Serving those who fought for our freedom

In celebration of Independence Day, today's blog post comes from the director of Habitat for Humanity International's Veterans Build program. Habitat Michigan is currently working with HFHI to build a program designed to engage veterans throughout the state.

I want to thank the Michigan SSO team for providing me this opportunity to provide the blog post for the month of July, 2017.  As the Director of Veterans Build at HFHI I have had the distinct privilege to work with many affiliates across our Habitat community.  What has and continues to inspire me is the variety of ways that affiliates have stepped up to serve the veterans that live in our communities.

As we embark on our campaign to serve veterans throughout the great state of Michigan in cooperation with the Michigan SSO, you the affiliate community, the veteran community, and the people of Michigan, we hope that together we can create a movement that sets the highest mark for what can be achieved.  Our hope and goal is that we see increased resources and families served at each and every affiliate.

Since the foundation of our country citizens have stepped up and served, many have sacrificed, and countless numbers have given all they had.  They didn’t serve because they sought adulation or expected great rewards.  They only sought that which they were due.  The Continental Army’s enlistees were no different than those that were drafted into service and no different that those of us who now serve and have voluntarily served during our longest period of conflict.  But one thing has been constant and that has been there are those out there who struggle, certainly not every veteran, but enough.  And there remains a need to serve those who have served.

As General Washington stated in his Circular Letter of Farewell to the Army, June 8, 1773….

Before I conclude the subject of public justice, I cannot omit to mention the obligations this Country is under, to that meritorious Class of veteran Non-commissioned Officers and Privates, who have been discharged for inability, in consequence of the Resolution of Congress of the 23d of April 1782, on an annual pension for life, their peculiar sufferings, their singular merits and claims to that provision need only be known, to interest all the feelings of humanity in their behalf: nothing but a punctual payment of their annual allowance can rescue them from the most complicated misery, and nothing could be a more melancholy and distressing sight, than to behold those who have shed their blood or lost their limbs in the service of their Country, without a shelter, without a friend, and without the means of obtaining any of the necessaries or comforts of Life; compelled to beg their daily bread from door to door! suffer me to recommend those of this description, belonging to your State, to the warmest patronage of your Excellency and your Legislature.

This sentiment to see his soldiers cared for by the nation is echoed in the words spoken by Adm. Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on Memorial Day 2008. 

“There is, I am convinced, a sea of goodwill out in the country of people and places yearning to help. We need to tap into it. We need to make that connection. We need to come up with new ways and new ideas to make life better for those affected by this war, so that kids can go to school, incomes can be sustained and homes can be both purchased and lived in for a long time. (Added emphasis) The truth is, we live in deeds, not days; in actions and thoughts and feelings, not heartbeats. If the untimely battlefield deaths of generations of American heroes have taught us nothing else, it should be this unalterable fact: What you do with your time here on earth is far more important than the time you had to do it.”

That is, I am convinced, the Habitat community, the volunteers, the full time staff, the affiliates large and small: we are that Sea of Goodwill.  I am equally convinced that when we come together as a body with a singular focus on being that resource for the veterans of Michigan, we will all be lifted.  

So as we celebrate, please remember, what we have is because, like you, others stepped up in the past - and will do so again in the future.

To learn more about Habitat for Humanity's Veterans Build program, please visit

David Gilkeson

Director, Veterans Build