Flags commemorate veterans during a Memorial Day ceremony. The nonprofit Forever Honored Veterans based in Moundsville, W.Va. raises money for those who served with household tasks, food deliveries, and more. (Photo by Jason Whitman/NurPhoto via AP)
So much of the news coverage of the coronavirus is concentrated on the epicenters of the outbreak, where heroic hospital workers and others providing essential services get the attention and adulation they deserve.
However, there are people helping folks during these unusual and trying times across Postindustrial America, many to little or no acclaim.
One of them is Jay Stout, founder of Forever Honored Veterans, which assists the elderly who served in the military with food deliveries and a lending hand, however it’s needed.
Stout, 48 and a Navy veteran, comes from a family with a proud record of military service. His father served in Vietnam and his grandfather was at Pearl Harbor when the Japanese attacked.
So when he recently moved back to Moundsville, W.Va., Stout wanted to find a way to help those who had sacrificed for their country living in a part of the country that was already facing hard times because of the coronavirus outbreak. Moundsville and the surrounding Ohio Valley has been particularly hard hit by the loss of industry over the decades.
“Our economy (in Moundsville) was based essentially on steel mills and coal mines — It’s a depressed area and people out there are struggling day in and day out,” Stout said. “[It’s] taken a big hit, which means there is a great need for nonprofits.”
Moundsville, as well as West Virginia, has a sizable veteran population in need of some outside help.
Though Forever Honored Veterans just started helping elderly veterans on April 1, Stout has already expanded the nonprofit’s purview to include even those older Moundsville residents who aren’t veterans, including older disabled residents.
“We originally intended to just help elderly veterans,” he said. “However if there are others in need, I don’t turn them away.”
So far, some 20 volunteers and Stout have helped out at least 30 people with food deliveries, basic household repairs, and other tasks.
“I tell the volunteers: ‘If you have a skill, I’ll find someone with that need.’”
Helping people in their homes comes with particular health challenges amid a highly contagious global pandemic, which is why Stout and his volunteers all wear personal protective equipment and masks when interacting with those they assist, while maintaining the recommended social distance, of course.
“The worst thing that would happen to this community, and my business, is someone getting infected,” he said while recounting the organization’s safety procedures.
Forever Honored Veterans may be new and relatively small, but for those Stout and his volunteer force are assisting, they are every bit the heroes as those in the epicenter’s spotlight.
Postindustrial founder Carmen Gentile has worked for some of the world’s leading publications and news outlets including The New York Times, USA Today, CBS News and others. His book, “Blindsided by the Taliban,” documents his life as a war reporter and the aftermath of his brush with death after being shot with a rocket-propelled grenade in Afghanistan. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Sarah Varney, Kaiser Health News
By Clare Amari, Wisconsin Watch
By Carmen Gentile | Photographs by Justin Merriman for American Reportage