Gold Star Mom Spurs Nationwide Drive to Help Veterans

09/20/2010 04:47 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Nadia McCaffrey, who turns 65 on Saturday, is a shining example of how one person can spark a chain reaction that leads to thousands of veterans receiving the help they need from the civilian community.

After her son was killed in Iraq, Nadia established the Patrick McCaffrey Foundation in his honor. The mission is to help returning warriors heal by providing them with safe temporary housing where they can commune with nature, animals and each other. Assistance with obtaining employment is offered, and conventional as well as unconventional mental health services can be arranged for those who need it.

In addition to helping to launch veterans' villages all over the country in connection with her foundation, Nadia is nurturing former service members in very personal ways. One such person is John Keith.

John is an Iraq war veteran who was unable to receive the treatment he needed while living in Dallas. His situation deteriorated so badly he eventually became homeless and hopeless. Desperate for a way to reconnect to normal life, John reached out to Nadia, and she invited him to come live with her in Tracy, CA.

John took her up on the offer, and Nadia quickly arranged for her new houseguest to be treated at the Veterans Administration hospital in nearby Palo Alto. Shortly thereafter, John started his own organization, OIF Veteran Community, a growing network that already includes 3000 veterans.

"Once they've been helped," Nadia explained, "All they want to do is help others."

After meeting with Nadia and two other Gold Star Moms (Mary Tillman and Dolores Kesterson), organic farmer Michael O'Gorman founded the Farmer Veteran Coalition. Michael told me the three women "were the inspiration to leave what I was doing at the peak of my career, and start this project out of the back of my pickup truck." O'Gorman's rapidly expanding organization recently announced its receipt of substantial grants from The Annenberg Foundation, The Goldhirsh Foundation and comedian Lewis Black.

Nadia is also active with The Bunker Project, a nonprofit group that helps arrange special plea bargaining and sentencing alternatives for veterans involved in criminal matters.

Unfortunately, Nadia is currently experiencing health problems, possibly due to overextending herself on behalf of others. So it seems particularly fitting at this time to highlight her relentless efforts, and on behalf of everyone at The Veterans Project and her many admirers around the country, to wish her a very happy birthday.

This article was originally published by The Veterans Project.