Gretchen Smith, a United States Air Force veteran and founder of Code of Vets, spoke with the Daily Caller’s Samantha Renck about her father’s struggle with PTSD, her service in the Air Force and more.
“My dad was a combat vet. He was Airborne Infantry, served two tours,” Smith said. “When he came back from war, he just was a different man.”
Smith described her father as a “shattered spirit” and someone who had lived a “very chaotic life”. She thinks it was because “there was so much chaos on the inside. My dad had PTSD and struggled throughout his life. He had many medical issues later in life and I lost my dad due to his battle with PTSD in 2005.”
“One of my last conversations I had with dad, I sat down and I just said, ‘dad, what are you doing? We need you.’ And he just started bawling – these big tears rolling down his cheeks – and he looked at me and said, ‘Gretchen, I can’t do this anymore. I’m so tired. I can’t fight them anymore. I’m ready to go home.'”
Smith started Code of Vets in honor of her father, she said, “because his life mattered, his service mattered. He lived such a troubled life. I just can’t express that enough. There are so many veterans out there that feel the exact same way. They’re on that exact same path. My dad – he tried everything to tame the demons, he self-medicated, he drank. He just never could find peace.”
“I use my dad’s story every day in hopes of saving another veteran, in hopes of helping another veteran and he truly is the inspiration for Code of Vets.”
Code of Vets is a non-profit that “assists veterans strictly on social media platforms.”
“My partner, Dr. Cindy Walter, she vets the veterans” to confirm they were honorably discharged and “confirm the situation they are in, we help them.”
Smith added, “We are very quick – it happens in a very quick manner because it’s social media and we can get their message out one veteran at a time. We post their picture. We raise the funds.”
“We are assisting them financially and taking some of the burden off with their monthly bills,” Smith said.
Charlie Daniels partnered with Code of Vets on April 17 this year. Since then, over $560,000 has been raised to help veterans.
“We have secured 565 veterans and their families with running water, with electricity, with their mortgage, with rent. You name it, we’ve been able to cover it.”
Smith described her most memorable moments from her years in the Air Force.
“For me, it was boot camp because being a female back then in the 90s when I served, especially I went into a career field – I was in Security Police now it’s called security forces, ” Smith said, “so there were not many females.”
“I loved it. I was exposed to all the diversity of our country and I absolutely just ate it up,” Smith said. “I learned every day and I grew every day. In the military what they do is they strip you down as an individual and then they build you back up as a team.”
Smith reflected more on her military service, her love for Independence Day and more. (RELATED: Honoring The Sacrifices Of American Heroes: Julio Rosas)
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