By Deana Perry, AW2 Advocate
I was never someone who thought networking really made a big difference. It seemed like more trouble than it was worth, and I always disliked the saying “It’s who you know that will get you somewhere.” Now, after being an AW2 Advocate for six months and attending some events, I’m a believer in networking—not for myself but for our Army Wounded Warrior Program Soldiers, Veterans, and Families.
A few of us Texas Advocates attended the Partners Across Texas/Inter-state Family Assistance Committee Conference in Austin, TX. At the conference, we had the opportunity to set up an AW2 booth to share our mission, stories, and experiences with others. Most importantly, we had the opportunity to meet and connect with multiple non-profit and state organizations whose missions are to serve and assist Soldiers, Veterans, and military Families.
There are over 6000 websites offering support and assistance to Veterans and their Families. It’s a wonderful wealth of knowledge, but information overload can be daunting and stressful for some. Looking for the right services can be even more cumbersome and confusing when every state, region, and local community resource is different. As an AW2 Advocate, I can help focus and guide people to the right organization and ease that stress. These face-to-face networking events continue to expand my contacts and allow me the opportunity to do a warm-hand-off to another organization. I’m able to give my Veterans and Families a name and a direct number to a trusted contact versus just giving them a 1-800 number or a Web address.
These types of networking events help reduce gaps and duplication in services and support efforts. They broaden our scope of resources for assistance referrals. The more we know about our surrounding resources the better we can assist our Veterans and Families reach independence. I became a business card “cookie monster” at this conference—collecting as many as I could and talking with as many people as I could. I told myself, “I never know when I might need to call this person.” And you know what, the next day after a phone call with an AW2 Veteran, I called someone from my new pile of business cards.
I’ll say it again; I’m a believer in networking. It works! So, I challenge all AW2 Advocates to get out there and participate in these kinds of events—state conferences, county human services meetings, city volunteer group meetings, chamber of commerce meetings, and area Veteran’s advisory committee meetings. You could make the connection that will change the life of an AW2 Veteran.
And to those organizations that support our wounded at the state and local levels, thank you for being a network for our wounded.