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Megan Leavey

Kate Hoit always dreamed of joining the FBI. Then she was deployed to Iraq in 2004, and her life took a different turn.

"I was a 17-year-old girl from the suburbs, I was a cheerleader, shitty at math, and I was just really interested in being an FBI agent," she says. After three years in the Army Reserves, she received that unexpected phone call that she would actually be shipping off to war.

Her official assignment? Working for the resident newspaper on the base, covering a wide variety of topics, from the construction of water treatment facilities in local villages to reporting from the hospital as injured soldiers were airlifted in. She spoke with Iraqi civilians and Australian soldiers alike and witnessed everything from horrible injuries to opportunistic generals posing for press photos.


Hoit on deployment in Iraq. All photos by Kate Hoit, used with permission.

"During that time, I really fell in love with the power of storytelling and journalism and photography," Hoit says.

"It was really just a way to see the war at different levels in a way I never would have if I had just sat behind a computer all day," she continues. "So that impacted me on the ground, and I realized I could tell stories and focus on the more humanized aspects of that."

Hoit saw a lot of things during her year in Iraq, but what she didn't see was the effect her deployment had on her family back home.

Her father was a veteran, too. But his experience in West Germany in the early 1950s was nothing compared to the dangers of the Iraq War, and he worried immensely about the safety of his daughter. This lead to a relapse into alcoholism, and later he was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's.

Soon her mother struggled with alcoholism, too. The family ended up losing Hoit's childhood home when her father was checked into a nursing home.

Hoit with her parents before her deployment.

Hoit returned to a very different life than the one she had left.

"I didn’t have anyone to turn to," she says. "My friends got it as best they could, [but] at the time, I was a little bit frustrated going through this whole experience: My family’s destroyed, kind of, and I can’t connect with anyone."

Hoit re-enrolled in college with a newly inspired interest in pursuing a journalism career, but the transition wasn't easy.

She was angry and isolated, and it only got worse — until one of her professors encouraged her to write about her experiences. As numerouspsychologicalstudies have shown, the act of storytelling can have a profound effect on traumatic healing.

Hoit discovered a new passion for the ways that storytelling can connect with the veteran experience. "I was like, oh, I have a community again," she says. "It helped with my transition because I didn’t feel as alienated when I started writing."

Then a few of her criticisms drew the attention of the Veterans Affairs department.

They caught the eye of now-Sen. Tammy Duckworth, who had just taken over as the VA's assistant secretary for public and intergovernmental affairs, and Hoit was soon recruited into the department's newly formed digital engagement team.

During her time with the team, Hoit launched the department's social media presence and also worked on several crucial public relations campaigns, including Veteran of the Day and Strong at the Broken Places, which aimed to break down stigmas around veterans and mental health.

Since then, Hoit has made a career of helping veterans tell their stories — and making sure the public hears them.

Hoit left her role at the VA and worked in a congressional communications role while she pursued a master's degree in non-fiction writing.

Since then, she's found a new home as director of content at Got Your 6, a nonprofit that works with the entertainment industry, veteran groups, and government organizations to normalize depictions of veterans in the media and empower veterans to build communities and tell their own stories.

And all the while, her mission has remained the same: "You can draw on an emotion or a struggle, and even if people are on the opposite side of the spectrum, you can make that connection with people. That’s my goal with content."

Among their many programs, Got Your 6 offers official certification for films and TV shows ranging from Marvel's "Daredevil" to "Megan Leavey" in recognition of their efforts to depict the veteran experience with greater accuracy and humanity.

"It can be a challenge when people only want to see veterans as broken with PTSD or as superheroes," Hoit explains. "They don’t want see the normalized, nuanced story."

Hoit and her colleagues from Got Your 6.

It's been more than a decade since Hoit returned from Iraq, and strangers still email to ask about her experience.

"I feel like, at the end of the day, if you’re helping people and making a difference, then you should use your voice for some greater good," she says. From what she's seen, most veterans are eager and willing to talk about their service and all the complications that come along with it. They just need someone to listen.

All images provided by Bombas

We can all be part of the giving movement

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We all know that small acts of kindness can turn into something big, but does that apply to something as small as a pair of socks?

Yes, it turns out. More than you might think.

A fresh pair of socks is a simple comfort easily taken for granted for most, but for individuals experiencing homelessness—they are a rare commodity. Currently, more than 500,000 people in the U.S. are experiencing homelessness on any given night. Being unstably housed—whether that’s couch surfing, living on the streets, or somewhere in between—often means rarely taking your shoes off, walking for most if not all of the day, and having little access to laundry facilities. And since shelters are not able to provide pre-worn socks due to hygienic reasons, that very basic need is still not met, even if some help is provided. That’s why socks are the #1 most requested clothing item in shelters.

homelessness, bombasSocks are a simple comfort not everyone has access to

When the founders of Bombas, Dave Heath and Randy Goldberg, discovered this problem, they decided to be part of the solution. Using a One Purchased = One Donated business model, Bombas helps provide not only durable, high-quality socks, but also t-shirts and underwear (the top three most requested clothing items in shelters) to those in need nationwide. These meticulously designed donation products include added features intended to offer comfort, quality, and dignity to those experiencing homelessness.

Over the years, Bombas' mission has grown into an enormous movement, with more than 75 million items donated to date and a focus on providing support and visibility to the organizations and people that empower these donations. These are the incredible individuals who are doing the hard work to support those experiencing —or at risk of—homelessness in their communities every day.

Folks like Shirley Raines, creator of Beauty 2 The Streetz. Every Saturday, Raines and her team help those experiencing homelessness on Skid Row in Los Angeles “feel human” with free makeovers, haircuts, food, gift bags and (thanks to Bombas) fresh socks. 500 pairs, every week.

beauty 2 the streetz, skid row laRaines is out there helping people feel their beautiful best

Or Director of Step Forward David Pinson in Cincinnati, Ohio, who offers Bombas donations to those trying to recover from addiction. Launched in 2009, the Step Forward program encourages participation in community walking/running events in order to build confidence and discipline—two major keys to successful rehabilitation. For each marathon, runners are outfitted with special shirts, shoes—and yes, socks—to help make their goals more achievable.

step forward, helping homelessness, homeless non profitsRunning helps instill a sense of confidence and discipline—two key components of successful recovery

Help even reaches the Front Street Clinic of Juneau, Alaska, where Casey Ploof, APRN, and David Norris, RN give out free healthcare to those experiencing homelessness. Because it rains nearly 200 days a year there, it can be very common for people to get trench foot—a very serious condition that, when left untreated, can require amputation. Casey and Dave can help treat trench foot, but without fresh, clean socks, the condition returns. Luckily, their supply is abundant thanks to Bombas. As Casey shared, “people will walk across town and then walk from the valley just to come here to get more socks.”

step forward clinic, step forward alaska, homelessness alaskaWelcome to wild, beautiful and wet Alaska!

The Bombas Impact Report provides details on Bombas’s mission and is full of similar inspiring stories that show how the biggest acts of kindness can come from even the smallest packages. Since its inception in 2013, the company has built a network of over 3,500 Giving Partners in all 50 states, including shelters, nonprofits and community organizations dedicated to supporting our neighbors who are experiencing- or at risk- of homelessness.

Their success has proven that, yes, a simple pair of socks can be a helping hand, an important conversation starter and a link to humanity.

You can also be a part of the solution. Learn more and find the complete Bombas Impact Report by clicking here.

via UNSW

This article originally appeared on 07.10.21


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via Tod Perry

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