The Enduring Campaign Helping Homeless Veterans

Drive On Podcast
The Enduring Campaign Helping Homeless Veterans
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Rachelle LaFleur is a Marine Corps veteran, and the founder of The Enduring Campaign, which is a non-profit that serves veteran transitional centers around the country that offer housing and re-integration programs.

Rachelle talks about her time in the Marine Corps, her deployment to Afghanistan, and her transition out of the military. We also talk about the homeless veteran crisis facing our country and what The Enduring Campaign is doing to help address the growing problem.

She has also recently participated in the Pinups For Vets photoshoot, which helps raise funds for hospitalized veterans, and helps to boost their morale.

Rachelle is doing some incredible things for the veteran community. Give this episode a listen to find out more.

Links & Resources

Transcript

Scott DeLuzio:    00:00:00    Thanks for tuning into a Drive On Podcast where we're focused on giving hope and strength to the entire military community, whether you're a veteran, active duty, guard, reserve, or family member, this podcast will share inspirational stories and resources that are useful to you. I'm your host, Scott DeLuzio. And now let's get on with the show.  

Scott DeLuzio:    00:00:22    Hey everybody. Today, my guest is Rochelle LaFleur. Rochelle is a Marine Corps veteran and the founder of the Enduring Campaign, which is a nonprofit serving veteran transitional centers around the country who offer housing and reintegration programs to veterans. So welcome to the show. Rochelle, why don't you tell us a little bit about who you are, your background, why you joined the military, things like that. 

Rachelle LaFleur: You ready for that? 

Scott DeLuzio: I think so. I think we can handle it.  

Rachelle LaFleur    00:00:48    Well, thank you for having me first and foremost. I'm Michelle. And as you had mentioned, I was a 35 31 and I left the military a corporal E4.  I served in OEF 10.1 and 10.2.  and then it's just been a wild ride. I've been out since 2013. I have been working at the same place. I actually got my job through a Michigan works program that caters to veterans and the company that I still work for today. I was the first veteran that they ever hired  so I'm pretty proud of that.  I finished my degree, used my GI bill and then once everything settled down I started the Enduring Campaign. And as you had mentioned, it really caters to veteran transitional centers, but I'll let you kind of guide this conversation because there's so much I have to say.  

Scott DeLuzio:    00:01:56    Yeah, well, you know what, let's just take a step back. Sometimes I like to get a feel for what people did in the military, what their job was, where it took them, sometimes there's interesting stories in there too, and stuff that people can relate to. So when you're in the Marine Corps, you deployed right to Afghanistan, is that correct? 

Rachelle LaFleur:  Yep. Yep. Okay. 

Scott DeLuzio: What was that deployment like for you? How did that go?  

Rachelle LaFleur    00:02:19    It was life changing. It was overwhelming. There were a lot of different emotions. So by trade I'm a 35 31 motor T operator, but admittedly, I joined an open contract and I've told this story a few times I was voted worst driver in high school. So to be motor T the irony and the fact that I could  finish the schooling or the MOS school is quite an accomplishment for me.  But quickly into the fleet, they realized I served better as an O411, which is a logistics specialist which was the best thing to ever happen to my life because it translated into the world quite seamlessly.  The experiences that I had and what I was able to do from my logistics standpoint...so for example, we brought in the first MRI machine to camp Leatherneck, which was quite significant because Leatherneck is I believe the largest base in Helmand province, if I can recall correctly.  

Rachelle LaFleur    00:03:22    And what would happen is if you had Marines or soldiers or any service members that let's say got hit by an IED, if they were going to be evaluated for TBI, they had to be flown to Kandahar. So that's precious time that was being wasted. And so the ability to bring that MRI machine and the amount of work that went into it is something I'm very proud of, I lost a lot of sleep. And then the second half of that deployment, I had the opportunity to do that work, which for those who don't know is the female engagement team where really we're supporting our ground units specifically because their culture does not allow our men to touch their females. And so the potential of dangerous items being placed on the females or the children we just wanted to mitigate that. So the ability to search females to experience that culture in a more intimate setting, I think that was a life-changing moment for me.  

Scott DeLuzio:    00:04:26    Yeah, for sure. And I was one of the ground units, probably not, I was not in the Marines. I was in the Army, but I was one of those ground units that we had to deal with that too, where we were actually stationed at the border crossing between Pakistan and Afghanistan, where hundreds of people would come through every day just walking between the border, because the way their villages are, but the border sort of runs right through their tribal areas. And you know, people are walking back and forth all the time. There's women, children, men, families, sometimes walking back and forth, but like women very easily could be hiding stuff on their body, dangerous things whether it's a bomb or a suicide vest kind of thing or whatever. And if we're not allowed to touch them, then how do we really know? So the job that you did was very important and probably helped a lot of people on the ground to be able to figure out who has what and what's going on with some of these women. So, it's an important job to have.  

Rachelle LaFleur    00:05:28    No, and to be able to be exposed to what their women go through, because when they come in, even when they're getting searched, the males never leave their side, they speak on their behalf.  So that was kind of...I'm a 21 year old from Michigan that had literally never experienced anything like this culture, let alone looking out around the horizon and seeing mud huts and things of that nature. Right.  It was quite the cultural shock, but I'm so thankful that I was able to experience it. And one thing that I'll never forget about that experiences, I mean, obviously the first thing that you do is you try to understand the person that's standing in front of you, the woman that's standing in front of you, and she's in a burka, she's in a full burka, so you don't see anything, but sometimes you'd see their eyes, but I believe they had, I can't recall a bad memory. Those were kind of,  

Scott DeLuzio:    00:06:24    It's kind of like a mesh kind of thing over there like the eyes. Yeah. So, I mean, you can maybe see something if you are real close, you can kind of, but not really.  

Rachelle LaFleur    00:06:34    Yup. And these individuals, I mean, they don't have documentation like we do. They don't. You ask the ages, you ask the birthdays, you're reliant on the husband to remember that and having been in a marriage, I don't even know if he could tell you my birthday, so they would do the guesstimates and again, I'm standing there as a 21 year old child and the husband would say my wife's 23, she's got a baby on her hip. And I said, okay, well they have to lift up the burqa and we're behind school barriers. So it was just me and this woman and in your head, you're thinking, okay, well I'm 21. So I can anticipate what a 23 year old looks like every single time it got me because they'd lift that up and I'd be like, no, no, you're not. And it's just because of the hardships that they live, that it just ages them so drastically.  So that's something that'll always stick in my head is that type of experience where I had to hide my shock and like, okay, just do my job, get on military bearing.  

Scott DeLuzio:    00:07:40    Yeah, exactly. And you're right. There are some kids that just look like they smoke a pack of cigarettes a day since they were born. And they just looked worn and ragged and they've just been through hell and it's tough. It is definitely an eye opening experience to see all that.  I served as an infantry man when I was in, like I was talking about before, but back then females were not allowed in the combat MOS, like infantry. So I never really served with very many females.  We always talked about brotherhood, right? Like where we're one big dysfunctional family where we always have each other's back. And now I'm assuming that you served with mostly men, because the Marine Corps tends to be mostly men. Is that correct?  

Rachelle LaFleur    00:08:29    By far? I think it's like somebody gave me a statistic and I'm not even going to shoot one off because I'm sure everybody will comprehend what I say, but it's a drastic ratio from men to women. So, yeah.  

Scott DeLuzio:    00:08:43    Yeah. So I guess the question I have with that, so did you feel like you had that same sort of comradery with the people that you served with, where everyone had your back or was there a situation where you felt like a little bit of an outsider just because you were one of the few females in a unit?  

Rachelle LaFleur    00:09:01    It depends on the setting.  In my motor pool I established pretty quickly. I'm not to be messed with, I shouldn't say it was, they treated me like a sister. I wouldn't say day one. Some of them obviously tried things. I'm the new girl in the unit, but once it was established, that was not going to happen, they became my brothers and they were very protective. It was like having 40 brothers that were just there constantly to protect you, which was incredible. Now exposure outside of that I do have sensitivity to O3s, which are grunts. I do have some sensitivity, I would say primarily with that group and that really stems because if there is any blatant sexism, that's who I experienced it from, not saying that everybody's like that because some of the greatest people that I've met recently are O3s.  

Rachelle LaFleur    00:10:00    And I feel bad because they have to apologize on behalf of their brothers, but it was overwhelmingly terrible in some instances with that group.  And especially, and I'll never forget this; so I don't know if you guys did this, but we did substance taps. So when you're getting out, kind of preparing you for the civilian lifestyle and I sat in a room, I'm going to guess, there's probably, let's say, 30 Marines in the room. I'm the only female in the room. And I would say most of them were O3s, if not, probably 90% of them. And you know, you're about to go through this life-changing experience of transitioning out of the military and you're trying to prepare and I had a four month old at this time. So it was very important to me to get everything by the book.  

Rachelle LaFleur    00:10:52    And  so you have an instructor and you have various people come in. And if I raised my hand, people would start making squeaking noises like the squeaking mattress. If I walked up to the instructor, they would make look noises, which is what they call female Marines.  And the things that they would just say to me were, so it was just difficult because you're going through the transition and then you're scared to ask questions because you just don't want to deal with the harassment. So that's something that has always stuck with me; and transparently, it took me a long time to open up to my era of veterans. I did not want to tell them I was a female Marine. I would talk to Vietnam vets because they accept all veterans. And they helped me through that transition. When I went into the civilian world, any Vietnam vet was so accepting, but in my own era, it took me up until I'd say about three years before I was willing to open up about my service.  

Scott DeLuzio:    00:11:59    Yeah. And that's unfortunate too, because you know, when you went through a lot of the same things that some of those guys in the room went through, you deployed, you served your country, you did all the things that were asked of you, whether you're a good driver or not.  

Rachelle LaFleur    00:12:17    I'm still terrible. I'm the worst parker in the world. I don't even get the concept of lines.  

Scott DeLuzio:    00:12:27    But yeah. I mean, it's an unfortunate thing. And unfortunately you had to and did experience that. I shouldn't say you had to, no one should have to experience that type of thing, but you did.  But here you are, and it didn't sour you from completely being able to come back and continue to serve the veteran community. Like you were able to overcome that at some point and you've mentioned a little bit about the transition process, transitioning out of the military.  I’d like to talk about that a little bit because I found that it's a hard process to go through for a lot of veterans.  So, what was your transition like? I know that the program as you're getting out, wasn't the smoothest probably, but were there any other challenges or was it pretty smooth for you getting out?  You did say that you found a job shortly after getting out, but how did that whole transition go for you?  

Rachelle LaFleur    00:13:24    I mean, I found a job, but I put the work in to find the job.  So the first thing that I'll say is one of the things that they taught us in steps and taps, and I pray they don't teach this anymore, but I wouldn't know, they were talking about the GI bill and I got out in January. So semesters for colleges was just starting. I met the cutoff by like two days or something like that, which was a blessing because the GI bill is truly a blessing for veterans.  My number one recommendation is to invest in your GI bill.  But in that regard, I mean, I immediately went to college. That was the first thing. I got a four month old on my hip. I'm going to college. I knew that I was going to get money so that I could feed him. But at the same time, I still was not prepared for this because I went into the Marine Corps as a child. I had a child, so it's a child raising a child. I was not financially ready or prepared.  I had nothing. So I had to go to WIC, which is nationwide. Right.  

Scott DeLuzio:    00:14:30    I'm familiar with what it is. Yeah. I don't know if it's nationwide or not, but it's the federal program.   

Rachelle LaFleur    00:14:37    For those that don't know that to women, infants, and children, and I'm a very prideful person and that's not to say that if you need help, I'm a huge advocate. If you need help, seek help. But I was also 21 and I just got out of the, no, I was 23 when I got out.  I got out of service and I was very proud of that. And then to sit and ask for help, it was very difficult for me, but I did it because it had to be done. The other thing I did is I took the very first job that I could take. So the job I have now is not the very first. I worked part-time at a gym  because I would do anything because I have a family to support. It was difficult because your pride is injured, especially after going from being something that you're so proud of to not being prepared.  

Rachelle LaFleur    00:15:32    And that was my fault, but I feel like a lot of us experienced this because we joined the military so young.  We don't know about our five-year plan, no 18 year old or not many that I know of are thinking about a five-year plan. So I think that was the most difficult part, but if there's anything I can say, there's a lot of resources available.  At the time when I got out, it was 2013 and I was not active on social media. So I was not aware as easily as veterans could be today, if they sought help.  I actively researched this because I think if I didn't have my child, I wouldn't have been so aggressive. But so for example, the job I had now, just like I mentioned, Michigan Works has a veteran’s specific area and that was such a significant help for me. So use your user resources, but also, can I go on a tangent about the GI bill?  

Scott DeLuzio:    00:16:38    Just one second.  

Rachelle LaFleur    00:16:41    All right. So the story that I was going to get at is in and taps, they had somebody come in and I remember they were doing the math on the Montgomery GI bill versus the post 9/11. And do they even offer Montgomery because I'll spear the rant if it's not even offered anymore,  

Scott DeLuzio:    00:16:59    I'm not even sure. I know I've heard of it. AndI got out before you did, so I'm not like it was still around then. And I don't even know if it's available anymore, but it might be, go ahead and rant away if you want.  

Rachelle LaFleur    00:17:13    All right. You can cut it out. If it doesn't exist, I don't want to waste airspace for this. But so essentially we had somebody come in and they did the math and they said, okay post 9/11 looks so sparkly and pretty, but if we really do the math, you'll actually make more on the Montgomery GI bill. Okay. Well that could potentially be true, but let me tell you the biggest difference that I remember about the two. Well, let me start with the Montgomery. And I can't remember verbatim, because I only did it one semester and this was in 2013 you have to pay upfront or at least a portion, but I think it was the full amount upfront. So I go to school, I pay up front and then the VA works with the school.  

Rachelle LaFleur    00:18:10    And every month at the end of the month, I had to have it certified and then the VA would pay for that month. So they prorated it for that month. So maybe over the course of 12 weeks it would have been made up, but I still had to come up with that money at the very beginning, which I had to borrow money because I had no money. So immediately I got off of that. And when you make the switch, you can't go back to the Montgomery, which I don't know why you would because with the post 9/11, literally all I had to do, I went to central Michigan, which is a phenomenal school as it relates to veteran care. And they had this entire process that was very straightforward. And I knew what I had to do. I had my curriculum I signed up for the courses that I was told to sign up for.  

Rachelle LaFleur    00:18:59    I had a VA representative at the school, so I just submitted those courses. They dealt with the VA, they did the certification. And after that I got the BH. I got your book stipend, I got my schooling paid for. There was no stress. I would say at that point when you're transitioning, it is the most stressful time of your life. So don't worry about having to come up with that money. I would say, even if it's a little, maybe a hundred dollars less, I don't know what it was to go with the less stressful options.  

Scott DeLuzio:    00:19:35    Yeah. I think just going to school in general is stressful. But if I add that on top of in your case you had a young child and then also you know, trying to come up with the money for it and all that kind of stuff. There was a lot of stress going on there. So, I think that's great advice and you know, whether the Montgomery GI bill is available or not, I think I'm going to keep that rant in there because I think it's good advice overall because I don't know that everyone is even using the benefits that are available to them. And it's good to know that you know, you do get things paid for and covered for you and it's a lot less stressful than trying to figure it out all on your own.  

Scott DeLuzio:    00:20:16    So definitely take advantage of that if you're listening and you haven't done so already and you're still eligible for it you know, definitely take advantage of that and get that education.  So let's switch gears a little bit. Let's talk about the homeless veteran problem that's going on there. And I know that statistics vary. I don't even know if the numbers are even close to accurate, but I've seen that there are upwards of around 40,000 or so homeless veterans across the country. It might be more, less, I don't really know, all the sources vary a little bit. So I've had several guests on the podcast who found themselves to be homeless at one point or another after getting out of the military. So I know it's a problem and I know some of them personally, too.  So what are some of the leading causes of this problem, this homelessness problem? And I know everyone's different, right? So there's not going to be any one cause necessarily, but I've mentioned there's some trends out there that might be available that you might be able to tune into to figure out what's going on with some of these people.  

Rachelle LaFleur    00:21:23     I'm going to give you my perspective and then I'll give you a perspective of those that I work with for the Enduring Campaign, which would be the actual centers.  So from my perspective, and I'm willing to bet you've had this too, where you need a lot of your fellow service members and you get this feeling that they joined the military because they didn't have a family and they were seeking a family, right? And when you get out, you don't lose your family, right? Every service member, we have an immediate kinship, but at the same time, you're still on your own. You still have to figure out this life. And even if I didn't have somebody to take me in, I would have been homeless. I would have had no other alternative because I wasn't prepared for that. And that's something that will stick with me is that I knew so many of my brothers and sisters who were in the same boat and had to go through homelessness because there was no alternative for them.  

Rachelle LaFleur    00:22:27    They didn't have family, they didn't have anybody back home to take them in while they got on their feet. So that is my personal truth but what I will say in working with veteran transitional centers, and let me give a description first, because I literally had somebody come ask us on the Enduring Campaigns page if they are transitional centers for those that are transitioning sex, the answer is absolutely not. No, not that there. What a transition center is, is essentially to prepare veterans for the reintegration into life. So they take veterans off the streets, they take the homeless veterans and they actively work with them through multiple programs to get them prepared for civilian life. So I just want to give that description first. Now, with that, working with the Enduring Campaign and working directly with the centers, I would say the number one theme that you have to keep in mind is when we think of transitional centers.  

Rachelle LaFleur    00:23:34    I think a lot of people think that it's our generation. So I just transitioned. I'm homeless. I'm going to, you know, the center. But to be honest, I don't think our generation knows very much about it. It's Vietnam vets that are using it heavily. Yes. That is the number one of most centers that we work with. There are a lot of Vietnam vets. And so think about all of what they experienced because nowadays we celebrate veterans, but in those times, those veterans were not celebrated. And so there was a sense of pride. There was a sense of shame that led them down, not all of them, but many of them down paths where maybe they're using substances to deal. I can't even fathom. I can't, can you imagine having an entire country, you served your country, you come back and you have the shame for it. And it's the civilians that are giving you the shame. So to deal with that, a lot of them turn to or they're dealing with mental health. And that's another thing that has changed with our era is that we're starting to recognize the significance of mental health, where they did not have that. And so a lot of these veterans are dealing with substance abuse. They're dealing with mental health that they have not addressed and that oftentimes correlates with homelessness. 

Scott DeLuzio:    00:25:11    And at first that kinda took me back a little bit thinking like all these Vietnam veterans, they've had so many years to get back on their feet and get things going, but the way you described it you know, that does make sense. And when you think about the veteran suicide number you know, that 22 veterans a day, or whatever the number is, of that number, about 60% of them are Vietnam era veterans from what I I've looked up. So it does make sense that they did have a pretty shitty return. Like it was not the greatest way that our country treated them. And it sucks for them.  Years and years and years of just not dealing with it properly with the things that they saw over there in Vietnam, and then coming back home and being spit on or called names like baby killers or whatever all the crap that they got.  

Rachelle LaFleur    00:26:14    Have the draft too. So you have veterans that didn't even make the choice, still serve their country, come back to a country that degrades them. And I'm not saying all over the country and let me preface everything I say, I don't have a blanket statement for anything. Like my experience is not every female's experience and not every grant is this. And not every Vietnam that is this, but from what I've seen and read and am obsessed with the Vietnam war, I just can't even imagine what that would be like, whether I signed up or I was told I would go and then to come back and have a country say, well, you shouldn't have been there. Well, it's not my choice. It wasn't my choice to go to Afghanistan, but I did. Right. You know what I mean?  

Scott DeLuzio:    00:27:03    Right. Yeah. And you're right with the draft, they didn't have a choice. They got drafted and they either signed up or they basically went to jail if they didn't they went and did what they were told to do basically. So yeah, they didn't have a choice. And so to fault someone for the things that they did when they were basically forced to do it, it doesn't make any sense, but that's what the country did, not everybody did that. There were some very appreciative people, and there were some people who supported the military back then, but it wasn't a popular thing to do. There were a lot of people who didn't back then. We can talk about these causes all day, because there's probably almost as many different causes for homelessness as there are homeless veterans out there. Let's talk about solutions. So how do we get these veterans off the streets into stable housing, and kind of turn things around?  

Rachelle LaFleur    00:27:56    All I can say is in reference to what the veteran transitional centers do, because if there's nothing else that you do in this life, I would highly recommend that. Not nothing else, but one of the things that you should do in this life, especially if you're a veteran, is if you took the time to call one, I guarantee there's one close to you that you may not even know about. And I've had that multiple times where people can actually submit it on the website. So if there's a veteran transitional center and they can submit it and I've had people say, I didn't know this was right down the road, but one of the things that they focus on is providing the services that are absolutely necessary for them to have a successful life. So we're not just talking about being successful in life.  

Rachelle LaFleur    00:28:49    And I'm not talking about having a significant income. You know, it's not that, there's so many different factors that play into homelessness as it relates to veterans. So we talk about mental health and I'm not just talking about PTSD, there's so many things that are affecting veterans, whether it's mental health, whether it's physical health, whether it's intimidation of the VA, I will say right now I do not have a claim with the VA. I don't want to go through it. That's probably my own ignorance and stupidity, honestly, but I know there are so many other veterans that feel the same way. And one of the things that the transitional centers will do as they essentially let the veterans know, what are you entitled to and how do you go about doing it? Not that they can speak on behalf of the VA, but they are very well aware of how the VA works, what the veteran is suffering from and what that veteran can do to receive financial compensation or support through medical services and things like that.  

Rachelle LaFleur    00:30:04    So they're basically their champion. There'll be those veteran’s champions. So that's one area. And then obviously mental health is substance abuse. A lot of them offer substance abuse counseling in correlation or in combination with mental health and substance abuse kind of go hand in hand. So yeah, they're pretty good. Then also another part of this is how do we obtain a livable wage? Because you can get a job. That's what drives me crazy sometimes is a lot of people will say, well, there's so many jobs available. Okay. I can't get a job. If I'm not clean, I can not get a job if I don't have clean clothing, if my hair hasn't been brushed in a week because I can't afford a brush, this is what the transitional centers really focus on as there's so many other factors to obtaining a job.  

Rachelle LaFleur    00:31:06    And not only are they looking to help the veteran obtain a job, but it's a livable wage job, and they're also focused on promoting them through the living situation. So a lot of them will start in a true center, not necessarily a shelter, but it's more shared space living. And then once they go through the programs, and they get a job, then they go to more independent living where they're not entirely reliant on the full rent.  The centers will supplement parts of the rent depending on their income. And then once they get to that point, then they go to fully independent living. So it's kind of this process as opposed to here's the answers. You should be able to figure it out and I'll go get off the streets. That's not how it works.  

Scott DeLuzio:    00:32:00    It's kind of like, I don't know if the Marines use this saying, but I know we did it in the Army, but the crawl, walk, run process. When you're learning something new, you just like anything, like as a baby, you don't learn how to run first. You learn how to crawl first and then you learn how to walk and then you learn how to run. And so it sounds very similar to what they're doing here. And it seems like that's a good gradual step to get people to that fully independent situation where they're living on their own and supporting themselves and can take pride in that they work their way up that little ladder to get themselves to that independent type of situation. What is it that the Enduring Campaign does to support these transitional centers?  Is there materials that they need, supplies and things like that, or what is it that the Enduring Campaign is all about in terms of the support that they offer?  

Rachelle LaFleur    00:33:01    So right now our primary focus is in-kind donations, which for those that don't know, in-kind donations or actual items.  For veteran transitional centers of all of those that we work with, they are VA funded. And I think a lot of people rely on that and they say, oh, well, the VA is funding it. They should have everything they need. But think about the amount of services I've talked about and you have to hire professional help and you have to have a physical space for these veterans and and and and and and and. So that's where the money goes. And oftentimes they're left with additional needs. And I just talked about how, if I'm going to get a job, but I don't have toothpaste and I don't have deodorant and I don't have a brush to go through my hair, it might be very difficult for me.  

Rachelle LaFleur    00:33:55    So that is what our primary focus is on. And what happens is, we currently support 13 transitional centers and it is kept because I don't want to keep taking them on if we can't fully support them. And what happens in the process is when there's a submission and we have the funds to add on a transitional center, we're not just sending them things. We're not like, oh, we're assuming you need deodorant. No, I work with these caseworkers. So they're usually not caseworkers. They're usually coordinators and they all have different titles, but they essentially do the same thing where they know, here's what we're in need of, and here's what our veterans need. And we do everything in our power to advocate from our community to donate either monetarily or through the items that are actually requested. So that's what we focus on.  

Scott DeLuzio:    00:34:59    Okay. Well, that's great stuff that you're working on there. And so if people want to help out the Enduring Campaign in this mission, how can they go about helping your mission of supporting these transitional centers?  

Rachelle LaFleur    00:35:16    I would say the number one way is interaction.  I mean, obviously as any non-profit, donations are always extremely helpful, but I don't want to always feel like I'm pushing for donations or my board. There's a board of directors for the Enduring Campaign. That's not always the case because oftentimes I'm just getting the word out is something that is significantly helpful, or even something as simple as if you add us as an Amazon charity and you pay nothing, but we get part of those proceeds. And then we use that to get additional items or pay for shipping.  There's many different ways I would say. So on the website, there is the option to add transitional or request transitional centers. So, not request, but submit for transitional centers in your area. And we're absolutely keeping a queue of that, but we're at our cap right now, just trying to keep up with the 13 that we have. Eventually I'd like to expand, but that's word of mouth and just an understanding of what we do. That's key right now.  

Scott DeLuzio:    00:36:34    Right? Well, I'm hoping that this episode helps to do that and get the message out there to people who are listening, who want to help and support, whether it's through donations or just telling other people that they know about these transitional centers and about what it is that you do. I think that's one of those things where, like you said before, some people didn't even necessarily know what a transitional center was all about. You know, they had the wrong impression of what that was. So you know, hopefully this helps to raise some awareness and get some more people aware that these things exist and can recommend them to somebody who they know who might be going through some rough times and it might be struggling on their own. So you know, hopefully that's sort of the goal, I guess, of this episode to get the word out there of all that stuff. l  

Rachelle LaFleur    00:37:27    I will say, and this is what you just said, reminded me of this is we've had people reach out and say I own this business. And I noticed that you posted about this transitional center in the area. Can you connect us? So they know that if those veterans we're always in need of hiring and things of that nature. So that is also a very big thing. And in fact, now that I'm thinking about it, we should probably add something to the website because if anything, I mean in-kind donations are very helpful for them, but also having the resources to actually get the veterans employed, to have an understanding of what the veterans are going through.  That's just as beautiful. Wow. We're brainstorming right now.  

Scott DeLuzio:    00:38:10    Absolutely. And as we're talking here, I have some other former guests that I've had on the podcast, and I'm thinking that might be great for some of these things that some of these transitional centers might be looking for. So maybe there's a way that they can get together. And we'll have to talk about that after this episode. So just to kind of round things out here. So you were also part of the pinups for vets photo not too long ago, right? So do you want to talk a little bit about that? What the photo shoot was for and what would the goal of pinup for vets is all about? 

Rachelle LaFleur    00:38:46    I am beyond proud, and it's not just to say I'm a pinup, it's because of that organization and what they do.  So pin up for vets that are a veteran owned MPO as well. And the founder is Gina, who is just a beautiful human being inside and out. And really the focus is a little bit more branched out. So they really focus on helping veterans that are hospitalized, which is also something I've done volunteer work in at VA hospitals. It is a depressing place. And so just to have positive spirits and pinups we'll actually go to these locations just to, you know, help these veterans out, or at least raise their spirits. It really does when you're around veterans, oh my gosh, I have 14 minutes before my computer will restart. So the whole process of getting ready and actually going through the photo shoots will one, it helped my mental health so much more than I can explain it.  

Rachelle LaFleur    00:40:01    It's not a conceited type thing. It just made me feel so confident, not just because of how I looked, but because I was surrounded by stunningly beautiful and intelligent veterans, female veterans, and to have that community, that's one thing for my mental health, but then also what they do for the hospitalized veterans, where it's just bringing this positivity and this light into their lives, even if it's just for a moment because I've been hospitalized and I've had visitors that's exactly what they do. So it's an honor to be a part of that  and it was a phenomenal experience.  

Scott DeLuzio:    00:40:42    Yeah, that's wonderful. And I I didn't even necessarily know all the things that the organization did, but it's a great cause. And I think a lot of people, especially the people who are hospitalized or injured or sick, whatever the case may be you know, certainly would appreciate getting those types of visitors and at least some sort of acknowledgement that they're there and people are thinking of them in that type of thing.   

Rachelle LaFleur    00:41:07    I love them. Well, their brothers do too, and one of the other things that I'll say is I think a part of why it's so inspirational is because it's just so classy and it's not to say that female veterans are always represented in a negative light but just have the amount of class that was in it. And especially when these strong, intelligent women and they're not being objectified, they're being glorified. I think that's what helped build my confidence. So I know not every female veteran can do this, but it also brings awareness because at one point I had a calendar I had not even considered doing this. And just to see these veterans as female veterans put into the spotlight and with such class and grace, it encouraged me. So obviously when she asked, I was like yeah, I'm honored. 

Scott DeLuzio:    00:42:13    Great. Yeah. And it seems like you're with a good group of people like you said, smart, intelligent people who were lifting each other up in this whole process. So it's really good that you got the opportunity to be a part of it, and I'm glad to kind of share the message of that organization as well. So well, anything else that you wanted to add to this conversation before we kind of wrap up here?   

Rachelle LaFleur    00:42:45    I think the biggest thing that if I were to give any advice, but I think one of the things that plagues the veteran community, and I don't want to speak on behalf of grunts in grounding units because I'm not a grunt, but just from what I've seen and experienced is I think there's a group, whether it's female veterans or also, I would say more combat veterans.  Wait, let me take that back because what I want to say, I know what I want to say. I don't want to single veterans out because combat veterans go through one thing, female veterans go through another thing, non-combat veterans go through being put down by combat veterans. And so there's all these struggles. And if we're really going to claim to be brothers and sisters, we need to actually do that.  

Rachelle LaFleur    00:43:54    We need to really accept if I didn't deploy, it doesn't matter. I signed my name to this country and that alone makes you a brother and sister. If I'm a female, it doesn't matter. I can't help that I was a female and I didn't serve in an unnecessarily combat role. So again, it kind of comes back to the combat thing, but that's the one thing that I want to leave with this world advocating for is if you're a veteran, you're a veteran, you're a veteran, you're my brother or my sister. It doesn't matter what you did or what you didn't do.  I would like to push that mentality to the entire world, because if you isolate any of us, just like how I said, I had issues talking to O3s, even though I may meet one that I've never met before, but I already had this preconceived notion of what they think of me, that should never happen. So this isolation that plays into mental health, we need to stop doing that. We're brothers and sisters for life every single day.  

Scott DeLuzio:    00:45:02    That is perfect and well said there.  There are people out there who feel like either they didn't deploy or even if they did deploy they're in a non-combat role, they were stuck on a FOB somewhere or doing whatever that their job was.  Regardless, they did the job that they were asked to do, and that's what their country asked them to do. And that's what they did. So, my hats go off to them just as much as the combat veterans or anybody else who served. I think that we all were in this fight together and it takes everyone to do their job for the well-oiled machine to be able to function. So, well, Rochelle, it's been a pleasure speaking with you today.  Where can people go to find out more about the Enduring Campaign? I know you said you have a website and probably social media and stuff, but if you could let people know where to go find out more about it, that'd be great.  

Rachelle LaFleur    00:46:03    The Enduring Campaign.org is our website, and there's a lot of information on there. We have all of the transitional centers, we have the Amazon wishlist, which is kept up to date based on the needs of the transitional centers. We have a lot of information on social media, it's all the Enduring Campaign.  So feel free to reach out and check out what we're up to.  

Scott DeLuzio:    00:46:31    Awesome. And I will have links to all of that, your website, social media links and everything like that. I'll have all that in the show notes. So anyone who's looking to check them out, go ahead, head on over to the show notes and you can click away through there.  Again it's been a pleasure speaking with you. Thank you very much for coming on and sharing everything with us. 

Rachelle LaFleur: Thank you for having me.  

Scott DeLuzio:    00:46:56    Thanks for listening to the Drive On Podcast. If you want to check out more episodes or learn more about the show, you can visit our website DriveOnPodcast.com. We're also on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube at Drive On Podcast. 

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