Fallen Soldier Celebrated at Dedication of National Initiative to Help Veterans and Families
Local Chicago Program, Easter Seals' Community OneSource, Used as Model to Emulate Program Nationwide
CHICAGO, July 13, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Today, distinguished guests gathered to celebrate the life of Staff Sergeant Donnie D. Dixon – a soldier, husband, father and son who died in the line of duty on September 29, 2007, in Iraq – and dedicate a new partnership in Staff Sergeant Dixon's name that's poised to change the lives of military service members, veterans, their families and the families of the fallen across the country.
During today's ceremony, COL David Sutherland, U.S. Army—Retired, presented the Dixon family with a commemorative flag to honor Staff Sergeant Dixon's memory and ultimate sacrifice, serving as the symbolic launch of the Staff Sergeant Donnie D. Dixon Center for Military and Veterans Community Services (Dixon Center), which will be based within Easter Seals headquarters at Chicago's Willis Tower and also in the organization's office in Washington, D.C. Due to Staff Sergeant Dixon's heroic acts, COL Sutherland was inspired to create Dixon Center to help address the urgent needs of military service members and veterans.
"Dixon Center will be the lighthouse in the troubled seas of veteran re-entry, the magnet of support that attracts desperate needs and provides empowering solutions," said COL Sutherland today.
Here to Help
Easter Seals and COL Sutherland chose Chicago as the special location for the dedication because it's where a similar pilot program to serve veterans, Easter Seals Community OneSource, started four years ago. The concept of Dixon Center came in large part from the success of Community OneSource in the Chicagoland area, supporting veterans and their families as they transition back to civilian life. Dixon Center, a source of advice, information, and lessons learned through decades of military service and extensive community outreach, will now work to bring the Community OneSource model from Chicago to communities across the country. Its focus is employment, education, access to health care, and acts as an advocate and mentor on issues affecting returning and other veterans, military service members, their families and the families of the fallen.
Here's a snapshot of what soldiers who've returned from Iraq and those returning from Afghanistan are facing:
- 11-20 percent of veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan and 30 percent of Vietnam-era veterans live with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
- In just over 10 years, nearly 250,000 soldiers have been diagnosed with Traumatic Brain Injury
- An estimated 18 veterans commit suicide every day
- 27 percent of troops returning from Iraq/Afghanistan abuse alcohol
- One-fifth of the homeless population are veterans - 107,000 on a given night
- The divorce rate for military families increased by 38 percent from 2001 to 2010
- In 2011, the unemployment rate for Gulf War era veterans rose to 12.1 percent; for women, it's 12.4 percent
In letters read during the dedication ceremony, Tom Brokaw, legendary newscaster, best-selling author and a trusted news correspondent for NBC News, and Admiral M.G. Mullen, U.S. Navy (Retired), 17th Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, shared their thoughts with guests on Dixon Center:
"I'm honored to be included in the dedication of the Staff Sergeant Donnie D. Dixon Center for Military and Veterans Community Services within Easter Seals. It is an important day and a fitting tribute to an incredible man who, along with his family, made the ultimate sacrifice for his country…I also salute COL Sutherland, Kim Mitchell and Easter Seals for teaming together to better connect, coordinate and collaborate with community-based services and grassroots support for military service members, veterans, their families and families of the fallen through Dixon Center. There is an urgent need to bring Americans together and coordinate the efforts of all those who want to help, but don't know how or where to start." – Tom Brokaw in letter dated July 13, 2012 to Dixon Center and Easter Seals
"I believe Dixon Center has the potential to be a preeminent resource for spirited discussion, relevant advice and consultation, and recognized focal point for change…The leadership of Easter Seals and Dixon Center, in service to our country and dedication to improving the lives of military service members and their families is deeply appreciated." – Admiral M.G. Mullen, U.S. Navy-Retired, 17th Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff in letter dated July 13, 2012 to Dixon Center and Easter Seals
"Easter Seals has provided direct services to the military community since World War II. But their needs are greater than ever, especially as the existing and probable safety net is distressingly inadequate," said James E. Williams, Jr., president and chief executive officer, Easter Seals. "Working in partnership with COL Sutherland and Lewis Jordan's GratitudeAmerica, we're ready, able and committed to enhance our network and the communities we serve to better assist service members, veterans and their families with the depth and support they deserve."
About Easter Seals
Easter Seals has provided direct services to the military community since World War II. In 2005, recognizing the new and unmet needs of so many returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, the organization renewed its commitment to military families and veterans by establishing a Military and Veterans Initiative to address serious gaps in service and mobilize its national community-based provider network. Today, Easter Seals serves thousands of military families across its 73 affiliates, 450 nationwide service sites, 24,000 professional staff and 40,000 local volunteers.
Easter Seals is the leading non-profit provider of services for individuals with autism, developmental disabilities, physical disabilities and other special needs. For more than 90 years, we have been offering help and hope to children and adults living with disabilities, and to the families who love them. Through therapy, training, education and support services, Easter Seals creates life-changing solutions so that people with disabilities can live, learn, work and play. Visit www.easterseals.com.
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