Support Veterans, Buy Cool Jeans

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Support them once they're home, too.
Support them once they're home, too.
When Kurt Schwab returned to St. Louis from deployment to Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom in 2005, he came up against a different sort of conflict: navigating the complicated system of veterans' benefits with essentially no support.

"I came home to basically no family or friends saying 'Welcome home, when can we see you?'" Schwab tells the Daily RFT. "On top of that, I had no idea what was available for me as a veteran, through the Department of Veterans Affairs or different resources, both financial and health-wise."

So, in 2009, he formed a nonprofit so that other veterans of the Mideast conflicts don't have to go through it alone: VOIEF, Veterans of Operation Iraqi and Enduring Freedom. The group, which gets no money from the military or government, seeks to support veterans reintegrating into a civilian society that, he says, has largely lost interest in our current conflicts.

Now, through a collaboration with a local custom-denim company, you can help support VOIEF and veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts with your holiday shopping. Schwab met up with Paula Aromando, the St. Charles-based founder of Bling Jeans Company and the pair decided to work together to support veterans.

"What we're doing here with Bling Jeans is trying to recognize that our veterans are our heroes," Aromando tells the Daily RFT. So she's created a logo of a white ribbon with red stripes and crystal stars. "I want it to become recognizable -- you see it and say 'Oh yeah, that's for the Iraq fellas!'" A portion of the proceeds from each pair goes to VOIEF.

Schwab tells of a recently-returned veteran referred to him by the VA in Illinois who has severe post-traumatic stress disorder, is six weeks behind on his house payments and is extremely reluctant to seek treatment or assistance. Nationwide, there are 150,000 homeless veterans -- nearly 3,000 in Missouri alone.

"A lot of [veterans] are really hesitant to attend the VA," Schwab says . "What we want to do is try to put a program together than makes a relaxed atmosphere."

Schwab and Aromando are hosting an event on Dec. 16 at the Old Rock House. They'll be officially launching the new logo on the jeans as well as their collaboration with a fashion show.
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