It’s easy to ignore Veterans Day.
Sure, banks and the post office are closed. But many offices — and the stock market — are open. School is on.
Westport is not exactly a military town. The veterans who live here served mostly in long-ago wars. We’re almost entirely untouched by the endless battles in Iraq and Afghanistan. That conflict — and the men and women who fight there — is out of sight, out of mind.
But it certainly isn’t for those who were wounded there.
The Catch a Lift Fund is a lifeline for those “other people.” Created by a woman whose brother volunteered after 9/11 and was killed in Afghanistan, it provides gym memberships and home gym equipment to help wounded post-9/11 service members heal physically and mentally, through physical fitness.
Working hard, thanks to Catch a Lift.
Thanks to one Westporter, however — and his dedicated crew of friends and supporters — Catch a Lift has become a prized, and very special, “local” organization.
In just 4 years, Catch a Lift’s Veterans Day event has become one of the year’s most important fundraisers.
I went to my first one last year. It was among the most moving nights of my life.
Adam Vengrow is the inspiration behind this inspiring evening. The next one is Friday, November 9 (7 p.m.), at Birchwood Country Club.
There’s great food and beverages. There’s a DJ, and a video.
But all that pales in comparison to the guests of honor. Up to 20 veterans will be there, mixing and mingling. Two will speak. The room will fall silent. It’s a life-changing experience.
Marine veteran Sarah Rudder lost her foot in an accident. Her story of fortitude inspired last year’s packed crowd at Birchwood Country Club.
The men — and women — include double and triple amputees. Some are in wheelchairs; others use canes. But this is no pity party. The spirit, energy, life and joy in the group is astonishing.
These veterans are not your typical Westporters. They enlisted just after — or during — high school. They’ve seen things you and I can’t imagine (and, because the war is so distant, never read about).
They have suffered unfathomably — for their country, and us. Thanks to Catch a Lift, they’ve rebuilt their lives. Next month, they’ll tell us their stories.
Melissa Leuck was at Birchwood last year. She did not speak. This year she will.
In addition to massive injuries, she suffered sexual trauma.
Recently, Leuck competed in the Strong Woman competition. She is indeed stronger than ever.
This year, Vengrow and his fellow organizers will spotlight Catch a Lift’s Women’s Fitness Initiative. The support system gives combat women their identity and “tribe” after they return home.
The Birchwood fundraiser is part of 4 days of Westport activities. Catch a Lift vets will do a series of workouts, sponsored by local gyms and clubs.
They’ll meet as many of us as they can. Those who have been here before will renew friendships.
Vengrow is central to the Veterans Day weekend. But he has plenty of help. He gratefully acknowledges the many Westporters who have joined the cause.
“It’s our job to protect the people who make duty, honor, courage, commitment, integrity, country and service their lives,” he says.
“We live in the best country in the world, and one of the best parts of this country as well. We all have many wonderful things to be thankful for.”
Catch a Lift is thankful for its rock-solid Westport connection. If you’ve been to the Veterans Day event, you’ll know how important that connection is.
If you haven’t, here’s the link for tickets. But there’s an October 31 deadline. No tickets will be sold at the door!