My name is Ryan McKennedy and I am currently a Hope For The Warriors® intern at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. I am an Army Veteran and currently serving in the National Guard. I enlisted into the Army at 17 during high school and have been serving since. I was deployed to Afghanistan and spent 11 months in country. For me, it is really important to gain experience to support the veteran community through this internship because even though I served, there is much to learn. Every branch has their own culture, their own individual issues and concerns and there are so many sub-populations of people within the military. Helping people while wearing the uniform looks much different than when we are not wearing the uniform and that is what I am learning about now. 
There are many organizations out there that support the military community and I have had the pleasure to work and be a part of just a few. Here at SIU, we have a Student Veterans Organization which is a chapter of Student Veterans of America. Being a part of this student community was vital in my transition to college. On Veterans Day, I am embarking on a 24-mile ruck march from the Murphysboro Illinois VFW to the Marion Illinois VFW in attempt to raise money for the Student Veterans Organization. This money will be used for small emergency needs such as electric bills, social events, and assistance for students to attend the 2014 Student Veterans of America National Conference in Scottsdale Arizona. The Saluki Veterans Organization will be assisting me during this ruck march. Another organization called Team Red, White, & Blue will also be supporting this cause.
The cooperation between these different organizations has been absolutely amazing! They have all aided my transition in unique ways and fit different needs of different Veterans. These organizations can also be utilized at different stages of transition. A Veteran might need some help from Hope For The Warriors® in getting to college. SVA picks them up from there and then Team RWB helps them stay socially and physically active.
 

This ruck march, for me, is a way to remember all of those Veterans who have come before me and I will lead the way for Veterans after me. I keep close to my heart all of those brothers and sisters who lost their lives and who fought for their country. Organizations like Hope For The Warriors®, Team RWB, SVA, and many others allow Veterans just like me to find another mission after the military. Not sure where I would be without them.

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