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  • David Walker is rebuilding an organization that rebuilds lives. In just one year, he has transformed an organization with a righteous mission into a leading national organization that gives hope to veterans.

    Walker first heard about The Coalition to Salute America’s Heroes in 2005 while attending an informational meeting about the organization. Its goal is to provide severely wounded veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and their families, with emergency financial assistance and other support services. Walker left with a strong conviction that he had to get involved. Inspired by his “Fighting Irish” spirit as a graduate of the University of Notre Dame, he made it his life’s mission to give back to veterans.

    Walker joined the Board of Directors of The Coalition that year, becoming Chairman in 2009. In July 2012, Chairman-Emeritus, Major General John K. Singlaub, U.S. Army (Ret.) (a founder of the C.I.A.) asked Walker to become the President and CEO of the organization and undertake a major restructuring. With the management skills that Walker acquired from his 25 years in the private sector, and a strong and supportive staff, The Coalition began a new era.

    Walker’s mission: our war-weary nation should not lose sight of its obligations to those who are protecting our freedoms. He set about creating a safety net that would help returning veterans avoid the high rates of unemployment (averaging 17.9 percent nationwide), suicide (24 per day), divorce (60 percent), etc.

    As one of his first acts, Walker restructured The Coalition’s budget so that it could give more directly to veterans and organizations that support them, with programs that include: emergency financial aid to help through crisis situations (evictions, car repossessions, etc.); training seminars; a call center program to provide veterans and spouses the opportunity to work on a part-time basis (some of the program’s participants have moved on to part-time or full-time employment in the private sector); equine-therapy programs, and more.

    His work has already produced impressive results. In 2013, The Coalition provided: $25,000 to the Boulder Crest Retreat in Bluemont, VA, a facility that provides a free, first-class retreat for wounded warriors and their families; $10,000 to the Institute for Veterans Education and Training (IVET), which offers free training programs for veterans and their spouses; $24,500 to complete the construction of transitional housing for formerly homeless veterans living in Washington, D.C.; and more.

    In April 2013, WTOP radio (CBS affiliate in Washington, D.C.) commended The Coalition by calling it a key resource responding to the problem of the growing back-log of U.S. Veterans Administration disability claims (which can take on average up to one year before veterans receive their disability payments).

    Walker is strengthening the Coalition’s mandate to honor and remember our heroes. In 2012, after learning about The Coalition, Bennigan’s President and CEO Paul Mangiamele contacted Walker about the restaurant chain’s nationwide “Wall of Heroes” initiative. Through the promotion, Bennigan’s customers are invited to purchase a drink, write a note, and upload a picture in honor of anyone that is currently serving or has served in the U.S. Armed Forces. Walker, touched by the idea and realizing its potential to raise awareness for veteran’s causes, agreed to become a part of the national campaign and helped expand the program.

    It’s not just about stating your goals. A rare life is lived by someone who goes above and beyond to give back and actually lives their goals. Thanks to Walker’s passion-driven leadership, a noble organization is living up to its name and changing the lives of hundreds of veterans across the country. In turn, it is also inspiring others to do the same.

    David Walker is a nominee for the Eagle Rare Life Award contest. Read and vote for his story here:
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