In 2007, former Navy SEAL and native Texan Marcus Luttrell published the monster hit memoir, Lone Survivor. It was the moving story of a man who faced down the Taliban in Afghanistan, and Marcus was the only one of his squad that survived. In 2013, it was made into a movie starring Mark Wahlberg. I think it’s safe to say that in the post-9/11 era, Lone Survivor and American Sniper served to give us an idea of just what our SEALS as well as all who put themselves in harm’s way to keep us safe go through to get the job done.
In 2009, five Texan women were so moved by Marcus’s story that they decided to band together to say thank you as well as serve those who have served. It started with the formation of a not-for-profit organization named Boot Campaign, a simple way to start a conversation by purchasing and wearing the desert boots associated with the Global War on Terror. The battle cry was and is, “Lace Up, America,” and in ten years, the Boot Campaign has raised millions of dollars to help vets with a number of needs. Can you imagine showing up in your Sunday-go-to-meetin’ clothes on Thanksgiving sporting desert combat boots? How easy would it be to say, “It’s time to lace up and say thanks.” Pictures abound of The Boot Campaign becoming a movement and the boots being worn by celebrities, sports stars, musicians, politicians, and just regular folk from all over.
More importantly, the Boot Campaign has been successful in uniting several hospital systems and doctors in combining treatment plans for vets who have come back from the Great Sandbox suffering from the five “biggies,” which are sleep disorders, addiction, PTSD, chronic pain, and traumatic brain injury. Some of the approaches are allopathic, some are alternative, some are neuroscientific, and I am pleased that they also emphasize exercise and nutrition. They are getting tangible results, like guys getting a solid night’s sleep for the first time in years.
There are Reboot Boot Camps for vets who are in need of intense therapy in an outdoor setting, and unlike other groups, vets who have been through hell are the ones running point on bringing vets who are stuck in their own private hell to come on home. In other words, someone in a white coat is not going to be given the chance to say, “I know just how you feel,” when the hardest thing they have had to face is a lousy commute or a bad hair day.
Another of the Boot Campaign’s givebacks is called Santa Boots, which surprises deserving military families with gifts at Christmas time to help those with parents are who deployed or who are taking care of a catastrophically wounded family member.
The Boot Campaign started in Texas and has spread to 31 states. From what I could tell, there is not yet a chapter here in Alabama, and I hope it won’t be long until there is. Perhaps “the Boot” is calling you to scoot on over to their website to see how you can get involved. If so, go to www.bootcampaign.org.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner