My dear friend and a man whom I was blessed to know when I was a social worker at the VA posted this on his Facebook page in April:
Today, April 30th, marks the 40th Anniversary of the fall of Saigon and the loss of the Vietnam war. Today remember the 55,280 men who died there. We lost the war but they gave their lives serving their country. I think about them every day. Semper Fi, "Always Faithful"
While we did the very best we could to serve our veterans as they returned home from war or after completing their military service, we were woefully inadequate to fully meet the needs of our nation's veterans and their families. I remember when we weren't allowed to treat family members because they were not included in our "count" for statistical reporting purposes. Fortunately, there are organizations outside of the VA that are available and are critical to filling in the service gap that sadly exists within the VA. Often times, veterans are still mistrustful of the VA. Having organizations like the Arredondo Family Foundation and Veterans Outreach Centers provides energy, and creativity to address issues affecting the military and veteran population.
When Melida Arredondo, co-chair of the Board of Directors for the Arredondo Family Foundation put out the call on Facebook asking for people to host fundraisers for the Foundation, what seemed like in the blink of an eye, military family member and family member of a 4/15/13 Boston Strong Survivor, Michele Boynton organized Ride to Survive - Suicide Prevention Awareness to benefit the Arredondo Family Foundation. Her entry into this world foreshadowed the hurricane that she is as she writes:
I was born at Camp LeJeune in the middle of a hurricane ...my dad a Marine Medic on duty and my mom tried to drive to Onslow County Hospital...water came up to the windows of the car...2 Marines pulled my mom out of the car and walked her back to base in waist deep water to have me!
On June 14 at the Gardner Fish and Gun Club, there is a motorcycle ride and cookout with live music and a raffle. Michele single-handedly orchestrated and garnered the support of veterans groups and local police and fire departments.
Stephen Bassett, pictured below with Michele, Melida and Carlos Arredondo, the outreach coordinator for the Montachusett Veterans Outreach Center in Gardner along with the Gardner chapter of the Vietnam Veterans of America have been supporting Michele on her mission.
Suicide in the military and among the veteran population has sadly reached epidemic proportions. The Arredondo Family Foundation works to raise awareness, provide support and resources to military families whose lives have been touched by suicide, and work with partner organizations to prevent suicide. They also provide much needed support to siblings and will be using monies from the Foundation to fund a sibling scholarship at UMass Boston.
This event is an opportunity for veterans and their families to come together on a summer's day in New England to feel that sense of camaraderie and community that is often lost after one is discharged from the military. The sense of isolation and the feeling that no one understands the culture and the aftermath of serving in the military can lead to devastating consequences. But with Ride to Survive and the services that the Arredondo Family Foundation (AFF) offers, there is healing. There is hope. There is life!
Please join us on June 14th to celebrate veterans and to support the AFF. You can pre-register via Eventbrite.
Motorcycles - $20
Riders - $10
and that includes the cookout
Cookout is available for purchase for those not riding.
LIVE Music and raffle tickets....Only 200 tickets are being sold. They are $100 but the pot is $3000 for 1st prize $1500 for 2nd and $500 for 3rd....so the odds are really good! Visit
I am deeply honored and blessed to have been invited to be a part of this event. I'll be back in my element meeting and greeting our nation's heroes and their families. I'll offer my experiences of how I learned and continue to learn how to journey well in the wake of paralytic polio, childhood domestic violence and two family suicides. I'll be signing copies of my book, "Journey Well" and donating 50% of book proceeds to the Foundation; a cause near and dear to my heart as a retired VA social worker and as a survivor of suicides.
Come one come all to support our nation's heroes and to enjoy a day to celebrate survival, thriving, love and community!
Cheers - To Life!
I chronicle the first 7 years of my healing journey after being diagnosed with post polio syndrome, a progressive neuromuscular disease as a survivor of childhood paralytic polio and 9 years of childhood domestic violence in Coming Home:A Memoir of Healing, Hope and Possibility.
In Journey Well, the journey continues in the wake of my nephew's suicide on 3/4/11 and the events of 4/15/13. Through my journey of healing and transformation, we learn that no matter what life circumstances happen to us, we can always find a way to journey well.
50% of book proceeds from all of my books, available on Amazon are donated to the Arredondo Family Foundation whose mission is to provide a helping hand to those experiencing a tragedy and to provide education on matters relating to military, veterans, military families, and the issue of suicide.
I am working on my new book, Feel the Heal: An Anthology of Poems which brings together my best poems of the last 8 years and will include my latest poems as I continue to feel the heal and move forward in my life.