I Sure Hope I Look Good in Orange

Two years ago my husband left for fifteen months. He went to military training, and then he went straight to the Middle East for a year. I understood when he left that it would be a journey we’d both have to take alone, but it wasn’t until he came home that I realized combat and deployment were experiences I would never really comprehend. There were many nights after he came home that we sat motionless in our own silence, even though we knew there was much to be said.

That’s the way it is for friends of mine whose spouses have civilian jobs. They can’t imagine the lives of military families: being away from loved ones for long periods of time, moving to strange places over and over, celebrating anniversaries alone, supporting their spouse’s decision to volunteer for dangerous jobs that take them in harm’s way, and doing it all over and over and over again. My friends say they don’t know how I do it. They say it’s something they’ll never fully grasp.

My husband survived his recent tour unscathed, with the exception of some separation wounds and a few missed holidays. But I look at the wounded warrior families I know and I wonder how they make sense out of the longevity of their condition, the unending doctors visits, the health challenges seen and unseen, the loneliness of their eventual separation from the military, and the loss of employment and self-worth that many face. I realize it’s something that can’t be understood unless it’s experienced. But because I am a storyteller, I wonder how I can help tell their stories, help others catch a glimpse of the sacrifice they’ve made.

In her speech to the Democratic National Convention this week, Michelle Obama remarked on the amazing American Spirit she has witnessed during her time in the White House. She said:

I’ve seen it in our men and women in uniform and our proud military families … in wounded warriors who tell me they’re not just going to walk again, they’re going to run, and they’re going to run marathons … in the young man blinded by a bomb in Afghanistan who said, simply, “I’d give my eyes 100 times again to have the chance to do what I have done and what I can still do.”

When I heard the First Lady speak those words, it was so meaningful. Not only did I personally know the proud military families of whom she spoke, I realized that the blind swimmer she referred to was Brad Snyder, the warrior I recently wrote about. The quote was even the quote I used in my article. And though I can’t be sure whether it was my article she read, it still underscored for me how universally touching these stories are, how they resonate even at the highest levels, and how they impact people simply because they tell a story about someone who rose to meet what seemed like an insurmountable challenge.

It occurred to me, in that moment, that rising to meet a challenge is something we can all fundamentally understand.

I’ve been given an amazing opportunity to do just that, and this is the first article in a series that I’ll be writing to help raise awareness about the challenges veterans face and their continued importance to the community. Home Depot is sponsoring a “Celebration of Service” campaign once again this year, and I’ve been chosen to write about some of the families assisted by the program. I can’t possibly write about them all – in 2011 The Home Depot Foundation made a pledge to commit $30 million to veterans’ nonprofits, and they announced this morning that they plan to increase that pledge by another $50 million over the next three years.

“Celebration of Service” is a two month program running from now through Veterans Day that recruits Home Depot store associates to volunteer to build, repair, and remodel the homes of veterans and the facilities that serve them throughout the United States. They will make mobility modifications and help reduce utility costs by installing energy-efficient upgrades. I’ll be participating in a local service project for a family in the Northwest, and bringing you the stories of the Veterans and volunteers I meet along the way.

It’s true. Home Depot gets their name mentioned a few times in this blog and several others, and they will undoubtedly get national recognition and accolades for their generosity and dubious corporate responsibility. But really, I hope people realize that they don’t have to do any of this. It isn’t something that makes any sense at all to the bottom line on their balance sheet. It is the idea of giving to Veterans without the expectation of a quantified return that makes me want to participate.

So – I sure hope I look good in orange, because between now and Veterans Day I’m honored to bring you the stories of some of our Nation’s warriors on behalf of Home Depot, and the people who are taking steps to do what they can, it their own way, to say thank you for these sacrifices. You can follow my “Hero Chronicles” here at Witty Little Secret, and many others on the Home Depot Foundation’s Facebook page. I can’t wait to narrate a part of that amazing American Spirit Ms. Obama spoke about. I can’t wait to remember what it feels like to rise up and meet a challenge.

Disclosure: While I am being paid to write these stories, I’d honestly do it for free. (Don’t tell the Home Depot, though.) I’m not being told what to write, not being told to wear orange, not being asked to endorse any products or services, and will as always share my own opinions in my own words. All posts align with WOMMA Ethics Code, FTC guidelines and social media engagement recommendations. I have my own Home Depot stories to tell, but if you have a personal Home Depot experience, I’d much rather hear about that. Feel free to email me at wittylittlesecret at gmail dot com.

25 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Home Depot Celebration of Service: Stiggy’s Dogs
  2. Trackback: Stiggy's Dogs » Stiggy’s expanded orange family
  3. Jessica Tuck
    Sep 24, 2012 @ 16:58:26

    Thank you for letting us know about this program The Home Depot is doing. I always admire when large brands do something to honor the military. To the discount inconsistency issue, it’s a long-standing problem in my opinion. At the same retailer (not HD), I once was denied a discount because I was only a family member whereas beforehand, I had been granted the same discount at the same store. It’s embarrassing when you’re denied the discount and you have to make the case and explain they’ve granted it before. It’s a matter of educating frontline employees and ensuring execs understand the issues at hand before deciding on a policy. Let’s not even talk about the fact that you can’t easily redeem a military discount online, which is certainly a missed opportunity for businesses since so much more shopping is done online. There are several companies out there that offer discounts online after military affiliation is confirmed, but it’s still an awkward process, IMO.

    Back to the point of this post, I was talking with my husband the other night and we marveled at how lucky he was that he came back from 4 Iraq deployments all in one piece. There were plenty of instances where he was in danger and he was lucky and not wounded. However, a few inches or yards would have made all the difference in our lives and we’d be one of the many wounded warrior families who are heroes every single day. So, it’s with that spirit of gratitude and respect that I support any business that is willing to go the extra mile for wounded service members.

    Reply

    • Lori Volkman @ Witty Little Secret
      Sep 25, 2012 @ 21:00:58

      Thanks for taking the time to write, Jessica.

      I actually ended up getting a chance to talk with some Home Depot reps about this and they are working pretty hard to ensure that anyone with a military I.D. gets a discount. I was really impressed with their response.

      And as for luck … I don’t think that’s the word you really mean. I think you feel thankful. But I know you feel blessed to have him back in one piece. Four trips is a lot. I talked to a guy recently who had ten deployments to the Middle East under his belt. I too felt thankful.

      Reply

    • Lori Volkman @ Witty Little Secret
      Oct 04, 2012 @ 08:14:19

      Jessica, I’m writing about this on Friday! Be sure to check back. I got an answer directly from Corporate.

      Reply

  4. Trackback: My Trip with Home Depot and Stiggy’s Dogs | Beneath My Heart
  5. Gail (@repurposedlife)
    Sep 11, 2012 @ 15:52:49

    It’s nice to meet you Lori. 🙂 I can’t wait to wear orange for this great cause! I too, am one of those that say Thank You for the sacrifice, and I don’t know how you do it.
    I look forward to working with you next week!
    gail

    Reply

  6. Beth
    Sep 07, 2012 @ 14:54:48

    I know Home Depot’s trying to do it up right…but maybe local stores are different. My husband worked for HD here in North Carolina for several years while simultaneously serving as a reservist. They made his life hell in the meantime. No chance at promotions, extra responsibilities, and constant sh*t from the boss every time he has to do so much as a weekend up. He quit long ago & signed on as a full time reservist. HD still won’t give me a discount without him present – a military spouse’s ID card is not good enough here.

    Lowe’s, however, will honor it. But I always feel guilty showing my card and asking for it. And get annoyed when I have to explain that yes, my husband is “just” a reservist, but is a reservist who serves in a full-time capacity, doing the same job enlisted members do. And so many times I just don’t bother.

    All that’s BS at the moment. Husband is returning from 4th deployment tomorrow afternoon. I’m all nerves & sleepless wrinkles. Someone different (not always good) has come home to me every time. Please keep your fingers crossed for us.

    Thanks for being here, Lori.

    (And I thought you meant a prison orange jumpsuit, too).

    Reply

    • Lori Volkman @ Witty Little Secret
      Sep 10, 2012 @ 02:49:02

      Beth,
      I’m thinking of you and saying a prayer. Congratulations. Enjoy these first few weeks and some earned mental rest. You and I both know there is hard work ahead. Fill up your tank for the next phase of deployment. I love you!

      Reply

    • Lori Volkman @ Witty Little Secret
      Sep 10, 2012 @ 02:52:36

      P.S. I’ve heard about this employment culture before under the old Home Depot CEO. But the new one, Frank Blake, is supposed to be one of the most military friendly employers. I’m going to meet him in a couple of weeks, so I’ll pass this carding issue along! You never know!

      Reply

  7. kristle
    Sep 06, 2012 @ 13:34:32

    The Home depot foundation is doing a tremendous job. We could sit here all day and list all the people and places that hire, or give money, support any other ways, or nit pick pick about which home depot’s gave who a Military discount, but who is to say that you didn’t just get the person who didn’t know, or didn’t care to ask? Like Lori mentioned above, Google The Home Depot Foundation and you will see countless amazing things that they are doing. Of course they will get PR, social media alone has that covered, and the people who are providing the coverage are people who believe in what they are doing, not someone who is getting paid to say that. “Since its formation in 2002, The Home Depot Foundation has granted more than $300 million to nonprofit organizations improving homes and lives in local communities. ” PR Newswire (http://s.tt/1mD2b)
    My husband is retired and he gets a discount at Home Depot, unfortunately like any other place i’m not sure they could give a discount to someone who doesn’t hold an ID card. There are too many fraudulent Veterans these days.

    Reply

  8. Ellen
    Sep 06, 2012 @ 11:25:30

    What about the countless retailers in military towns who give service members and dependents discounts for purchases? What about Sears? What about local companies who hire National Guard folks – and then understand when they have to be away for a weekend or more? And while Home Depot does not have to do this project, and “it may not make sense to their balance sheet”, I beg to differ. You don’t think the amount of positive PR they’ll get is worth it? (And I would be remiss if I did not point out that Bill’s post specifically mentions “Home Depot does not offer discounts to *veterans*”)

    Reply

    • Lori Volkman @ Witty Little Secret
      Sep 06, 2012 @ 11:40:59

      Hm, well I can’t write about everyone that gives a military discount. I’m sure there are multiple websites devoted to that. But repairing thousands of homes and facilities for wounded warriors so that they can get around in their wheelchairs, with their canes, or work in their own yards has an awful lot more value in my opinion than offering them a 10% discount on two-by-fours.

      In regards to the “free PR” comment I suppose what I meant is that there are lots of ways corporations can chose to spend their PR dollars. What I like is that Home Depot chose to establish a foundation that makes a difference by pledging $200 million to Veterans’ nonprofits instead. That’s a lot of money.

      Ellen I agree, it’s a strange distinction to make between active duty/reservists (who get the discount) and veterans (who apparently don’t at some stores). I’ve already asked the corporate office for an answer on this issue based on Bill’s comments and I’ll be sure to update everyone on what I find out.

      But are you really saying Home Depot doesn’t support Veterans if they don’t give them a 10% discount?

      Reply

  9. John Erickson
    Sep 06, 2012 @ 09:49:07

    Yep, I fell for the “orange jumpsuit” idea as well. And here, I had ALL sorts of thoughts for you on how to avoid both arrest and prosecution. Like how to deal with an overzealous police officer who just spotted your Illinois Firearms Owner ID Card, and is now giving you an ear exam with his 9mm Beretta.😯
    Not like that ever happened to me, on Lake Cook Road westbound over Milwaukee Ave. at 4:47pm on a Tuesday. Nope, never had that experience……😉

    Reply

    • Lori Volkman @ Witty Little Secret
      Sep 06, 2012 @ 09:51:27

      As your attorney, I advise you to stop talking. Now. Again …

      Reply

      • John Erickson
        Sep 07, 2012 @ 19:00:31

        Actually, it worked out kinda neat – I avoided the ticket AND getting shot! Once I convinced him I had no Uzis in the trunk, he grew VERY curious about what a World War 2 Re-enactor did (the reason I had the FOID card). I entertained him so much, he tore up the ticket (for 62 in a 45 – yeah, I’m a leadfoot, albeit mellowed with age) and wished me a good day. One of the better days dealing with law enforcement. Maybe someday I’ll tell you about the half-day I spent, in cuffs, riding around with a policeman in search of bail money after I was pulled over with no ID and my wife’s purse in the front seat.😯

        Reply

  10. Eleanor
    Sep 06, 2012 @ 08:58:09

    Whew. You had me worried when I read the post title. I was thinking prison orange jumpsuit.🙂

    Reply

  11. Bill
    Sep 06, 2012 @ 06:21:01

    While I applaud what Home Depot is doing for those few months, I also point out that Lowe’s is (and has been for months) giving a 10% discount on each and every purchase to anyone who can show a military ID. This is one of the reasons I will shop there instead of Home Depot, who do not give discounts to veterans.

    More and more businesses are now giving discounts to those in or retired from the military. I try my best to give them my patronage.

    Reply

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