called to serve our veterans. Ms. Ellen, who is 70 years young, was transporting veterans from Panama City Naval Base to the VA Clinic in Pensacola, FL. She would wake up early to get to the Naval Base to drive our veterans who lacked transportation over 100 miles to the VA Clinic and had been doing this for many years. Ms. Ellen then noticed that some veterans were walking the night before due to lack of transportation and sleeping on benches so they would be at the Naval Base in time to meet the bus. So Ms. Ellen started to transport them from their homes to the Naval Base early every morning, sometimes waking up at 3am to make sure every veteran who needed transportation could be picked up, instead of having to walk the day before and sleep on park benches.
After hearing this story, Shane really thought long and hard about this issue and as a Marine veteran was very concerned and knew that there was something that had to be done to solve this situation. Being an entrepreneur, Shane created the non-profit Booyah Veterans Bus Project, whose motto is “Giving a Veteran a hand up, not a hand out.” And with creating an “Army” of volunteers and support the philosophy of “No Veteran left behind!”
This is a 3-phase project:
1st – Awareness. Starting on October 22nd and ending on November 11th, three Marines rucked over 400 miles from Orlando to Panama City, Florida to raise awareness for our homeless Veterans. Followed by a support team in a RV and many behind the scenes, these gentlemen walked 22 miles a day in honor of the 22 veterans who commit suicide a day. Now this ruck will have a 2nd part, where they will ruck from Panama City, FL to San Diego, CA over the course of 3 months.
2nd – Getting the buses out in military areas that provide a place to shower, wash clothes, get personal supplies, and then transportation to the VA Clinics for appointments.
3rd – Develop of a property in Florida that will have many amenities and a 13 week program that help active duty military transfer into civilian life upon leaving the military and then have a job upon completion of the program in the industry they desire with a mentor.
Now this is not an easy task. The first ruck was just the beginning. It gave all of us associated with the project a glance into the life of someone who is homeless. The endless walking, blisters on their feet, times of just complete exhaustion, the change in weather at a moment’s notice, the lack of support for homelessness, just to name a few. This was not an easy task for the three Marines who rucked the 400 miles.
I’d like to thank Shane Johnson, Shawn Moore, Richard “Q” Mccuen; the three Marines who rucked the entire 400 miles, taking time away from their jobs and their families. If you know anything about Marines, you know they are trained to do whatever it takes to complete their mission. They walk and run in all sorts of weather and terrain and they do it as a team, watching out for each other. If you are a homeless veteran, the possibility of having that support is not always there and that is where the Booyah Veterans Bus Project can hopefully fill that void and offer support to our homeless veteran population.
As they prepare for the other leg of the ruck, many more people will walk with them, some for short periods and some during the whole route. The RV will follow containing items they need to complete this mission, blog and make videos covering the ruck, with a team of people who will never give up!!!
What I have learned being a part of this group, is that we are a family. We may not be related by blood, but by the serving in the military, being spouses or family members of veterans, and having the same calling in our hearts to help veterans. We cannot rely on the government to do it for us, we need to take control!!!!!!
Please #getonthebuswithus and follow us on Facebook https://m.facebook.com/getonthebuswithus/ , the website at www.booyahveteranbusproject.com and on YouTube by searching Booyah Veterans Bus Project or Booyah Hike Across America.
Many thanks goes to the support staff and future ruckers who make up the Booyah family, MJ Motta, Ross Sykes, Raymond Tharaldson, Charles E. Anderson, Missy Buchart, Bonnie Harper, and so many more that I probably forgot to name!!!!!!
Shuffle on my friends!!!!!