The Story Of Active Heroes: Turning Tragedy into Hope for Military Families
On the morning of December 7, 1941, Japan bombed Pearl Harbor. It was a devastating attack that emboldened many Americans to help our Nation. The next morning, 3 brothers walked 30 miles to Lebanon, KY to sign up to fight. The youngest brother of 16, Joseph Leake, felt compelled to join so he followed behind. The other brothers soon noticed he was following and tried to turn him around. Joseph wouldn’t budge. He insisted that he had the right to fight for our country and that he wouldn’t stay home while others defended our freedom. He shouted at his brothers until they decided to say he was 18 so he could join the Army.
All the brothers were separated and sent to different locations. Two brothers were captured and tortured by the Germans and Japanese. Joseph spent most of the war in the Pacific ocean supplying our troops in the Army Air guard. After the war ended, all of the brothers survived and returned home to begin a life working in a factory.
Years went by and Joseph suffered from depression and symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. In 1980, “Joseph’s factory shut down and he lost his job which
became a PTSD triggering point.” Joseph then decided that the only way out of many financial problems was to commit suicide.
Troy Yocum grew up not fully understanding why his grandfather, Joseph Leake would come to the conclusion that suicide was the only way out. It really wasn’t until he was deployed to Iraq and the economy took a turn for the worse, that Yocum came to realize that his friends were experiencing similar things that his grandfather had after he lost his job. After returning from deployment, Yocum decided to make it his personal mission to help struggling veterans.
Yocum came up with a plan to raise awareness and funds to help military families by hiking across America. He began the 17-month journey, dubbed the “Hike for Heroes”, on April 17, 2010 during the Kentucky Derby’s “Thunder Over Louisville” celebration. Yocum banged his drum when entering towns and cities to bring attention to his cause and carried a Louisville Slugger baseball bat for mayors and governors to sign. He averaged 20 miles a day and traveled more than 7,800 miles across 37 states. The hike garnered National attention and the media exposure helped to raise $1.3 million for military families.
After the finish of the Hike for Heroes, Troy Yocum formed Active Heroes to continue helping military families!
Active Heroes helps over 1800 military families!
Military suicides have increased since the start of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to the Center for a New American Security Suicide report. From 2009-2011, record number of veterans of have made suicide attempts. One U.S. veteran attempts suicide every 80 minutes while unemployment among veterans is at an all time high and many military families are applying for financial assistance. These staggering figures are a direct result of veterans believing that they can not take care of their families. When bills begin to pile up, veterans seek help from anywhere they can. Faced with the stigma of post-traumatic stress disorder, unemployment rates ranging in the states from 15-30 percent and a loss of the military camaraderie, many veterans report feeling purposeless upon returning home.
Active Heroes was started to help military families so they won’t have to experience the difficulties that Yocum’s family endured. Active Heroes, a non profit charity started this campaign in order to reach as many people like yourself who are willing to get involved. A simple thank you to a veteran goes a long way. Becoming an active member, volunteer or fundraiser is a giant step towards helping our Nation’s heroes who have sacrificed so much for us!
The Active Heroes Timeline
SO MUCH ACCOMPLISHED AND WE HAVE JUST BEGUN
OUR STORY begins with a suicide in 1981. Troy Yocum’s grandfather, Joseph Eugene Leake, a World War II Army Air Corps Sergeant, took his own life. This event had a profound effect on Troy’s life. (Read Joseph Leake’s story http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=95775685)
It was not until Troy deployed to Iraq in 2008 that he began to understand. He learned that, at that time, there were 18 veterans per day who committed suicide. He determined that he was going to walk across America upon his return to speak about the epidemic of suicides and to raise funds to help military families in order to prevent suicides.
- On August 6, 2009, Troy returned from Iraq and began planning for what would become a 7,880 mile trek. The hike is now called the “Hike for Heroes,” and was nicknamed “The Drum Hike,” because Troy carried his drum as he marched into cities
- April 17, 2010, Troy embarks across America from the Louisville Slugger Museum, with Louisville Slugger as sponsors. (Read more http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/07/30/troy-yocum_n_912538.html)
As word spreads through social media, the press shows up to greet him along with the marching bands and throngs of people.
What seemed a major setback occurred on September on 2011, when Troy Yocum was hospitalized for kidney stones and could not walk for 2 weeks. Word spread of Troy’s condition and thousands of people showed up to walk for Troy! So many people walk that more than 50,000 miles add up. Many people dedicated their miles in memory of fallen troops.
- From what seemed a setback, The Memory Miles event is born. (Read more, see photos @……..)
June of 2011, more than a year later and STILL WALKING. A team of volunteers create an idea to have a Marine standing at attention beside the donation collection place at a local mall. Troy Yocum, Cathy Bordeaux and Philip Bordeaux talk over the idea and decide that they should have all service branches represented and that there should be a competition. Donors placed their contributions into the receptacle for the branch of their choice. The service branch collecting the most was the winner.
- The National Stand at Attention Competition is born.
- September 3rd, 2011 Troy Yocum finishes his 7,880 mile loop across America back where he started — at the Louisville Slugger Museum.
The Hike for Heroes raised $1.4 million for financial assistance distributed to over 1800 military families. https://www.facebook.com/notes/hike-for-heroes/iraq-war-veteran-troy-yocum-walks-7880-miles-across-america-and-raises-11-millio/10150282039257455
- September 17th, 2011 Troy Yocum received the 2011 National Volunteer of the Year at the largest philanthropic award show in the country — The Classy Awards. There, he announced plans to form new charity to help military families! http://www.stayclassy.org/classy-awards/volunteer-of-year
- Active Heroes is born.
December 28th, 2011 Active Heroes is incorporated
March 2012 Active Heroes receives 501c3 charity approval.
- May of 2012, The Home Depot partners with Active Heroes to begin repairing home for veterans in Louisville, http://www.wdrb.com/story/19528300/military-family-from-louisville-receives-big-surprise?clienttype=printable
January of 2013, Active Heroes completes first remodel for wounded veteran and is recognized nationally from film project highlighting the repairs. https://vimeo.com/58751468
- March of 2013, The Home Depot recognizes Active Heroes for home repair projects and enters the charity into the Aprons in Action contest where people chose the charity that wins. Active Heroes moves on to win the March contest for $25,000 and moves onto the grand prize round in May. https://www.facebook.com/notes/the-home-depot-foundation/congratulations-to-active-heroes/506295076101769
- May of 2013 – Active Heroes wins The Home Depot’s Aprons in Action Grand prize for a $250,000 grant to help start a Military family Retreat. http://activeheroes.org/2013/04/active-heroes-wins-25000-for-home-depot-foundation/
And Active Heroes now moves on to its goal of a rural retreat for military families to provide a place of peace, community, and help with coping skills for building their lives upon return from active duty.