The Power of Family Events in the Veteran Community
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The Power of Family Events in the Veteran Community

  • By Gabrielle.Castaldo
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A Great Turn Out: from the Perspective of Jose Cisneros

On July 27th we had our 5th Annual Chicago Veterans Picnic, where are we proud to say a widely diverse crowd of almost 300 veterans and their families and friends from the ages of 2 to veterans in their late 70s, all gathered in McKinley Park. We were thrilled to have other veteran organizations join us including the AMVETS who gave an award to a fellow Vietnam veteran, as well as the VFW, American Legion, Marine Corps League, and more. Not only was the turn out great, but everyone was having such a fun time that the festivities lasted until the late evening hours. Our members and their loved ones enjoyed the food and networking so much they did not want to go home. To help us uncover what was so special about this year’s picnic, we interviewed Jose Cisneros, an Army Veteran member, who served for over 10 years, from the Korean DMZ to Desert Storm. 

First, we asked Jose what comes to mind when he thinks about Chicago Veterans, and we were so humbled by his response. Jose explained it as a “silent brotherhood of military veterans that served together and shared similar experiences. For example, I felt like I had become a man in the Army serving from the ages of 18-30, and when I came home that meant I had to reinvent myself because it’s a totally different world. An organization like this provides you with a group of people who have a shared understanding of what it means to serve.”

The Best Part of the Picnic

Regarding the picnic itself, there were many great aspects. When we asked Jose his favorite part about the picnic, he applauded the delicious food, but still focused on the comradery present at such an event. “It created a consistent networking opportunity all through the picnic. I even picked up a DJ gig!” The centralized location in the middle of the city made it easy for all members to get there, and Jose noted that as an evident benefit and likely a huge reason for such a great turn out – something we will have to do again! We also asked Jose about the diversity among attendees, to which he gave a great answer and reminder for all of us, “There were people of all different backgrounds there, and those different ethnicities even brought unique styles to preparing their BBQ food, but at the end of the day we all bleed green – and that’s what is so meaningful about events like these.”

The Power of Family Events in the Veteran Community 

This event is really special to Chicago Veterans, as it is free, and open to our family and friends of all ages, always driving strong engagement from our veteran community. We asked Jose why he thinks that is, and he explained that “when you’re serving and after you arrive home, family is your main support system. Your veteran community may meet 1-2x a month, but the people there for you at all times are your family members. Events like the picnic let your family see there are others like you, and others like them – as family members face deployment too, just from home.” Jose also touched on how family events make veterans feel more comfortable, clarifying that veterans “are not anti-social, we are just anti-trust” and that these events where you may know no one are more comfortable when you can bring a family member or a friend. 

Jose’s Message to Fellow Veterans

When we asked Jose what he would tell another veteran who is unsure about attending next year’s picnic, he affirmatively answered, “I’d say ‘just come with me, I’ll pick you up on the way!’ You know, it’s not that different than ‘pick up your rifle, and follow me.’ These BBQs and Liberty Calls put on by Chicago Veterans are really important, they show you the resources and comradery you need are available to you. To be in associations like this one brings awareness to PTSD, suicide prevention and chronic pain.” We sensed a lot of passion in Jose’s answer, so we dove deeper and were moved by where it stems from and how selflessly he portrays this supportive energy.

Jose elaborated, “It’s important that we focus on awareness of these struggles, and benefits available to address them so veterans don’t lose their health or their mind. I myself, am a suicide attempt survivor, and it took me 20 years to get over it and seek treatment. I want to help other veterans through my experience, so they don’t go through the same trials and tribulations I did. Bringing fellow veterans to events like this gives our community hope and peace of mind that we have a place to go to: that someone cares.”

We want to thank Mr. Cisneros for his service, all of his work in the veteran community and being such an honorable member of Chicago Veterans, as well give shout out to all attendees of the picnic. Are you curious about that DJ gig he booked at the picnic? Check out his website to learn more about his work at www.jammasterc.com. Thanks, Jose!

View all the Photos Here!