Giving Back to the Men and Women Who Serve

Giving Back to the Men and Women Who Serve
Supporting veterans is a core mission for many, including Trace Chesser and USA Cares. (Dreamstime/TNS)
Tribune News Service
By Emma Patch From Kiplinger’s Personal Finance
Trace Chesser, president and CEO of USA Cares, tells us about his work assisting veterans.
Question: What is the mission of USA Cares?
Answer: We provide financial and emergency assistance for post-9/11 military members and veterans. Often, we assist those who can’t work and pay their bills while undergoing inpatient treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or a serious injury. We stop evictions and foreclosures, reactivate utilities, and get them access to food. We also provide skills training for those who have left or are leaving military service to help them build a foundation for stability.

But the primary thing that we know we’re doing is reducing factors that can contribute to veteran suicide. As of mid-August, we’ve provided support to more than 600 service members, veterans and their families this year.

Question: What kind of skills training do you provide?
Answer: Anyone who gets funding from us must go through an online basic financial literacy course. It covers balancing checkbooks, spending, budgeting and saving for the future. The second program we have covers career transition. We help veterans build a résumé, learn how to do a job search and obtain a job.
Question: How did the organization come about?
Answer: In 2003, a big surge of our military members headed back into Iraq just as the forces in Iraq had become much more sophisticated and organized since the Gulf War, building and implementing effective weapons systems and IEDs [improvised explosive devices]. A lot of service members were coming home with some serious injuries—often missing limbs.

The Army created a “wounded warrior transition unit” at Fort Knox, near Louisville, Kentucky, that helped these service members transition into the VA [Veterans Affairs] system from active duty. The community saw the service members at the Louisville airport and in other places around the area, and a lot of people were very moved. They got together with the grocery chain Kroger and a local TV station, Wave TV, started selling yard signs, and raised a lot of money quickly to help these people. They created an organization that they called Kentuckiana Cares, which later became USA Cares.

Question: How did you get involved?
Answer: I was a service member for a long time. My time in the military was great; I learned a lot, and it helped me to form a lot of skills and abilities, and those experiences transitioned over to some civilian jobs. I was okay with those jobs, but I still had a passion for trying to take care of service members. Then someone introduced me to USA Cares, and here I am.
Question: What do you wish more people understood about the work you do?
Answer: Even though the Iraq combat mission has ended, there is still a massive need for our support services. Over the past 20 years, millions of service members have struggled, and many still are as the economy and inflation drive costs up. Our work is actually increasing all the time.
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