Emerging nonprofit reunites combat veterans with their units and the Gold Star families of those they lost
CHICAGO — Grant Thornton LLP, a leading audit, tax and advisory firm, has named Warrior Reunion Foundation to its Purple Paladin program, which helps emerging nonprofit organizations move from “start-up to unstoppable.” As part of the program, Grant Thornton provides funding, business advice and volunteer support, while also helping nonprofits raise awareness of their work and mission.
Born from a veteran’s desire to reunite with his fellow warriors, this newly-selected Purple Paladin reconnects military units via holistic reunion experiences. Reunions include everything from social hours to supportive resource briefings and memorials. Further, all experiences feature a service project to remind attendees of their purpose and renew their call to service while working together as a unit. The organization customizes its activities based on the unique needs and combat experience of the attendees.
To date, Warrior Reunion Foundation has held 28 reunion events, bringing together more than 1,500 combat veterans and Gold Star families. The organization is planning numerous additional events for 2022.
“Warrior Reunion Foundation is helping thousands of combat veterans overcome the challenges of post-military life, and we are honored to be supporting this crucial work,” said Brad Preber, CEO of Grant Thornton. “I’ve seen firsthand the incredible value veterans bring to the workplace and their communities. We have an obligation to help provide the care and support they need long after they have left the battlefield. Collaborating with Warrior Reunion Foundation gives Grant Thornton a chance to help cultivate the community that so many veterans need to thrive.”
“We are together. And together we are strong.”
Warrior Reunion Foundation was founded in 2017 by James Ferguson, who served as an active-duty Marine officer for more than six years. During a seven-month deployment in Kajaki, Afghanistan, Ferguson led a unit of Marines conducting offensive operations against a numerically superior, well-entrenched force of Taliban and Al-Qaeda-aligned fighters. Out of his unit’s 120 Marines, five were killed in action and 32 received Purple Hearts. Upon returning to the United States, Ferguson and his fellow warriors faced new battles related to reintegration and post-traumatic stress.
“Even though I was back at home and moving forward with the next phase of my life, I felt disconnected,” Ferguson said. “I came to realize that, overseas or not, I still needed my unit. They were the only ones who really understood what I had gone through and what I was going through now.”
Five years after their tour in Afghanistan, Ferguson held a reunion for his unit and the Gold Star families of those they lost. The reconnection to each other and to their community helped each of the veterans and families in attendance — and the event inspired Ferguson to host more reunions and reach even more warriors.
“It’s all about taking the support and strength units share during combat and helping them bring that into the next chapter of their journey,” Ferguson said.
Motivated by the power and impact of reconnection, he founded Warrior Reunion Foundation. The results have been inspiring: In post-reunion surveys, nearly all attendees say the reunion events strengthen their connections with their military family. Further, nearly all attendees say they feel more confident in reaching out to their fellow veterans for support — roughly double the amount that had said so before the event.
But the true impact is often intangible. As one attendee recently shared, “We remember who we were and hold on to that memory as we determine who we will be. We are together. And together we are strong.”
To learn more about Warrior Reunion Foundation, visit https://www.grantthornton.com/csr/purple-paladins. To donate, visit www.warriorreunionfoundation.org/donate.
Warrior Reunion Foundation joins nine other nonprofits that Grant Thornton previously selected as Purple Paladins: Go Team Therapy Dogs, Find Your Anchor, Foster Nation, Hope in a Box, Weird Enough Productions, Invisible Hands Deliver, Pal Experiences, Sneakers for Soldiers and Coming Up Rosies.
- Go Team Therapy Dogs is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that produces well-trained therapy dogs and places them at disaster sites, hospitals, and other places where they can offer comfort and care. To learn more, visit www.goteamdogs.org.
- Find Your Anchor is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit focused on suicide prevention. To help people who are struggling to find hope, the organization creates and distributes boxes of curated items known as “anchors.” Each box includes a deck of cards titled “52+ Reasons to Live,” a list of suicide prevention resources and posters with hopeful messaging. To learn more, visit www.findyouranchor.us.
- Foster Nation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that helps former foster youth overcome the challenges associated with ‘aging out’ of the foster-care system. To learn more, visit: www.fosternation.org.
- Hope in a Box is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that provides educators with literature, detailed curriculums and coaching to improve classroom environments for LGBTQ+ students. To learn more, visit: www.hopeinabox.org.
- Weird Enough Productions is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that develops free, interactive online content designed to combat media misrepresentations of minority communities. The organization is best known for its hallmark comic book series, “The UnCommons.” To learn more, visit: www.weirdenough.com.
- Invisible Hands Deliver is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that taps more than 12,000 volunteers to deliver groceries, prescriptions and other necessities to people vulnerable to COVID-19 — including the elderly, disabled and immunocompromised. To learn more, visit: www.invisiblehandsdeliver.org.
- Pal Experiences is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that helps people with non-visible disabilities — such as autism — have more inclusive experiences at museums, entertainment venues and sporting events. To learn more, visit: www.palexperiences.org.
- Sneakers for Soldiers is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that provides properly-fitted athletic shoes to deployed combat troops in all branches of the military. To learn more, visit: www.sneakersforsoldiers.org.
- Coming Up Rosies is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that provides “smile kits” to hospitals so children — particularly those suffering from hair loss — can engage in therapeutic art activities to create custom head scarves, neck scarves and superhero capes based on their own unique designs. To learn more, visit: www.cominguprosies.com.
Grant Thornton’s Purple Paladins program derives its name from the word paladin, a champion of a cause. Grant Thornton and its professionals have donated more than $530,000 for Purple Paladin nonprofits, and more than 350 Grant Thornton professionals have volunteered support to the firm’s Purple Paladins.
To learn more about Purple Paladins, or to nominate a nonprofit for potential support, visit Grant Thornton’s website: www.grantthornton.com/PurplePaladins.
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