It’s a story you may have heard—or even lived. A young girl watches her dad go in and out of the hospital due to injuries sustained at war. Yvonne Brunner’s father came back from the Korean War with physical injuries, a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). All of those things placed a heavy weight on Yvonne’s family, who didn’t have a support system in place. She knew, even at a young age, that she wanted to help those kids who grow up each day facing the stresses and consequences of war—but how?
Yvonne grew up to become a Navy spouse. Her husband is an Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran and a paramedic with the Nassau County Police Department in New York. Meanwhile, Yvonne has served as Children & Youth County Chairman at the American Legion Auxiliary, a position that eventually led her to us. She became a volunteer with our Association in 2013 and has become a rising star to military kids.
Yvonne started going to elementary schools in her area, teaching kids about the American flag, hosting mini-parades, and holding a contest called ‘Red, White, and Blue: What the Flag Means to You.’ On Halloween, she handed out safety coloring books. During the winter holidays, she baked cookies and cupcakes and participated in toy distribution programs for military kids.
“It has been cathartic,” Yvonne said about her volunteer experience with our Association. “A journey of self-healing. “
Yvonne’s passion for military kids aligns perfectly with our Operation Purple® Program. When American Legion Auxiliary hosted a fundraising concert on Long Island, C.J. Ramone, who was performing, introduced her to comedian Dave Attell. She shared her experience and desire to help military kids, and they were moved to action. The three of them put together a concert benefitting the Operation Purple, and Yvonne acted as a one-woman dynamo—funding the event upfront and promoting it through radio interviews, town hall meetings, and hitting the pavement distributing flyers throughout Long Island.
The concert raised more than $6,000, and inspired Dave Attell to make two additional $25,000 donations and host a comedy show fundraiser on Veterans Day.
“Each and every one of us is an incredible person, capable of extraordinary things,” Yvonne said. “It is my continued hope that we all join together to give back to our service members and their families. Our children are our hope. They are our ‘littlest warriors’ who, by the simple act of saying good-bye, become the symbol of hope for peace.”