MVP Community Member Builds Foundation to Honor American Servicemen and Women
By Nate Herpich
On March 21, 2012, our country lost an American hero, when Staff Sgt. Jamie Jarboe died of the injuries he had sustained during his third tour of duty in Afghanistan.
Since that day, his wife Melissa has devoted herself to fulfilling his dying wishes: to leave the corporate world where she held a successful, but demanding, career and spend more time with their kids, and to seek to improve the morale of active, reserve, and veteran servicemen and women. Melissa has tirelessly committed herself to both of these pursuits, and the military community, as well as those living with spinal cord injury, now count her as a hero and a friend.
We last checked in with Melissa about a year ago, when Director of Information and Resource Services Bernadette Mauro wrote about Melissa's experience working with the Reeve Foundation's Military and Veterans Program(MVP). Melissa became an active, dedicated member of the MVP community when her husband returned from Afghanistan in 2011: While on patrol, Staff Sgt. Jarboe was shot in the neck, shattering his spine and leaving him a quadriplegic.
"Melissa is a powerful force," says Bernadette. "She started her own Foundation just days after Jamie's funeral, investing her death benefits from the Federal government toward helping military families get the kind of care they need and deserve. We continue to watch with awe at all that she is able to accomplish."
This November, Melissa is organizing the first ever Veterans Day parade in her native Topeka, Kansas -- a major event marking a year of remarkable successes.
"I remember when Jamie was in the hospital," says Melissa, "unable to even eat or drink on his own, we had a dream together: that we would get him the newest Camaro convertible, and that Jamie would ride in a Veterans Day parade as a true American hero, with dignity."
After Jamie passed away, Melissa found out that there had never been a Veterans Day parade in Topeka -- "I was crushed!" she says -- despite the fact that there are more than 250,000 veterans living in the state of Kansas alone. So she set out to make sure one happens -- she has organized events to prepare for the parade, and has signed up more than 70 organizations to participate on November 11 in downtown Topeka. Even Miss Kansas, who recently made headlines participating in Miss America as a tattooed active member of the National Guard, has pledged to be there. "We still need sponsors to make this event a success," she says. (Find out how you can help).
The Veterans Day parade is a crucial event for the community, she says, and a way for celebrating the men and women who have served our country, so many of whom returned less whole than how they left. Many are injured, others have spent long periods of time away from loved ones, others yet suffer from the effects of Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD). And many return home feeling forgotten, unable to know how to return to a normal, productive life. The Jamie Jarboe Foundation, which soon will be renamed the Military Veterans Project, aims to address all of these realities, by helping veterans to access the care they and their families are entitled to, while reminding them that they're heroes to a nation.
Many vets are unaware what kind of care is available to them; the Jarboe Foundation helps to connect them with critical information to put them on the right path. "If it wasn't for the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation," says Melissa, "I wouldn't have known about some of the resources available to us, and I don't believe that Jamie would have lived as long as he did. We are relaying this information to the veterans that come to us, and helping them to negotiate government red tape in order to get the care that they are entitled to."
"Melissa is often a last resort for people who may feel lost due to the system," explains Bernadette. "But she fights tooth and nail to guarantee that those in the armed forces get the kind of care they deserve. She is one of the strongest people I know."
The Jarboe Foundation is also deeply committed to making servicemen and women feel welcome upon their return to the States. On November 1st, the Foundation is organizing the Stand to Sacrifice, whereby one member of each branch of service in 32 states will stand for eight hours straight in order to honor those who have fallen in battle. In addition, every Friday is a "Red Friday," an opportunity to remember all who are deployed by wearing red. And the initiative Faces of Freedom honors servicemen and women through photography in public places across the country.
Melissa has also bought a cabin in Northern Minnesota that she calls the "Cabin of Honor." All veterans are invited to stay at the cabin, which lies on 10 acres of pristine, bucolic land, for free, offering a true respite for those who need it. And as if all of these projects weren't enough, Melissa is working on a book and videography detailing the final year of Jamie's life.
"My biggest hope for the Foundation is that we help more and more Americans to realize what a difference our military veterans make, and to remind them that we don't have to wait for a tragedy to honor our heroes," she says.
"My husband was empowered, even as he lay in a hospital, paralyzed from the chest down -- today, we're doing the work to ensure that his voice is heard. Each day, we try to make a difference in the lives of those who have served our country, and we invite you to join us in this pursuit."
About the Jamie Jarboe Foundation
The Jamie Jarboe Foundation mission as a Military Non Profit 501(c)3 is to improve the morale and increase visible support for our active, reserve and veteran military members. Efforts focus on improving the gap between civilian and military communities. Actions moving forward show our Military of past, present and future that we support their efforts even after they come home. Educating and supporting the blue star family community on integration, PTSD, TBI, and suicide prevention. To learn more visit http://www.jamiejarboe.org.
Follow them on Facebook.
By Samantha Foster
A few hundred people turned out Monday for Topeka’s first Veterans Day parade, which took about an hour to travel along S. Kansas Avenue.
About a half-hour before the parade’s 11 a.m. start, crowds already were seated or standing along the parade route. Many brought flags to wave. Some wore uniforms.
Veterans of all ages greeted each other with handshakes, some introducing themselves and talking briefly about their service.
Will McClammy, an Army veteran who served in Iraq, attended the parade with his wife, Tamara, and Anabelle Kearney, 4. He said Anabelle’s mom and dad both are veterans and served in Iraq. Will and Tamara’s middle daughter also is in the military.
“We have a long history,” he said.
Vietnam veteran Charles Johnson said he attended the parade in memory of friends he lost in the war.
“I’m here to honor those who gave the ultimate sacrifice and laid down their life,” he said. “I’m fortunate enough I got wounded and was able to make it back home, but there are many who weren’t able to make it back home.”
Johnson said he was wounded during a night ambush in 1966. He fell into a punji stake pit, he said.
“I guess God blessed me, because when I came down on top of them, they all brittled up and turned to ashes,” he said. A bullet tore through his arm.
Marching bands and JROTC members from local high schools marched in the parade. Dozens of floats including servicemen and women drove through downtown Topeka, as did motorcycles and Arab Shrine cars.
Miss Kansas Theresa Vail, who is a member of the Kansas National Guard, also participated in the parade alongside mascots Sluggerrr, of the Kansas City Royals, and K.C. Wolf, for the Kansas City Chiefs.
While some spectators expressed surprise that this was Topeka’s first Veterans Day parade, others said they hoped Topeka would continue to show increased support for those who have served in the military.
This year’s Topeka Veterans Day Parade was organized by Melissa Jarboe, who started the Military Veteran Project after her husband, Staff Sgt. Jamie Jarboe, died in 2012. Jamie Jarboe was severely injured by a sniper in the Zhari District of Afghanistan almost a year before he died.
The parade provided a new opportunity for one pair of friends.
Bob Marling said every year he takes his friend Richard Tarter, a 90-year-old World War II veteran, to a Veterans Day event. This year, they attended the parade.
“We’ve been friends for 30 or 40 years,” he said.
Marling said Tarter served in the Bougainville campaign in the South Pacific.
Employees of several downtown businesses watched the parade from their doorways.
The parade lasted about one hour. It traveled south on S. Kansas Avenue and turned west on S.W. 12th before heading north on S.W. Jackson, past the Statehouse.
By Corey Jones
By most accounts, Melissa Jarboe worked tirelessly to lay the foundation for Saturday evening’s Salute Our Heroes Gala.
Looking across the ballroom at the Ramada Hotel and Convention Center at more than 200 people mingling, many dressed in military or law enforcement uniforms, she couldn’t help but hope the inaugural event will grow into an annual occasion to honor the military not just from the Topeka area but from across the country.
“How amazing does it look to have so many great patriots, literally patriotic leaders of our community, in one room?” an excited Jarboe said.
Col. Ronald Krueger, commander of the 190th Air Refueling Wing, spoke as the guest of honor for the event, which was put on by Jarboe and the foundation she formed after her husband, Jamie, died of wounds suffered by a sniper’s bullet while on foot patrol in Afghanistan.
“Melissa’s efforts have truly amazed me,” Krueger said, adding that it inspires not only him but the entire 190th Air Refueling Wing of the Kansas National Guard.
Reasons for signing up with the military are as varied as the people who serve, he said, but one distinct reason is for the people in their lives — parents, spouses, children, friends and neighbors.
“Military service really is a family affair,” Krueger said.
Former Sen. Bob Dole, R-Kan., delivered a video message at the event’s outset after Jarboe recorded him several days prior because he wasn’t well enough physically with a knee issue to make the gala.
“First, understand these young men and women in some cases risk their lives to protect the people in the Topeka area, as well as the rest of the nation,” said Dole, dressed in a shirt and tie. “So we have a debt to the veterans.”
The Russell native drew attention to the capital city’s Veterans Day parade set for 11 a.m. Monday in downtown. He said communities need to recognize veterans of all wars and also provide them support — be it caregivers or other forms of help.
“Surely someone out there would be more than happy to assist,” Dole said.
Ron Brown, chief of police for Topeka Unified School District 501, was master of ceremonies. When Jarboe phoned Brown to ask for his help, he didn’t bat an eye.
“I just think that Melissa Jarboe is a phenomenal individual because she had a vision to do this, and she put this entire thing together from the ground up,” he said.
Brown, retired from the Marine Corps and as a major of the Topeka Police Department, said the camaraderie of veterans supporting veterans was palpable.
“It’s a wonderful tribute to all the veterans because quite often you retire and that’s kind of it. You hang up your uniform and you’re done,” Brown said. “This gives a lot of those guys an opportunity to come back and spend time together.”
Several awards were bestowed upon groups for their dedication and service to veterans:
■ Daughters of the American Revolution.
■ ABATE District 4.
■ American Legion Auxiliary.
■ American Legion.
■ Vietnam Veterans of America.
■ Paralyzed Veterans of America.
Military members 'Stand for Sacrifice' in honor of fallen Kansas soldiers
Event a tribute to soldiers in lead-up to Veterans Day
Posted: November 4, 2013 - 12:25pm
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SAMANTHA FOSTER/THE CAPITAL-JOURNAL
Melissa Jarboe reads the words inscribed on the back of a photo of Army Master Sgt. Bernard Deghand, of Mayetta, on Monday. Photos of 74 Kansas military members who gave their lives were placed on the glass outside Westar Energy, 800 S. Kansas Avenue, for passers-by to see.
By Samantha Foster
Army Spc. Spencer Duncan, 21, of Olathe. Army Captain Jason McMahon, 35, of Mulvane.
Those were just two of the 74 photos of military service members whose faces — many young, and all with loved ones whose time with them was too short — lined the glass Monday outside Westar Energy, 818 S. Kansas Ave.
Melissa Jarboe stood with the group of Marines, Army and Air Force personnel who were standing in honor of the fallen.
Jarboe knows many of the families of these fallen soldiers. Since the death of her husband, Staff Sgt. Jamie Jarboe, about a year after he was severely wounded by a sniper’s bullet while patrolling in the Zhari District of Afghanistan, she has actively worked to encourage the Topeka community to increase its visible support for the military.
Each photo of a Kansas soldier killed in action was attached to the glass with velcro, allowing anyone who stopped to look the opportunity to read the soldier’s name, age, hometown, and date of death.
“I just hope that when people see this, they stop and look at the photos for five minutes,” Jarboe said.
She said she hoped the community would see the soldiers standing for those who sacrificed everything and follow suit.
Five Army soldiers from Jamie Jarboe’s unit from the 1st Infantry Division stationed at Fort Riley were among those standing Monday in front of the wall of photos.
Although a cold breeze blew, Army Sgt. Calvin Smith said it wasn’t difficult to stand in honor of the fallen.
“When you take all the physical stuff out of it, it’s not hard, because you have a purpose,” Smith said, gazing at the photos. “They can’t stand here, so I have to stand for them.
“They gave their all. The least I can do is give a couple of hours of my time.”
Some motorists driving past the flags and soldiers on S. Kansas Avenue honked their horns, but foot traffic past the makeshift memorial was sparse about 11 a.m. Jarboe said someone had brought flowers to place beneath the photos.
The Stand for Sacrifice began at 9 a.m. and was set to last until 5 p.m.
The event is one of several this week that will lead up to the Topeka Veterans Day Parade. Jarboe worked to establish the parade, with the support of local veterans’ organizations, after finding Topeka didn’t have one.
Jarboe said there is no record of Topeka ever holding a Veterans Day parade. Next Monday’s parade, which Jarboe has said she hopes will be the first of many, is set for 11 a.m. Nov. 11 in downtown Topeka.
My name is Melissa Jarboe, military spouse, wounded warrior wife and war widow. Today and everyday moving forward, I will honor the sacrifice of our men and women who selflessly serve our nation.