Building family memories by attending a sporting event or concert is an important step on the road to adjusting to life after a deployment, while home on leave, transitioning to full-time civilian life, or in just dealing with the everyday challenges of being a military family.
The Department of Veteran affairs recognizes how important it is for veterans to be part of their community by attending events and urges them to get out as often as possible. As many military families know, however, tickets are often too expensive to be anything more than a special occasion once or twice a year. That’s especially true of families living on enlisted salaries.
Veterans Tickets Foundation (Vet Tix) was founded in 2008 in Phoenix but quickly grew into a national program to provide currently serving military, veterans and their families, as well as the immediate families of those killed in action, with tickets to sports events, concerts, arts and entertainment programs. It teams up with sports leagues, promoters, venues, organizations and individuals to provide free and discounted tickets to active duty and retired military from all branches of the military in all 50 states. Vet Tixers request tickets to events in the USA that interest them, then pay a small delivery fee to receive their free tickets. It has provided more than 2 million tickets to the brave men and women who have served, and the families who support them.
Vet Tix understands the challenges associated with military life, including moving from city to city. It works to spread the word that veterans, military families and the troops are not alone and helps them enjoy the way of life they’ve sacrificed so much to protect.
“Many military families think going to a football game or on a date night is a luxury when it’s really part of the critical social bonding they need,” said Navy Veteran, Michael Focareto, Founder and CEO of Vet Tix. “By gathering military families at these events, we give them a chance to be around people facing the same challenges they are. We’ve seen over and over how much going to events helps veterans and their families manage the stress and depression of reintegration. The price of a ticket shouldn’t keep them away.”
Opportunities amid obstacles
Vet Tix conducted a survey in 2015 to confirm what it suspected: that cost was the major obstacle to active duty, veterans and family members in attending events. Of the 28,000 who replied to the survey, 79 percent said cost was the biggest factor keeping them from participating in these all-American experiences. And, 4 per cent did not feel comfortable in public.
It also found, however, that when cost is removed as an obstacle, families take advantage of opportunities to attend events together. That creates opportunities for Vet Tix and other organizations to extend help that can reduce the depression and PTSD symptoms that follow so many veterans out of combat, according to Cindy Creed, Vet Tix chief financial officer.
“Military families can struggle financially, so they need to take advantage of everything that’s out there,” she said. “If the resources don’t come to them then they need to search for it because the right kind of support makes a huge, positive difference in their lives. One of the great aspects of Vet Tix is that military families can easily participate by creating an online account from the privacy of their homes and start searching for their next outing together.”
Cindy understands both the joys and hardships of military life, and the simple power of attending an event as a family. She started working for Vet Tix after her husband, former Air Force Captain Craig Creed, died in a 2009 motorcycle accident while volunteering with the Patriot Guard Riders.
With free tickets from Vet Tix, Cindy, Craig and their family attended a horse show a week before Craig’s accident, which became a treasured memory of the last time her family was together. They had such an incredible bonding experience at the show that when Cindy saw a Vet Tix booth at a charity run after Craig died, she went over to thank them.
Cindy talked to Vet Tix CEO Focareto and offered to help the organization in any way she could. Michael said Vet Tix was having a hard time getting its tax-exempt status and asked if Cindy could be of assistance. She signed on and has been with Vet Tix ever since, serving as chief financial officer and an executive board member. She has helped Vet Tix keep its administrative costs down to less than five percent so it can focus the majority of its resources on helping more than 400,000 Vet Tix military families. Every penny of every dollar donated is used to buy more tickets for these families.
Cindy’s experience at Vet Tix event reinforced the value of doing fun things as a family. Since becoming involved with Vet Tix, she has collected one story after another proving the value of attending sporting events, concerts, etc. for reintegrating with community life.
For example, a Vietnam veteran living in Florida used tickets from Vet Tix to help rebuild ties with his wife and children. After successfully reconnecting with his family and the community, his doctor wrote a letter to Vet Tix thanking them for helping lower the veteran’s PTSD-related anxiety.
Once, when she was in a meeting in a Washington, DC restaurant, two young soldiers saw her Vet Tix shirt. They came over to thank her for the tickets Vet Tix provided them to see a boxing match where they met boxing legend Sugar Ray Leonard, and how much it meant to their families.
Organizations like Vet Tix are vital to helping families cope with the ongoing pressures of military life and the devastation of a lost spouse, Cindy said. They also understand the isolation that families can feel when they’re removed from friends and relatives, and the hesitation some veterans feel about going to large public events. The study reflects two significant positives; 15 percent state being around other veterans at events has helped them attend, and now 53 percent can afford to go. Check out their website VetTix.org and review any of the more than 100,000 testimonials. So the message here is to sign up, be verified and go!
“There are a lot of military families that need help doing things that bring them together and build happy memories,” she said. “They’ve earned consideration for the service they’ve given our country, and we want to do what we can to help them continue to prosper together as a family.”