Community joins together to help veterans

America, land of the free and home of the brave. Free because of the millions of men and women fighting for our freedom.

“Over 3 million service members have deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. One-third of those deployed are officially recognized as disabled. It’s really a huge challenge and only going to compound over time,” said former Army Ranger, Afterburner COO and partner Joe Connolly.

“They go from where they were a part of an elite or high performing team with a mission, shared values and experiences to being back on the block. They lose their purpose or identity,” he said.

The focus of GallentFew, a nonprofit Veteran service organization, “is one-on-one mentoring by a veteran with a veteran (guide) assisting in the transition back into civilian life with hope and purpose,” according to its web site.

Its major fundraising and awareness event, Run Ranger Run, lasts a month. Teams comprised of up to 10 individuals committed to logging in a total of 565 miles (running, walking, riding, etc.) in February.

Hosted by Team Red, White and Blue, running the “final mile” and celebrating their month-long pledge, four local teams gathered on the last day of the month: RWB, Connolly’s team, DSC4605, the U.S. Army Ranger Association and the Darby Project .

“We had a double amputee show up to support us and a former marine drove up from Jonesboro,” Connolly said. “They were part of a team if even for a day.”

Connolly has led his team for seven years. They run in honor of his late brother Major David Connolly, who was killed in Afghanistan in 2005.

“It’s a really special way for me to pay tribute to my brother David,” he said.

“Understanding and supporting the difficult transition veterans face returning to civilian life is a burden we all need to carry,” Connolly added. “We are in the longest war with the continuing needs of veterans and their families as they deal with the consequences of the disproportionate sacrifices they made fighting our ‘Longest War.’ ”

Team DSC4605 raised $2,000 and logged in 815 miles: 625 miles of running and his daughter bringing in 190 miles through rowing.

“Together as a community we can help them understand that there is another great chapter in their life,” Connolly said. “They just need a little support through that.”

Each Sunday we write about a deserving person or charity events such as fun-runs, volunteer projects and other community gatherings that benefit a good cause. To submit a story for us to cover, email us at