Joining Forces to Make a Difference

It is easy to make a difference. Just look around and you will see endless opportunities to help. People often think they need a foundation or strong financial support to make a difference, when in fact, quite the opposite is true. All it takes is a little passion. Find something that interests you, develop a passion, and use that passion to do something outside yourself.

I found my passion in giving back to those who have served; specifically our military troops, veterans, wounded warriors and their families.  I looked around and saw all the brave men and women who were willing to lay their life on the line to protect our country, to protect me, and I wanted to do something to support them. 

President Barack Obama talks with Girl Scout Gold Award winners in the Oval Office

President Barack Obama talks with Girl Scout Gold Award winners in the Oval Office, June 8, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

My efforts started with simple lap blankets delivered to dialysis patients at our local VA Medical Center. After seeing the appreciation on the veterans’ faces, I simply knew I had to do more. Now I frequently stop by for a few minutes just to say hello. During one visit, I heard about a program for homeless veterans and my passion took a new direction. I learned about some of the needs of the domiciliary, conducted a collection drive at one of our middle schools, and then hosted a Bingo party for the veterans distributing the needed items as prizes. After seeing the impact, Bingo parties became a monthly event. For Christmas, I organized tree decorating within my school corporation and hosted a collection drive to supplement our Military Support Group’s annual campaign. In addition to providing trees and gifts to the domiciliary residents, over 100 small Christmas trees and 525 care packages were shipped to our troops for the holidays.

This past summer I was fortunate to win a trip to Washington, DC. When I heard the news, I immediately said I wanted to go to Walter Reed and visit with our Wounded Warriors. I conducted a three day collection drive and with my school’s support we were able to ship 1,481 snacks and comfort items for distribution to the patients and their families.

Currently I am taking a college leadership course and shared my passion. As a result, my small group is working to emphasize the importance of caring for our American Veterans and to spread the word to support them and their families during what are often difficult times after returning from service. Our troops and veterans are highly skilled and experienced. Unfortunately, they often find it difficult to translate their military experience to civilian employer needs. I encourage those in human resource departments to please give a second look as you review applications from veterans. Consider their talent as well as the sacrifices they have made for our freedom and safety. It would be great to have their dedication on any team!

In 2010, I began a “Thank You Campaign” where I work with younger students, teaching our next generation about veterans and coloring patriotic pictures to thank those who have served. The pictures are distributed at various VA facilities and sent to our troops. I also volunteer and spend time at the VA Medical Center interacting with the patients and learning more about veterans and their needs.

If you have some difficulty in the process, don’t give up. I find it is during those times that I have had some of the most incredible experiences. There is nothing more personally rewarding than service to others and nothing more powerful than making a difference in the community. What will you do to make a difference? Go to and find was you can volunteer to support our military troops and veterans.

Krystal Shirrell is an 18-year-old Girl Scout who was honored at the White House in June for her work with homeless veterans.  

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