grew up in North Carolina, where she was exposed to the effects of war and
trauma through her father, Danny E. Smiley. Smiley was a Bronze Star Veteran
who served two tours in Vietnam as an Airborne Infantry Sergeant with the U.S.
Army. Upon returning home, he struggled with PTSD. He sought help at the
Veterans Affairs (VA) but failed to find the help he needed with his struggles.
Smiley would later tell his daughter, “I left a part of my humanity in the
an adult, Smith decided to join the U.S. Air Force and had a more positive and
uplifting experience with the military. She said, “It just gave me a great
foundation. The Air Force just instilled all the traits that I needed for a
successful life to be part of the greatest nation on earth, and to have served
for it is such an honor.” Smith served four and a half years in the USAF
as a security specialist, where she met her husband, a fellow airman. After
leaving the military, Smith turned her focus to raising her children. Tragedy
struck in 2005 when Smiley passed away at age 57 because of PTSD. Smith will
never forget one of their last conversations where he said, “Gretchen, I’m
done. I’m tired; they’ve won. I need to go home.” Though emotional and
devastating, her father’s death was a catalyst to Smith’s most important
mission yet: supporting Veterans in need.
2017, Smith began a Twitter account to share videos about Smiley and the
challenges he faced as a Veteran. She received comments from other Veterans
saying how much they related to her father’s story. That was when Smith knew
she had to do something. She had never managed a charity before, much less set
out to start one, but a lack of background would not stop her from acting.
“I wanted to turn that tragedy into something good,” she said.
“I wanted to create a legacy for my dad, and so Code of Vets was
born.” Using the power of social media, Smith rallied people from around
the country to donate to individual Veterans in crisis. Along with many
generous strangers, Smith was there to lend a hand if someone needed assistance
for housing, grocery bills, or medical expenses.
2019, Code of Vets became a
non-profit organization. Smith and her small team, work on a volunteer basis,
and only $.02 of every $1 donated goes towards operational costs. This model
ensures that 98% of the aid reaches the Veterans in need. To date, Code of Vets
has served over 3,000 honorably discharged Veterans. In addition to providing
temporary financial relief, Code of Vets has helped with claim benefits, rides
to doctors and VA appointments, and case management. “We are giving out
funds, but there is a purpose, there is a plan in place,” Smith said.
“That’s the real purpose of Code of Vets, to make a real difference in
their life, in their moment of need when they have no hope, when they’re in a
situation where they don’t see a way out.”
lives in Murfreesboro, TN, with her husband, Joe. Running Code of Vets is a
full-time job, but one Smith would not exchange for anything. “Not only is
this a mission for us, but it’s a ministry, it’s a passion. It’s a personal
journey of healing for my heart.”
NFM Salute is an initiative in which one military member or Veteran is chosen
each month to be honored as the “Salute of the Month.” Salutes are
chosen from nominations on the NFM Salute website, www.nfmsalute.com. The
“Salute of the Month” is featured on the website with a biography and
information about his or her service. NFM Lending will donate to a non-profit
in the Salute’s name. NFM Lending is proud to donate $2,500 to Code
on behalf of Smith. NFM looks forward to the opportunity to continue to honor
military service members and Veterans through the NFM Salute initiative.
About NFM Lending
NFM Lending is a mortgage lending company currently licensed in 42
states in the U.S. The company was founded in Baltimore, Maryland in 1998. NFM
Lending and its family of companies includes Main Street Home Loans, BluPrint
Home Loans, and Freedmont Mortgage Group. They attribute their success in the
mortgage industry to their steadfast commitment to customers and the community.
For more information about NFM Lending, visit www.nfmlending.com, like
our Facebook page, or follow us on Instagram
Contact: NFM Lending – 1888233009
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