This video was produced by Tanner Fugal.
Dannielle Schwamb, the executive director of QRF, said she knew from a young age that she wanted to join the military, even as a child when her peers obsessed over dolls and dresses, she wanted nothing more than to serve her country. At age 18, she finally got that chance.
Schwamb was enlisted and served in the United States Air Force for five years and was deployed to serve overseas twice. After those five years, she was forced to retire due to medical charges. She said she had fulfilled her life’s dreams and then wondered, “Now what?”
Those who serve in the military face many challenges when they are discharged. According to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, between 11-20 percent of veterans who served in Afghanistan and Iraq have been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.
The Phoenix Quick Response Force helps veterans, like Schwamb, reintegrate into society after serving in the military.
Phoenix QRF has impacted veterans lives in many places including, Idaho Falls.
“For most of us, as soon as we got out of the military we lost our purpose in life, we lost the camaraderie of being in a team … and now we’ve all gotten that back,” Schwamb said.
The QRF provides veterans with a group of members to support each other. Schwamb said their main focus is “to get veterans who are isolated, having issues with PTSD …(and) get them some counseling and some help to them.”
She said the veterans all share the same difficulties and experiences. They are able to relate to each other and, together, rebuild their lives.
“We’re isolated, sometimes suicidal and this group has pulled us out of that, from the very bottom we’ve grown leaps and bounds individually,” Schwamb said.
The QRF has many resources to help these veterans such as their emergency hotline. A veteran with any kind of need can call and get help within minutes. They are prepared to respond to any type of situation.
Several veterans said that the group has pulled them out of their seclusion.
“That’s what this group gives me,” said Royal Miller, a member of the QRF. “Something to push my boundaries to open up and be who I want to be again.”
Schwamb said the QRF started as a group of friends getting together just to talk and now it is an influential organization with over 40 members with weekly meetings and activities for the veterans and their families.
“This group helped me break some barriers I didn’t think I was ever going to get through,” said Jake Versteeg, a member of QRF.
This year the group has already hosted camping, shooting and fishing activities.
“All is done alcohol and drug-free,” Versteeg said.
Families are included in all events to help support and also relate to what the veterans are going through.
“It’s phenomenal, once you join, your family becomes members,” said Steven Mortensen, a member of QRF. “It has been hard for many family members to understand the difficulties of their loved ones, these activities have helped them understand how they can aid the reintegration process.”
Schwamb said they are annually involved in the Toys For Tots charity drive. This year they held a “Christmas in July” drive. They also volunteer for any type of service the city needs such as snow and ice removal, lawn care and tree trimming.
The volunteer work of the QRF organization has provided many opportunities to serve others and also to prepare the veterans to enter back into the workforce. Members of the QRF are now working with Lynn and Linda Beck, citizens of Idaho Falls, to help them build a house.
In exchange for the manual labor to build the house, the Becks said they teach valuable construction skills, as well as, make monetary donations to the organization.
“It felt good to build something with my hands and help somebody at the same time,” said Steven Mortensen, a member of QRF.
Lynn Beck is a veteran himself from the Vietnam war and said he understands the struggles of the other veterans.
“They relate to each other very well,” Linda Beck said. “They understand their humor more than other people and they understand the stress.”
Phoenix QRF has impacted many people in Idaho Falls but they do not want to stop there. Versteeg said the group has big hopes to “one day … become a non-profit organization to reach out and help others, and to expand to other towns and branch off.
“Our goal is to have chapters throughout the country,” Schwamb said.