They risk their lives every day for our freedom, but when veterans return home, daily life is anything but carefree.
“The transition out of the military is very difficult," said Mike Durkee, executive director of Wounded Veterans Relief Fund and an Army veteran.
Wounded Veterans Relief Fund, a local non-profit organization based in Lake Park, helps 1,000 veterans, along with their families, every year with a common struggle: finances.
“He said to me, 'Well, don’t worry, that’s paid,'" said Tara Williams, an Air Force veteran. "I was like, 'What do you mean?' and he said, 'Oh, that car loan? Paid.' I said what? He goes, 'What else do you have? Electric bill? Paid.'”
Williams served all over the world as a member of the Air Force for eight years. When she decided to leave the military, she says the transition was tough.
"It took a long five to six years of self discovery, and accomplishment and suffering to get to where I am now to where I feel kind of ok in my own skin again without putting on the uniform," she said.
Beyond the mental transition, Williams struggled financially, until she found out about the Wounded Veterans Relief Fund.
"I was able to get back on track," she said.
Now, Williams is pregnant with a baby girl.
“The only way I can describe the relief from what the WVRF has done for me is freedom," she said.
Chris Baker, a U.S. Navy veteran, says the organization helped ensure his growing family had a place to call home.
"You kind of lose hope. You get depressed, anxiety, you don’t know what you’re going to do,” said Baker.
Baker always knew he was destine to protect the red, white and blue.
“I was in ninth grade on 9/11," he said. "I pretty much made up my mind then that I wanted to serve.”
He joined the Navy in 2005, spending 9 years doing pipe fabrication on aircraft carriers, destroyers, and submarines.
“It was a good start to my life, I feel like.”
But when Baker decided to leave the military to start a family, he found out the rest of his life was full of questions.
“I received some of the highest training in the world at what I do … not all of the transfers over to the civilian life,” he said.
He eventually began to work therapy program through the VA, but still lived with his in-laws.
“My in-laws were in the middle of losing their house and my wife was eight months pregnant.”
Struggling to secure an apartment, that's when Baker found the Wounded Veterans Relief Fund.
“The big thing is we want to keep our veterans in their homes,” Durkee said.
The organization provides housing and utilities assistance to post 9/11 vets, which allowed Baker and his family to put down a deposit for an apartment.
"We had the money within the next day. The not knowing what’s going to happen tomorrow goes away. It was kind of a lifesaver there," Baker said.
For more information on the Wounded Veterans Relief Fund, click here .
The organization doesn't receive any money from the government or the VA. They fundraise in order to donate hundreds of thousands of dollars every year to veterans.
To purchase tickets for the WVRF 7th Annual Ball on November 3, click here .