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Warrior Wishes offers Thanksgiving dinners to up to 800 veterans in Montana



Billings, Montana – During its annual Vetsgiving event on Tuesday, Warrior Wishes of Montana, a local nonprofit organization, fed up to 800 veterans in the area with Thanksgiving dinners. Warrior Wishes creator Miguel Gonzalez expressed his hope that this event, along with other initiatives of his group, will reduce the number of veteran suicides.

“I’ve lost several friends to veteran suicide … It’s something that I will never forget because I can’t forget,” said Gonzalez.

After he was medically retired from the military and ended his profession as a deputy sheriff, Warrior Wishes was established.

In exchange for evidence of service, attendees of this year’s Vetsgiving celebration at the Billings VFWs were given trays containing turkey, gravy, stuffing, cranberries, breads, and pies, among other delicious Thanksgiving fare.

“I’m appreciative of it because when we came back we weren’t appreciated. We came back from Vietnam; we weren’t appreciated at all,” said Jerry Hudson, a Vietnam War veteran and post commander for Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post 1634 in Billings.

After Gonzalez took some time to think back on a 2007 incident in which he was at risk of being bombed while serving in Iraq, the Vetsgiving custom was born.

“The only thing I had available to me at the time was a sleeve of crackers and bottled water, and that’s what I had for Thanksgiving, 2007,” said Gonzalez while explaining his desire to serve his community.

Volunteers expressed their opinion that veterans value Vetsgiving for more reasons than just hot meals.

”They all just want to have a conversation; that’s probably the biggest thing. People, you know, get locked up in their house and don’t get out very often, or don’t have confidence to talk to others,” said Bryan Ragsdale, a Vetsgiving volunteer.

According to members of Warrior Wishes, many veterans feel uncomfortable asking for help because they believe it to be a sign of weakness or failure. They stated that they wanted to assist others in dispelling this myth.

“I’ve lost relationships. I’ve lost jobs. I’ve had issues throughout that 20 years that I could have alleviated if I just reached out and said, ‘I need help,'” said Grey Rodriguez, a veteran and the president of Warrior Wishes.

The company offers a range of services, such as vehicle coverage, rent coverage, and connections to mental health resources.

“We’re taking away those moments of desperation and that ‘rock bottom.’ There’s someone there to kind of help pull them out of that,” said Alexander Roth, a Warrior Wishes board member.

Online awards applications are available to veterans for up to $500; larger amounts may be considered in “extenuating circumstances.”

However, according to Hudson, a veteran’s life can be significantly improved without the help of a group or a significant time commitment.

“If you feel like helping a veteran, thank ‘em, but also, give a handout. Maybe they need a ride somewhere, maybe they need some gas money, maybe they need food money. Help us out [by helping] a veteran out,” said Hudson.


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