I applied for assistance through the Sentinels of Freedom after my first semester of law school at LSU, at which point I was on the verge of giving up my dream of continued education. The financial burden of raising a family and attending school, in addition to the academic stress of the legal program, was having too great of a negative impact on my mental health. When the program director of the LSU veterans center recommended the Sentinels program, I was not optimistic.
I knew my experiences were different from other student veterans, but thanks in part to severe depression and anxiety, I had very low self-worth and I was having trouble being optimistic about anything. Now, two and a half years later, I have graduated with my Juris Doctorate, am studying for the Louisiana BAR exam, and am in a better place mentally and emotionally than I can ever remember being. As I begin looking for a career in the non-profit sector serving veterans, I know that applying for and being welcomed into the Sentinels of Freedom family was one of the most important steps I took that led me to where I am today.
The financial assistance I received from January 2018 until April 2020, not only helped me afford to achieve my goal of attaining an advanced degree, it also gave my wife, Shana, the opportunity to go back to school and finish her bachelor’s degree. Shana graduated from Southeastern Louisiana University one day before my graduation date, neither of which would have been possible without the support of Sentinels of Freedom.
While I could go on and on about the financial assistance that we received, that was only one aspect of the Sentinels program that made it so beneficial for me and my family. By far the most important part of the Sentinels of Freedom program is the quality of individuals I have met as a result. Beginning with the staff, at least the ones I have been lucky enough to interact with, every member of the Sentinels network has gone out of their way to make us feel like family. Mike, Samantha, Havilah, and Carol have each made such an impact on my life that there is really no way that I could ever properly repay them or even express how much their kind words and generous actions have propelled me forward during some dark times in my life.
In addition to the unbelievable individuals who work on behalf of the Sentinels; the network itself has provided me with an immeasurable amount of emotional and intellectual support. People like Dr. Derek Abbey, Ryan Rector, and Johnnie Yellock have become friends, mentors, and trusted confidants that I can rely on in times of stress or celebration.
Please know that this short letter could never come close to articulating how meaningful the Sentinels of Freedom program has been for my family. Instead, I pledge to use my experience, education, and network to continue paying this generosity forward, doing my part to make the world a better place to live in.
To everyone who reads this, thank you all for everything you have done for this wonderful program. Your work, time, energy, and money have not gone unappreciated or overlooked. People like you are inspiring, encouraging, and preparing your replacements to ensure a better future for everyone.
Sentinel Chris Lamy