Through the Veterans Rites non-profit, the residents of Echo Glen’s survival bracelets & cards are encouraging vets from Seattle & Oregon, all the way in North Carolina, to New Orleans, and even Hawaii. To women and men who served in the conflicts of Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, Panama and to the warriors that stood the watch to secure our freedom in peacetime, always at the ready to cross the line. We handed them to Gold Star Mothers whose children never made it back home.  Here’s the founder’s letter to you:

To the youthful warriors at Echo Glen Children’s Center and the community that supports them:

Veteran Rites had the honor of receiving the beautiful survivor bracelets and Veterans Day cards made from the resilient hands and hearts of the young souls at Echo Glen for Veterans Day. As requested, those bracelets and well-wishes have reached the sisters, brothers, siblings, and Gold Star Families (families whose kin paid the ultimate sacrifice) that we call family.

You all, who are currently in the deep and painful threshold of your own rite of passage took the time to craft, create, and carry your messages of inspiration to a group of people that know all too well what it means to dig deep into the places that hurt, face the demons in ourselves, lose the people we love, get knocked down, and struggle to find the will to keep going some days. Like you, we fall sometimes. Like you, we knock off the dust and get back up.

Because of what we’ve been through, many of our people become casualties of war through suicide on American soil. Once we put down the uniform, we are thrust back into a society that does not understand us, is afraid of us, and is rarely, if ever, bears witness to the story and truth inside of us screaming to be heard. There are some days where an hour feels like an eternity and that we will never get back home.

We ask ourselves Who Am I? What is my Purpose? Where do I belong? It’s a scary place to be, but one that makes us more resilient in the end.

Many of us come from the kinds of homes and neighborhoods like many of you are from, duct tape on our sneakers, single mothers, paycheck to paycheck, gangs, doing what we need to do to survive. We didn’t always have the chance to be kids, and many of us have spent some time within cold brick walls of confinement before we found a better way.

So we signed up to find some structure, training, a wild pack to run with, a better life, and the ultimate purpose in serving our country. In a melting pot of all perfect shades of humanity, ethnicities, and genders that is America, we found our faith, the best in each other, and a mission in serving others. We knew no matter what, we would not come back the same.

So when we receive a handwritten note, art, and bracelet that says “Welcome Home” in some way it punches us right in the heart. It makes us tear-up. It’s a very big deal. Because the secret you see is we are innocent, playful teddy bears on the inside (But please don’t tell anybody).