One Veteran Group Is Working to Keep ‘Community Engagement’ Amid Wuhan Coronavirus Outbreak

Posted: Apr 07, 2020 7:30 PM
One Veteran Group Is Working to Keep ‘Community Engagement’ Amid Wuhan Coronavirus Outbreak

Source: AP Photo/Mark Lennihan

America is locked down. The economy is in free fall. Millions are now filing for unemployment. For those who are fortunate enough to continue to work from home and keep getting a paycheck, count your blessings; legions of Americans do not have that luxury. This is a serious disease. The virus has infected close to 400,000 Americans. Nearly 13,000 have died. It’ll definitely surpass the 14,000-mark tomorrow. The Wuhan coronavirus outbreak has led to at least 80 percent of the country living under stay-at-home order or something to that effect. Schools have been closed. All major sports seasons have been postponed indefinitely. We’re in neutral now.

Yet, with education moving online, one veterans’ group is doing the same with their character building and community engagement courses that everyone cooped up inside due to this pandemic should take, or at the very least listen in on in the coming days. It’s not like we have anything better to do right now. The Travis Manion Foundation’s Character Does Matter seminar moved online on March 23. It starts every weekday at 1 PM on Facebook Live.

“The Character Does Matter program is unique in that it empowers Veterans and Family Members of Fallen Heroes who volunteer with TMF to develop character and leadership skills in young adults by sharing stories of real people who exemplify these traits,” read their press release. “These mentors lead students through character-based activities, demonstrating what it means to live the ‘If Not Me, Then Who…’ ethos – and then challenging students to do the same.”

With the sudden request from government officials for self-quarantining, remote working situations, and school closures, many have been left seeking some degree of structure and normalcy in unstable times, leaving parents and caretakers with the challenge of homeschooling their children while simultaneously keeping their homes and careers afloat.  

During this time of uncertainty, TMF has seen a great opportunity to support overwhelmed parents, deliver character education to youth at home--all while delivering on its mission to engage the veteran community to give back in ways that are safe for and meet the current needs of the country. Veterans find innovative solutions to be resilient during challenging times, and as such, TMF’s Veteran Mentors are prepared to deliver the curriculum via e-learning for as long as may be needed given recent public health directives.

Ryan Manion, TMF’s president and Gold Star Sister of Marine 1st Lt. Travis Manion, highlights the importance of a program like this during such an uncertain time, noting that “In times like this, we can’t afford to sit on the sidelines. Just because school is canceled, it doesn’t mean that character should be canceled. With millions of students learning remotely from their own homes, we saw an opportunity to offer this curriculum -- for free -- to any family that thinks they could benefit from it. This is the exact moment where all of us can make a difference by serving our communities, and that’s exactly what our curriculum teaches.”

The Character Does Matter Program addresses two major issues: First, more than 55% of veterans say they feel disconnected from civilian life. Second, more than one in three young adults (16 million) have never had a positive role model or mentor.

That disconnect from veterans and civilian life is now amplified, as we’re now all required to adhere to social distance protocols in order to slow the spread of this virus that can live on some surfaces for up to three days. Thankfully, this is a virus that isn't spread via airborne transmission, though it can survive in the air upon aerosolization for hours. It’s mostly by surfaces, and that becomes a major issue with those who exhibit mild symptoms of the virus or are outright asymptomatic. These folks can spread it all over and put the elderly and immunocompromised, those most likely to die from the virus, at extreme risk. And young people, while being in the demographic best suited to recover, can still get ill and die from the Wuhan virus. That’s why these lockdown measures are key. At the same time, as TMF noted, that doesn’t mean the principles of community engagement take a timeout. If anything, now is a key moment for such courses since it’s going to take all of us to combat this viral outbreak effectively.

Right now, veterans dealing with serious mental issues have their problems exacerbated with this social disconnect. Tragically, suicide hotlines are now seeing an uptick (via Stars and Stripes):

Calls to the Veterans Crisis Line have increased since the coronavirus pandemic hit the United States, the Department of Veterans Affairs confirmed Monday.

The crisis line, a suicide prevention tool for veterans and their families, has experienced a 12% increase in call volume, VA Secretary Robert Wilkie told veterans organizations on a call Sunday. About 20% of recent calls to the hotline were related to the pandemic, the VA press secretary confirmed.

The staffing levels at the call centers are enough to meet the current demand, Press Secretary Christina Mandreucci said. She said the department is tracking the number of calls and updating its staffing plans to ensure all of them are answered.

The VA posted to its website a list of recommendations for veterans who are anxious about the pandemic. They suggested staying connected with friends and family over the phone and on social media, meditating, reducing their news consumption before going to sleep, doing activities they enjoy, focusing on what they can control, eating a balanced diet and exercising, among other things.

And civilians are also dealing with the issues of mental health and depression in the era of the Wuhan coronavirus. Travis Manion is going on an all-out blitz to ensure that character, role models, and community building remains intact. With social media, we can remain connected. We can still teach, learn, and weather the storm. As the Trump administration combats the virus and works to keep American enterprise afloat and prepping them for the eventual return to normalcy, TMF and other groups are making sure the communities who frequent these businesses remain engaged and that no one is left behind. Now, how can you be against that? I’m sure some liberal would find something problematic—sadly.

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