By Todd Cohen
FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. — On May 18, Armed Forces Day, over 200 people participated in two bike rides that raised nearly $4,000 for Army’s Army, a Fayetteville-based national nonprofit that provides support to military families, veterans and children of fallen soldiers.
The participants included John Masson, a triple amputee from Fayetteville who rode 61 miles on a specially designed bike.
The mission of Army’s Army is “watching over those who watch over us,” says Janine West, the nonprofit’s executive director.
Operating with an annual budget of roughly $150,000, Army’s Army was created in 2008 as a division of the Fayetteville Area Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Two years later, it became a separate nonprofit, co-founded by John Meroski, who chairs its board and is CEO of the Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Its two other co-founders are Robert West, CEO of The Republik, a marketing and branding agency in Durham that is a sponsoring partner of Army’s Army and handles its branding, marketing and public relations, and has worked for years with the Convention and Visitors Bureau, and Dwayne Frye, chief strategic officer for The Republik. Robert West is married to Janine West.
Army’s Army, which aims to expand to other communities, holds one to two fundraising events every month in Cumberland County that typically are sponsored by local companies.
The event in May, known as Ride to Honor, was the organization’s biggest fundraiser of the year.
Sponsored by Cross Creek Cycling Club in Fayetteville, the event featured rides of 34 miles and 61 miles, respectively.
Army’s Army uses funds raised at the events to provide a range of programs. Through its Children Of The Fallen program, for example, its provides monthly educational events for children who have lost a parent or guardian in war.
Two years ago, for example, Army’s Army offered a military boot camp for children and their families in partnership with SERE, a program for Special Operations soldiers at Camp Mackall at Fort Bragg. The kids learned survival skills such as how to build shelters, start a fire without matches and purify water.
And late this summer, in partnership with Mellow Mushroom, Army’s Army will offer a cooking class for kids and their families.
Twice a year, for Memorial Day and Veterans Day, Army’s Army places flags at entrances to cemeteries, including over 2,000 flags it placed on May 24 at 13 cemeteries in Cumberland County.
Its Heroes Homecoming program, which in the past has honored veterans of the Vietnam and Iraq wars, this November will honor veterans of the Korean War on its 60th anniversary.
To be held Nov. 9-11, the event will include concerts, parades, lectures, movies, cultural celebrations and recognition ceremonies.
In partnership with Moral Welfare Recreation at Forth Bragg and the Fayetteville Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, Army’s Army also offers a “Scoutlook” app designed to help military families in Cumberland County find events, attractions, hotels, restaurants and other things to do in the region.
And Army’s Army is looking for sponsors for two programs it aims to launch, including an “Ask & Receive” website that would let deployed soldiers request items they need, and let visitors to the site donate those items, and “Remember the Fallen,” a flag that will honor all military from all wars and that Army’s Army aims to have recognized by the U.S. Government and flown over the U.S. Capitol.
“We’re always looking for new partners and sponsors for events,” Janine West says.