Veterans groups struggle with donations during pandemic

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — On Veterans Day, organizations across the Mid-South are doing their part to support our nation’s heroes.

But some organizations say the pandemic is hindering their efforts.

Luke McLaurine Jr. is a 96-year-old World War II veteran. On Nov. 17, 1944, while on a bombing mission in South Munich, Germany, he says his plane had engine failures and he and 10 others decided to jump.

They were captured by German soldiers and spent nearly six months as prisoners of war. He was 20 years old.

It wasn’t until years after his liberation that he found peace once again.

“God told me forgive the people and I have,” McLaurine said. “After that, all my problems went away as far as dreams and that sort of thing.”

He says over the years, he’s managed to keep that peace through an organization called Forever Young Veterans. 

McLaurine says he’s able to connect with other veterans but since the pandemic, things have been different.

“If I didn’t have those calls from everybody else, I would be all by myself all the time,” he said.

Diane Hight, founder and president of Forever Young Veterans, said the group had to be very creative to find other ways to honor veterans.

Hight said they’ve had to cancel all fundraising and meet up events this year, losing up to 75% of donations.

They’re not the only organization who’s had to make changes.

WarHorses for Heroes, an organization that helps veterans suffering from PTSD through equine-assisted therapy, say it’s also had to make big changes.

“When the pandemic hit, the VA stopped sending veterans out as part of these kinds of programs,” said Pearson Allen, executive director. “So we’ve spent most of the pandemic developing individual sessions.”

Both organizations say they need help to continue to serve veterans, such as McLaurine, who gave so much to serve others.

“It means so much to our veterans to know that they haven’t been forgotten during this pandemic and we still want to honor them,” Hight said.

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