BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – This Veterans Day, we remember that the United States has an all-volunteer military force, and less than one percent of all Americans answer the call to serve. Now, there is a push for all of us to answer the call to help veterans dealing with some of the lasting scars of war, like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injuries.
“Nobody goes into battle and comes out unscathed,” said Cynthia LeMay, the Buffalo native who founded the Battle Saint project to help raise money to build private-sector Intrepid Spirit clinics at military posts across the country.
LeMay has seen the after-effects of war for herself, in her own family. A recent family reunion was attended by seven family members who were actively serving in the military at the time.
“Listening to their stories around a bonfire one night about war and close calls, and friends that they lost, it just was so heart breaking and so compelling and I had a better understanding of the sacrifices they make every day for our freedom,” LeMay said.
That’s when the Battle Saint project was born. The non-profit organization has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars through the sale of Battle Saint bracelets, scarves, and key fobs and tags, to help build Intrepid Spirit clinics giving service members access to holistic, family-based treatment for the lasting effects of PTSD and TBI.
“It’s a project we started around our kitchen table, never thinking it would grow as much as it did,” LeMay recalled.
The organization started by selling handcrafted wooden bracelets featuring pictures of saints that are significant for the different military branches. The group also gives these bracelets to deploying military members.
Battle Saint key fobs and tags, which are embroidered by veterans to put them to work, soon followed, as did Battle Saint scarves, the brain child of LeMay’s nephew, a Sergeant Major who has deployed multiple times. “The scarves are the same ones they buy on the streets in Afghanistan,” LeMay explained. “They’re the ones that our men and women wear when they’re in combat. They keep them safe from the sand storms. They even have been used to tie off wounds.”
While the Battle Saint garb has its roots in the military experience, it’s meant to be worn by everyone as a way to show support for the people who have served our country. “All these things really keep us connected our men and women,” LeMay said. “We still have men and women in harms way that are serving. We have lots that have come back that still need help.”
Through private donations, including those from the Battle Saint project, five Intrepid Spirit clinics have been built, and construction is beginning on one more. Each Intrepid Spirit center is approximately 25,000 square feet and costs approximately $11 million to build and equip.
The goal is to build a total of nine of these clinics to help treat the psychological health issues that have contributed to a tragically high rate of suicide among veterans. On average, more than 20 veterans take their own lives each day.
“I think the message this Veterans Day is do something to make a difference,” LeMay said. “Help save a life.”
You can learn more about the Battle Saint project, including how you can make a donation or a purchase to help fund the construction of Intrepid Spirit clinics, online at www.battlesaint.com.