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Making a Difference in Your Spare Time

Updated: Sep 30, 2022

One of the ways Curio412 aims to impact the world is by empowering others with opportunities for individuals to meaningfully apply their skills and make a difference. In this blog we highlight how Tara Shiver, one of our team members harnesses her unique skills and passions to impact the lives of veterans.

Thank you, Tara for sharing your experience below:

Deciding to volunteer your time with an organization can be an easy decision. The hardest choice is what organization you want to donate your time.

Personally, I have chosen to volunteer with Honor Flight Chicago (HFC), an organization that's mission is to “Honor, Thank and Inspire by building awareness and appreciation of the debt of gratitude America owes its veterans for their service and sacrifice for our nation.” What does that mean as a volunteer? How can I honor, thank and inspire? As a volunteer with HFC, I can contribute to many different aspects of the operation. Medical, Family Guardians, education, office management and event staff are just a few of the options to choose from when working with HFC.

The biggest event is the Honor Flight, this is a day where veterans get to experience the wonders of Washington D,C. I was filled with excitement coming up to the event. The Saturday prior to our flight, I attended the training session for Guardians. We learned our schedule, medical instruction and general knowledge we needed to have a successful flight.

On July 20, 2022, I volunteered as a Guardian on Honor Flight #103. My day began at 0400 when I arrived at the airport and received my marching orders for the day. I was paired with Larry Duffy, who served in the Vietnam War. I knew my day was going to be interesting when Larry said, “Do you know what you call a mama cow who just had a baby? Decaffeinated!”

We began our adventure by meeting fellow soldiers and volunteers, then we made our way through security. Security in Chicago MDW can always be a little eventful, but the TSA showed up with their honor guard as a beacon of easy passage. When we arrived at our gate we had a nice breakfast which included delicious coffee and donuts. Wayne Messmer, a local celebrity greeted the veterans and sang a few patriotic tunes, before bidding us farewell on our journey.

As we boarded our Southwest Airlines flight, Larry snagged a coveted aisle seat and I got to ride in the back with the Flight Attendants. Everyone tried to rest on the flight because we knew our day was going to be very long. When we arrived at Washington D.C. Dulles airport, we made our way out of the airport and onto our designated bus for the day. The Purple Bus was filled with jokesters and we started hearing stories of our veterans' time in service.

Our bus tour was escorted off airport property by the motorcade from Halifax County, Virginia. We passed by many monuments and historical buildings including the Marine Corp Memorial, Air Force Memorial, Arlington Cemetery, Pentagon, Capital Building, the White House and Washington Monument. The World War II Memorial was the first stop on our tour. We had the opportunity to explore while experiencing the close to 100° temperatures of the day. This was the location of the veteran group pictures. My favorite part of this spot was when Larry took pictures trying to knock the Washington monument over. The day is about the veterans and their experience, so I let Larry set the pace.

We then continued to the Lincoln Memorial, Vietnam War Memorial (The Wall) and Korean War Memorial. The wall is a place of reverence and silence. Many veterans were looking for lost friends and family members. This time was spent walking, talking and listening to the stories of war from each person we met. Sometimes honoring someone can be done by allowing them to tell the story of their time at war.

Our final stop of the day was at the Air and Space Museum. Larry and I decided this was our favorite part of the trip. We got to see the Discovery Spaceship, the Ebola Gay, a Huey Helicopter and many other types of aircraft. Larry said he was planning a trip back to Washington with his wife Barbara, because she needed to see all this history.

At this time, it was approaching 1700, so we began our journey back to the airport. We were treated with dinner before our flight back to Chicago. During our flight home we all reminisced about our favorite part of the day. Many people took naps or just relaxed because we had been going all day.

Arriving home in Chicago is always the most emotional part of the journey. As a volunteer we make a conscious choice to spend our day saying “Welcome Home” to our veterans. The arrival into MDW airport is spectacular and greets each veteran by “Welcoming Them Home!” The amount of people assembled to welcome the veterans is staggering. Family, friends, coworkers, honor guards and many more are pinning our journey out of the airport. Tears are shed, hugs are shared, and “Welcome Home” is said to each veteran. This is the most impactful moment of your volunteer day.

In reflection, I decided to donate my time to a veteran by listening and honoring their sacrifice for our nation. I hope to inspire others to volunteer with an organization that suits your giving heart. My grandpa served in the Korean War and working with Larry gave me a connection to someone like my grandpa. I know that Larry had an amazing day, but my day was impacted by experiencing his joy and excitement.

How can you measure impact?

Sometimes it's a personal connection and a shared experience. Sometimes it's just listening to a Veterans War Stories.

Curio412 is a consultancy for businesses and nonprofits who want to improve their bottom line, build relationships, and scale meaningful impact. We believe in creating lasting impact. Which is why we share knowledge and tell stories to keep nonprofits, business, social enterprises, and charitable organizations informed about current trends, ideas, and impact.

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