The Freedom Festival: Forging Partnerships to Help Veterans – by Lindsay Hartig

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An outpouring of support was present this weekend at the England Air-park, a former Air Force Base in Alexandria, Louisiana, for the 3rd annual Freedom Festival.  Family, friends, concerned citizens, advocates, active duty military members and fellow veterans were among the group who joined together in support of Central Louisiana veterans.  The event included a 1 mile fun run/walk, a 5k run and a ‘welcome home’ ceremony. The ceremony was designed to recognize outstanding veteran support organizations and honor select veterans, but more importantly to provide veterans and family members an insight into what resources are available to them through the VA and other local veteran organizations.  Local sponsors provided free activities for children and food for all participants and their family members.  In years past the event has supported the Wounded Warrior Project and Operation Homefront; this year all proceeds were given to Team RWB, who is demonstrating Central Louisiana’s outstanding support to our military men and women.

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Almost 18 months ago, former Louisiana Team RWB State Chapter Captain and US Army Major Jonathan Silk, forged a relationship with the Alexandria VA Medical Center and worked on integrating Team RWB into their veteran outreach program.  The VA and Team RWB partnered together to help veterans re-integrate into society. Team RWB provides both formal and informal physical events, as well as a sense of community to rally behind veterans during transition home from combat or military service.  in an effort to further strengthen this partnership, the VA brought Team RWB on board this year to help direct the Freedom 5k and 1 Mile Fun Run.  This demonstrated an ongoing commitment to build relationships across the two organizations and help carry out the common goal – help veterans!

Mr. Kyle Liotta, the Alexandria VA Medical Center’s OEF/OIF/OND Program Manager, and Mrs. Laura Roach, the VA Center’s OEF/OIF/OND and Polytrauma team’s speech therapist, worked hand in hand with Team RWB Ft. Polk/Alexandria Chapter Captain, Lindsay Hartig, to direct the race.  Over three hundred local supporters attended the event and many veterans were introduced to support networks and resources as a result.  The event’s success was clearly due to the team effort from over 30 volunteers from the Alexandria VA Medical Center’s leadership and staff, over 20 volunteers from the Ft. Polk/Alexandria Team RWB Chapter, and dozens of local sponsors and volunteers.

It’s Our Turn!

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