After leaving the Marine Corps, Aubrey McDade struggled with post traumatic stress disorder. The Navy Cross recipient, who sought counseling, said he knows firsthand the mental health struggles that veterans can face after leaving the armed forces. Now, he wants them to know there are options, including the ones offered by Disabled American Veterans.
That’s one reason McDade said he is honored to host the DAV’s first “Day of Inspiration” event, scheduled for Thursday, July 29, in Tampa, Florida.
“It means everything to get to work with DAV on this,” McDade said. “Sometimes veterans lose purpose after they retire, and it’s important to know they still have purpose.”
McDade got connected with DAV after he started working with Hall of Fame running back LaDainian Tomlinson’s Tomlinson Center as the program director. In that position, he travels to Title I schools to teach leadership skills to young men. He said his goal is to inspire them to be responsible for the culture they create.
In his speech on Friday, McDade said he hopes to convey similar values. He said he wants veterans to know that although they have left the armed forces, they still have a responsibility to serve their communities. He said it’s an “extreme honor” to be able to work with DAV on this project.
“I love the DAV, I love what they do for veterans,” McDade said.
Another speaker scheduled to speak at the event is Medal of Honor recipient Sal Giunta. He was first connected to DAV when he received his Medal of Honor, and although he didn’t personally need the support at the time, he had friends that utilized the services.
Guinta, a retired Army Staff Sergeant who received the medal for his actions in Korengal Valley, Afghanistan during Operation Rock Avalanche, said he appreciates that DAV tries to treat the issue with compassion and doesn’t promise a quick and easy fix for veterans issues.
Although he is a recipient of the highest honor that can be earned in the armed forces, Giunta didn’t keep his Medal of Honor. Instead, he bestowed it on his unit.
“It weighed heavy on my neck,” Giunta said in a Zoom interview with Military Times. “Too heavy for one person.”
He said that he earned the medal with the help of his team and pointed out DAV is a support team for veterans after they leave the military.
“You don’t even have to go to them they’ll come to you,” Giunta said. “If today’s not the day they’ll be there tomorrow.” He went on to say that an individual can’t always be available to be support. People need to sleep, eat and occasionally they go on vacation. But an organization like DAV has the size to be a constant in peoples lives. He said he hopes he can convey that to the audience.
To facilitate the discussions that McDade and Giunta want to have, DAV will be hosting a “Day of Inspiration” Thursday July 29 in Tampa, Florida.
DAV provides services to disabled veterans, at no cost to them. The event will be focused on encouraging veterans, spouses and caretakers to continue with the mission of day-to-day life. The event will also serve to increase awareness of the services that DAV provides. Parking is free for the event, and it will be held in the Tampa Bay Ballroom at the JW Marriott.
Dan Clare, the Chief Communications & Outreach Officer for DAV, said the organization encourages RSVPs but they are not required. The event will also be livestreamed for those unable to attend in person.
Clare said the message he hopes people take away from the event is that it is still possible to achieve after leaving the military.
“We want people to be more resilient,” Clare said. “We want people to understand that though their lives changed as a result of service, they still have potential. And it’s probably more than they thought they could do.”