One of the Friese Foundation’s central mandates is to support initiatives that improve the lives of United States military service members. In addition to its contributions to a wide range of community-building programs and organizations focused on education, animal welfare, and youth, the foundation has also made substantial contributions to groups that work with veterans and their families.
In 2019, the foundation directed one of its major gifts to the Los Angeles-based National Veterans Foundation (NVF). For Donald Friese, a retired glass industry executive and veteran himself, the foundation represents a way to give back to those who have given so much to their country.
A well-placed gift
Representatives of the Friese Foundation met with the NVF to learn more about the organization and to determine how to support it. When asked why the foundation puts so much of its funding behind veterans’ causes, a Friese Foundation spokesperson simply said, “We owe them everything, that’s why.”
Thanks to the foundation’s platinum-level sponsorship, the NVF will be able to continue its mission of offering help with the information, referral, and crisis management needs of veterans and their families. Through the NVF, veterans and families can receive emergency supplies of food, clothing, and other essentials. They also have a lifeline in times of crisis.
Meeting a mission-critical need
The NVF’s toll-free Lifeline for Vets (888-777-4443) operates on the proven vet-to-vet model developed by the U.S. Veterans Administration more than 40 years ago. The Lifeline is available free of charge to veterans from any era and every branch of military service. It is also available to current active-duty service members, and to military families of former and current service members. Some of the military personnel it serves are deployed in active combat situations.
The Lifeline can connect callers with medical and legal assistance, job training and employment opportunities, food and shelter, suicide prevention resources, and mental and emotional health counseling, including treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Healing emotional wounds
The deep need for the Lifeline is apparent when you consider the fact that some 2.5 million Americans have been deployed in military units in Afghanistan and Iraq over the past two decades. Around 20 percent of these veterans are coping with clinical depression, traumatic brain injury, PTSD, or another type of mental or emotional health issue stemming from their service.
Returning home after any deployment can be difficult. For some vets, the pain and the pressure are insurmountable. The NVF estimates that about 7 percent of vets are unemployed, and that, on any given night, some 50,000 of them are sleeping on the streets in the nation they risked their lives to protect.
Tragically, many military men and women end up taking their own lives—about 20 people each day, according to recent estimates. This figure includes both veterans and active-duty service members, as well as members of the National Guard. In 2018, there were a total of more than 6,400 deaths by suicide among U.S. veterans. In recent years, the rate has particularly risen among younger vets.
COVID-19 has additionally increased the number of active-duty service member suicides. In April 2021, the publication Military.org reported that fourth-quarter 2020 military deaths by suicide (including current and former military personnel, as well as reservists and National Guard troops) rose by 25 percent over totals from the last quarter of 2019. The COVID crisis, as an Air Force spokesperson noted, has only increased stress and anxiety for people throughout society.
The power of vet-to-vet
The NVF Lifeline for Vets is particularly helpful to military service members in crisis for a number of reasons. Vets can receive information and referrals at both the local and national levels that fit their unique situations and address the real problems they are facing in their lives. The Lifeline serves as important resource for people in communities not equipped with full-service Veterans Administration centers. As a nongovernmental, peer-led service, the Lifeline can offer perspectives based on practical personal experience that cannot be found elsewhere.
When it comes to life-and-death issues, vets know what other vets need. It’s this understanding, care, and personal connection that makes the NVF Lifeline—and its many other services—so essential today.