I'm a retired Marine and a member of American Legion Post 52 in Coventry, Conn. I'm also a volunteer program manager for Backpacks for Life, which services homeless veterans. I recently partnered with Curtis High School in Staten Island to help homeless veterans there.
With the supervision and leadership of NJROTC instructor Jacqueline Caputi, GySgt, USMC (retired), the cadet corps completed a successful donation drive at Curtis High School for daily essential items to complete 37 backpacks for homeless and at-risk veterans in Staten Island.
The cadets collected and sorted over 1,000 items, then packaged them into three individual kits. Each kit contains 8-10 items that are put into a gallon-size storage bag. The final step was to put one of each of these kits into the backpacks. The completed backpacks were then distributed to first responders from the FDNY and several veteran service organizations that directly support veterans in crisis.
Military veterans have all learned to survive for months with just a backpack. After challenging deployments, when a veteran returns home they often face the hardest part of the process – reintegrating into their civilian lives while battling with the hidden wounds of war. It’s important to let veterans know there is hope and they can get on a path to self-sufficiency with support from their community.
The Curtis High School Navy Junior ROTC program is led by Caputi and LCDR Steven Borbely, USN (retired). Their program mission is to instill in students the values of citizenship, service to the United States, personal responsibility and a sense of accomplishment. These basic ingredients help today’s youth meet life’s challenges.
“Backpacks for Life” was founded in 2014 by Marine Sgt. Brett D’Allessandro after returning home from his own combat deployment. Check out their website to learn more: www.backpacksforlife.org. The term “We’ve got your six” simply means “We’ve got your back” and this is exactly what motivated the young cadets from Curtis High School to embrace the BFL project locally to help and to honor all veterans.