On the 13th of September 2023, with the hot days of summer in the rearview, over 700 guests gathered at the prestigious Broadmoor International Center including military and civic leaders, elected officials, and community members. Everyone came together to not only learn about the mission and purpose of the Home Front Military Network (HFMN), but to also make a difference in the lives of veterans, service members, and their families at the 7th Annual Honoring the Brave℠ Breakfast.
Before breakfast began, the volunteers and staff of HFMN greeted guests while they sipped their morning brew, caught up with old friends, and networked with other partner agencies throughout the community. At 7:30 am everyone was seated and Joe Cole, News Director of FOX21 kicked off the program. The Cadet Honor Guard of the United States Air Force Academy posted the colors flawlessly and Thunder Tones of Discovery Canyon Campus Middle School performed a beautiful rendition of The National Anthem led by Ms. Anna Saks. HFMN’s Board Chair, John Andrew welcomed guests and introduced Mayor Yemi Mobolade to share a few remarks with the audience.
Next up, the exceptional Broadmoor catering staff delivered breakfast to everyone and while guests enjoyed their meals, the HFMN Executive Director, Kate Hatten, had the opportunity to share with the audience more about the mission of HFMN and the tremendous impact the organization has had on service members, veterans, and their families throughout the state of Colorado. Through the partner network, the organization fosters collaboration and communication to help minimize duplication and fragmentation of services so that those in need of assistance are more easily able to access the services they need. The organization conducts outreach, raising awareness about services offered by HFMN and our partners.
Kate shared that in 2022, HFMN’s total call volume increased by 17% above the prior year, and this year, to date, HFMN is on pace to well exceed the number of unique clients and total calls for assistance we received in 2022. Overall, the call volume has more than quadrupled since 2019, and HFMN has provided more than $1 million in emergency financial assistance in the last 3+ years, keeping more than 750 households out of homelessness or without other basic needs.
Kate noted that the case management team is fielding higher caseloads and call volume and more complex calls than ever before. Kate concluded her remarks by thanking guests for their previous generosity and encouraging them that with their continued support, HFMN can continue to improve the lives of vulnerable veterans and families, so they can not just survive, but THRIVE!
Every year HFMN recognizes an individual with the Joe Henjum Honoring the Brave℠ award and an organization with the Bob Carlone Community Service award. These awards are presented to those who consistently support our military members and their families of all services to include Active Duty, Reserve, National Guard, and Veterans.
The Joe Henjum Honoring the Brave℠ was presented to Terri L Clinton, Former State Commander, The American Legion. Terri is an Army Veteran and established herself as a strong advocate for veterans and their families throughout her time with the American Legion including previously serving as former State Commander. It is worth noting that she has done much of this in honor of her Brother-in-law, Staff Sergeant Brett E. Walden, killed in action in Iraq on August 5, 2005.
The Bob Carlone Community Service Award was presented to Silver Key Senior Services who is a trusted partner of HFMN and is dedicated to a comprehensive suite of life-saving services. These include transportation, Meals on Wheels/Home Delivered Meals, Health & Wellness programs, access to the Food Pantry, and availability of Durable Medical Equipment.
After the awards presentation, Joe Cole introduced the keynote speaker- Babe Kwasniak, Civilian Aide to the Secretary to the Army. Babe is a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point (1999) and was Honorably discharged as a Captain in the Army. He travels the country to speak about the invisible enemy, suicide. He began by saying that “one of the most tragic deaths is suicide.” Since post 9/11, service members are times more likely to die by suicide than by combat. 57% of those never deployed; they succumbed to the guilt of losing one or more of their comrades. Babe went on to talk about his own battle with depression and suicidal ideations of possibly jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge while at a basketball camp in San Francisco, CA. He went on to talk about how hard it was for him to go to those he had idolized to tell them that he was having problems with his mental health.
Many service members struggle to talk to someone, even those that they would ordinarily tell most everything and anything. Babe ended up telling his idol and mentor through a podcast where he told his story. His mentor told him that he was proud of him and that he needed to continue to tell his story to help those that are struggling with their own battle with the invisible enemy. Babe closed out his speech talking about how he was lucky to have people around him that pointed him in the right direction to get help. Unfortunately, two of these individuals lost their battle to that invisible enemy. He later sought counseling in Chicago and is thankful for all that he has in his life and strives to help those that he can reach to let them know that they are not alone in the fight of post-traumatic stress, transition difficulties and suicidal ideations.
The DCC Thunder Tones took the stage following Babe’s powerful story with a somber rendition of “In Flanders Fields.” Finally, to close out the program, Joe Cole and Babe Kwasniak asked guests to consider a gift to HFMN to help increase capacity and ensure the mission of the Home Front Military Network move forward. They challenged the audience to exceed last year’s amount raised of more than $200,000. So far this year the event sponsors and guests have contributed more than $161,000!
If you haven’t already had an opportunity to donate, help us reach our goal and please consider a gift today! All you have to do is text “THRIVE23” to 44-321, click the link below, or send a check to the HFMN office at 1120 N. Circle Drive, Suite #230, Colorado Springs, CO 80909. All donations will go directly to the organization’s programs and services – giving back to the military and veteran families who have served our country. With these funds, HFMN can continue to serve our clients and expand access to services across the whole state of Colorado.
HFMN would not be able to do this splendid work without the faithful crew of donors, volunteers, sponsors, Committee and Board members, staff, and partner agencies who believe in this organization. Thank you all for Honoring the Brave with us!!!