There are approximately 21.8 million veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces in the United States. They are husbands, wives, daughters, sons, brothers, sisters, and grandparents. Many of them are also ranchers, cowboys, ropers, and horse trainers.
The core values that drive both cowboys and military men and women are one and the same. Both understand sacrifice for a cause larger than themselves—a cowboy makes his way through a blizzard to save a newborn calf; a soldier puts himself in harm’s way to protect his country. A cowboy lives by the Cowboy Code: be honest, tell the truth, make your handshake matter. A soldier’s life is measured in honor, valor, and bravery. It’s little wonder these communities are inextricably connected.
The following companies have chosen to give back to those Americans who work, fight, and sacrifice for our greater good.
In 2009, iconic cowboy brand Wrangler launched their Wrangler Patriot Program. Founded through an initial $50,000 donation from Wrangler on behalf of legendary cowboy Jim Shoulders, the national campaign assists veterans in several ways.
First, a portion of the sales from the Wrangler National Patriot line of clothing, sold by Western retailers around the country, is given to organizations who assist veterans and their families.
Secondly, Wrangler encourages local rodeo committees to partner with veterans’ organizations in their communities to raise funds and awareness on a grass-roots level.
Thirdly, Wrangler produces a yearly National Patriot tour, where top rodeo athletes and other notable figures in the Western industry travel to military bases in the United States and abroad.
Wrangler leadership has emphasized the level of pride and respect the company has for the individuals serving in the U.S. military who show heroism every day in an effort to protect America. The company feels strongly about this opportunity to give back to those who have been injured while fighting for America’s freedom and safety. When Wrangler launched the program in 2009, it was one they anticipated the Western community would support with enthusiasm.
If you wish to join Wrangler in their support of the military community, they have a list of recommended organizations on their website, including the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, Operation Homefront, and Fisher House. Find more information at wranglernationalpatriot.com.
Twisted X Boots
Decatur, Texas-based footwear company Twisted X Boots has spent 11 years making comfortable, design-patented boots and footwear for the Western community. Founded in 2005, the company’s primary focus is on core cowboy boot styles, work boots, and a recently added line of casual footwear. You can find their products in Western retail stores around the country.
Recently, Twisted X launched a summer fundraising campaign with the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. (VFW). Founded in 1899 and chartered by Congress in 1936, the VFW (vfw.org) is the nation’s largest organization of war veterans and its oldest major veterans’ organization. Supporting the VFW is a cause that is near to Twisted X President, Prasad Reddy’s, heart. When he became a U.S. citizen in 1980, VFW members were the first to greet him, offer congratulations, and gift him with an American flag.
The company has created an exclusive VFW Patriotic Collection and during this summer’s campaign, Twisted X will donate $2 per pair of boots and $1 per pair of shoes sold. The donations received will provide financial assistance to maintain veterans’ rehabilitation programs and support for the VFW National Home for Children. To date, Twisted X has raised more than $50,000 for the VFW.
American Hat Co.
American Hat Company has a single goal in mind: to make the finest cowboy hat in the world.
Their story began in Houston, Texas, circa 1915, when Sam Silver began making cowboy hats for the area’s cow punchers, ranchers, and lawmen. The reputation of American Hat Company grew and was under Silver family management for three generations. Bill and Billie George owned the company from 1984 to 2003, then current owners Keith and Susan Maddox took over the legendary brand.
Western history is knitted into the fiber of the hat company. Its hats were worn by men like Lane Frost and Jim Shoulders, and they were the first hat company to ship orders to retail stores with an open crown and a flat brim, allowing customers to choose their hat’s shape in the store.
True to the company’s name, American patriotism is embedded in the brand’s core. Each year, American Hat Company partners with the San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo (SASS&R) to provide hats for approximately 300 veterans and active-duty military. The hats are sold to the SASS&R for just the raw cost of the materials and labor. Then a team of shapers and fitters goes to San Antonio to custom fit each veteran or military member who comes through their booth.
“We want to help create an environment that allows these individuals to be proud of the work they’re currently doing, protecting our country and our freedom, and give these heroes the recognition they deserve,” says marketing manager Brian McNamee.
Olathe Boot Co
In 1875, in Olathe, Kan., the Olathe Boot Company began in the home of its founder, C.H. Hyer. Having learned the art of fine bootmaking from his father, a German immigrant, Hyer quickly established a reputation for outstanding boots among his cowboy clientele. As his renown spread across the country, Hyer recognized the need for and developed a system that would allow his long-distance customers the ability to provide him with their foot measurements. His attention to detail and custom fit made his boots a favorite among the top cowboys of the day, and his list of customers included the likes of Billy the Kid, Jesse James, Buffalo Bill Cody, and Teddy Roosevelt.
Olathe has a long history with the American military, and three years ago, the company began working with Cowboys for Heroes (cowboys4heroes.com), a non-profit organization that assists wounded veterans during their transition from military to civilian life.
Cowboys for Heroes’ largest annual outreach project is the purchase of 25–30 commercial steers at the Houston Livestock Show, most of which are then donated to Houston’s Camp Hope. Operated by the PTSD Foundation, Camp Hope (ptsdusa.org/camp-hope) provides interim housing to veterans who are working through the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The beef purchased by Cowboys for Heroes feeds the residents at Camp Hope for the year.
Olathe has helped Cowboys for Heroes increase their yearly steer-buying budget by taking the hides from steers purchased the previous year and turning them into custom boots. Those limited edition customs are then sold back to the Cowboys for Heroes supporters and community. In 2016, this effort added $15,000 to their steer-buying budget. Additional programs are planned for 2016 and 2017 to increase that budget even more.
B. Tuff Jeans
As the men’s brand from the popular women’s clothing line, Cowgirl Tuff, B. Tuff measures itself against the standards of fit and functionality.
Launched in 2010, B. Tuff is worn by cowboys, ranchers, trainers, and country music fans alike. The company believes strongly in the power of generosity, and sought a creative way to help the veteran community.
HOOAH (hooahinc.org) is an organization that assists veterans in many capacities, but their most recent effort is the Victory for 22 campaign. This campaign seeks to eliminate one day of veteran suicide through a progressive form of PTSD therapy.
B. Tuff worked with HOOAH to design and launch the HOOAH jean in 2014. For every pair of jeans sold, $5 goes directly to HOOAH. In July of 2015, B. Tuff presented HOOAH with a check and is on track to donate more than $25,000.
Using the funds from B. Tuff, HOOAH pays for veterans’ transportation, lodging, and PTSD treatment. The leaders of this national non-profit take zero pay and cover their own expenses so that 100 percent of donations given to HOOAH go directly to helping veterans.
“After they receive treatment, they can finally move forward with their life by being released from addiction, rebuilding their families, or getting a job,” says Bob Sebastian, founder and president of HOOAH. “When we connected with Cowgirl Tuff and B. Tuff Jeans, we finally had the financial support to launch the Victory for 22 campaign. Their involvement has been instrumental in spearheading this project. Those funds have directly impacted veterans dealing with PTSD. Our initial goal was to eliminate one day of suicide, but it doesn’t end at that point. We want to get that number to zero.”
When CSI Saddlepads founder and CEO Donna Saddoris tells you that her products are 100 percent made in the USA, she means it. Saddoris started the company out of her Missouri home in 2003 after her favorite mare showed signs of chronic back soreness. She did her research and learned that a built-in surface within the saddle pad would distribute weight better and may help her horse’s back issues. Her efforts were successful and what began as a quest to solve her own problem has grown into a successful business that is on track to sell 10,000 pads in 2016.
A unique aspect of buying a CSI saddlepad is the “30 day—ride it and try it, get it dirty—guarantee.” Any customer who isn’t completely satisfied with their pad can send it back for a full return. The company only gets 30–40 returned pads per year, but Saddoris saw an opportunity to use these pads in a patriotic manner.
CSI donates the pads to organizations that use horses as a form of therapy for veterans.
The retail price of a CSI saddlepad is approximately $380, so these organizations are receiving around $13,500 of product per year. CSI is working to build partnerships with more equine therapy programs around the country.
Sergeant Colton Levi Derr Foundation
In 2012, the Derr Family made a decision to turn great personal pain and loss into healing and hope. Sgt. Colton Derr, a South Dakota native, served his country with tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, completing more than 500 combat missions. He survived those missions, but tragically committed suicide just six weeks after arriving stateside from his most recent deployment.
Colton’s story is all too common. Every day, an average of 22 veterans commit suicide as a result of PTSD. In response to this tragedy, Sgt. Derr’s family formed a foundation in his honor. The foundation’s website has outlined three areas of outreach:
Assistance: Providing the immediate support that many federal and state agencies can’t because of prohibitive policies/procedures or the assistance is out of their scope.
Awareness: Deployments find mission, duty, and camaraderie. Coming home does not always mean peace, but often reveals confusion, turmoil, anger, depression, and isolation. It is imperative that decision makers, the public, and our veterans’ families understand that coming home may not mean the war has ended.
Advocacy: There are 2.8 million veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. The United States’ rapid reduction in military forces finds these veterans facing another challenge: coming home.
The Derrs are a ranching family, and they wanted to use the horses that Colton loved so much to benefit veterans. The family purchased a stallion, Chicks Dash Easy, under the ownership of the foundation, and 100 percent of his breeding fees go back to the non-profit and its efforts to support veterans with issues related to PTSD.
Chicks Dash Easy is a 1998 son of Chicks Beduino, out of Designer Dash by Dash for Cash. He was an Oklahoma high point 3-year-old, earned his Register of Merit in 2001, and earned $21,254. He has progeny earnings of over $416,000, and his offspring have been successful in the arena and on the ranch.