Anybody I’m connected with on Twitter or Facebook has surely noticed me giving lots of character-love to the online charity event Tweet to ReMIND, which hits fever pitch now as we approach Memorial Day Weekend.
It’s a vital project that’s harnessing social media to give back to the men and women who have risked their lives serving in Iraq and Afghanistan—many of whom are now coming home with physical and psychological injuries none of us can see. I helped develop the social media aspect of Tweet to ReMIND(we’re championing the collective strength of small donors and the networking power of Twitter for social good), working with ABC News correspondent Bob Woodruff and his foundation to rally tweeters and tally dollars that will go directly to helping these people heal and restart their lives at home. I’m personally committed to this cause, which I’ll admit is a bit of a 180 for me, in truth. (ABC is owned by parent company, Disney)
Here’s why: Before 2008, I was never one to champion anything war-related; in fact anyone who knew me prior to that probably still sees me as a raging antiwar liberal. So what prompted the change of heart? Partly it was President Obama’selection last fall. I realized I had been associating the military with the policies of the previous administration in the polarized world of Red vs. Blue. I viewed the armed services as being on the opposite side of the political divide from me. But President Obama’s bipartisan approach and commitment to community prompted me to see the military less in terms of fighting and more in terms of service. I’m still against war deep down, but I’ve become ardently pro-warrior.
Tweet to ReMIND and the Bob Woodruff Foundation’s ReMIND.orghave captured my interest not only because I get the chance to try and make up for lost time by applying my specialties to further the cause as best I can, but also because I feel these issues really expose the harsh reality we’ve set ourselves up for as a nation by letting our health care system get so far out of whack.
And there are even more reasons behind my newfound embrace of our troops—instances that have made their plight truly hit home for me. There’s the story of my friend ABC News journalist Bob Woodruff, who happens to be married to my friend Lee, a former public relations executive who spent years at Porter Novelli. While on assignment in Iraq in early 2006, Bob was critically injured by an IED (improvised explosive device). The road to recovery was a long and grueling process for the Woodruffs and their family and friends, but during all that time in hospitals and rehabs, they were lucky enough to get to know many of America’s injured heroes and their families, which moved Bob and Lee to establish the Bob Woodruff Foundation, home of ReMIND.organd Tweet to ReMIND.
I, myself, have been hit over the head (literally) in the past couple of years by the reality of health care costs and the burdens placed upon family members who must become caretakers. This realization came from my own life-altering experience—I had a brain tumor removed. (When I fill out medical forms these days, I’m stumped by whether or not to check off cancer—mine was an atypical meningioma, the best kind of brain tumor to have, if there is such a thing.) I now have a titanium skull and my head is like a weather vane, but besides those aches and pains, my operation was a success. Yet I was blindsided by how lucky I was to be well-insured and well-connected with top-flight resources. I know I was treated very differently than if I had been Jane Average in a chaotic urban hospital. I was also blown away by the astronomical costs, and I truly appreciated for the first time how tough life is for Americans facing medical bills. The fact is that good health insurance and contacts are the domain of the well to do, and that’s no good. I owe my life to my fantastic employer at the time (JWT Worldwide), a fantastic insurer (Aetna) and the most amazing hospital, Massachusetts General, which a friend found for me after I received my unexpected diagnosis that spring.
When I was ill, I was forced to depend upon kind support from professionals, family, friends and even well-intentioned strangers. The role of caretaker is underappreciated in our society, and that is about to change. With injured troops returning from war and huge numbers of Baby Boomers hitting retirement age, compounded by a flawed health care system, we’re seeing a dramatic rise in the need for regular individuals to act as caretakers for our own family members. The person who assumes this role on behalf of the sick, injured or aging has to deal with even more than the patient. He or she is both the advocate and the victim, often powerless and guilt-ridden, nearly broke and driven around the clock to protect and defend. Forget living your own life on top of all that. The resources from Tweet to ReMINDand the Bob Woodruff Foundation help the caretakers too, as they are the ones our veterans often count on.
The shock of the economic crisis has opened a lot of eyes—including mine—to the way millions of ordinary people struggle from day to day. The past year has been a very anxious time in which we’ve felt precariously close to the edge of disaster.
Between my illness, Bob and Lee’s experience, the economy and the new administration in Washington, I’ve been rethinking a lot. And setting up Tweet to ReMINDhas offered me the double benefit of harnessing a new technology that really excites me to serve a purpose I really believe in. It’s part of my own personal reboot.
If you haven’t already tweeted about your own personal hero, please join us on Twitter, and remember the hashtag #tweettoremind. Share your own thoughts of support and read about other people’s heroes while passing along the message of Tweet to ReMINDto your own Twitter followers.
And don’t forget to visit TweetToReMIND.orgto chip in $5.25 toward our big “thank you” of $1.65 million (that’s just one dollar for every service member deployed since 9/11).
Marian Salzman is the Chief Marketing Officer at Porter Novelli, a global PR company. She is one of the industry’s best-known trend spotters and branding experts. You can find her popular blog at www.pnintelligentdialogue.com