Arlington Heights veteran finding increased need to help fellow vets due to world events
Will Beiersdorf is involved in two organizations meeting what he says is a suddenly increased need to help military veterans.
Beiersdorf, 55, of Arlington Heights, a Naval Reserve and Illinois Army National Guard veteran who served in Operation Desert Storm and Operation Enduring Freedom, said the state's stay-at-home order that resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic, and the protests and riots stemming from George Floyd's death have led to many vets finding it difficult to cope.
He's been executive director for seven years at the Road Home Program at Rush in Chicago, which offers individualized care and navigation of services to help veterans heal the invisible wounds of war.
Beiersdorf also co-founded Palatine-based Salute Inc. with his wife, Mary Beth, in 2003. His wife now is executive director of Salute, a nonprofit organization that provides financial support for active military and veterans through a variety of fundraising activities.
He said some Road Home clients have been referred to Salute for financial and other assistance after losing their jobs or from other problems they've encountered related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Road Home's areas of focus include post-traumatic stress disorder, military sexual trauma and family care.
"A man or woman that puts that uniform on, it's our country's responsibility to take care of them however we can to show our appreciation of their service," Beiersdorf said.
Beiersdorf's work as a veteran helping other vets gained statewide attention in 2018. He was among 200 military veterans honored during the Illinois bicentennial in 2018 for making contributions that have aided, benefited and provided inspiration to their communities. The state's bicentennial organizers and the Illinois Department of Veterans' Affairs selected the honorees.
Not long after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in 2001, Beiersdorf was called to active duty as a Navy reservist and deployed to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for about 13 months. After his return, Beiersdorf and his wife decided to help others who went through financial and emotional strain caused by a loved one's military deployment.
"When you help somebody, you never know what that person might do," said Beiersdorf, who has worked in public accounting and health care for more than 20 years. "That's why we believe in paying it forward trying to help others."