My Turn

Opinion: Energy goes where appreciation flows

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Open Letter from Community of Not Forgotten: Not Forgotten Outreach is – always has been – and has proven itself as an organization that is here for the community. Veterans and military families are the thru line between every community in this town and throughout this nation. There are few platforms that can bring people together in such a non-partisan way, with the mission of healing not only our souls, but also this land. In the time that we have been at this property on Valverde Commons, we have served family members from over 26 states, 4,800 military families, and 125 school children from Taos, and this is just in the last year alone. We have worked with people from Veterans for Peace to the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Shadow Mountain Rehabilitation to AmeriCorps.

Since February 2015, with major help from the community of Taos, we’ve taken a foreclosed property to a state where it can, and will increasingly become a platform that can give back. Already, we have arranged a space and provided logistical support for 14 farming classes, three aquaponics courses, and seven courses on beekeeping. All of this we have done, either at an affordable cost or free of charge, before the Respite Center was even fully operational.

To accomplish great things, it takes time. We are grateful for the support, dedication and patience of everyone who has helped. Many of whom had no familial attachment to the military whatsoever, but understood the need for helping those who have sacrificed for this nation to have a place where we can continue to serve.

The name Not Forgotten, embodies many meanings for many members of our community. It began as a way for us to remember those we’ve lost for the family members who lost them. As a community, we’ve lost friends and family members not only to war, but to suicide, to illness and injury at a rate that is disproportionately larger than the general population. We are spread across this nation, often alone and feeling isolated from our community because we have experienced things that nobody should ever have to. From survivor’s guilt to military sexual trauma, moral injury to a persistent fear for our own safety, we need each other to move forward. We have not forgotten what we were sent to do in the name of our country. We have not forgotten those we lost, why we fought, nor what we were forced to leave behind. We have not forgotten that our service never ended, and that we have taken an oath to the people of this nation.

We are helping each other reintegrate into this society through the people we work with, and our shared commitment to providing a healthier and more united America than we were given. Together we grow stronger every day. We are turning swords into plowshares, and we could not have gotten here without the incredible support from the community of Taos.

Signed:

Cian Westmoreland, U.S. Air Force: OEF Veteran in Afghanistan

Kym Sanchez, U.S. Army: OIF Veteran in Iraq/ Goldstar Widow/ President of NFO

Don Peters III, U.S. Army: Military Intelligence

Jay Econom, U.S. Marine Corps

Phil Econom, U.S. Army: 5 tours OIF Army Calvary in Iraq

Dutch Shultis, U.S. Navy

Sean Dunn, U.S. Air Force: OEF Veteran Afghanistan

And eight others.

Not Forgotten Outreach is a local organization that serves veterans and military families.

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