Veteran’s Passport to Hope works to give veterans a battle plan when returning home.
Army combat veteran Tony Drees is passionate about helping veterans thrive in civilian life, especially those who come home with debilitating physical and emotional injuries.
Tony is executive director for Veteran’s Passport to Hope, a Colorado-based nonprofit that advocates for veteran’s issues and raises money and awareness for organizations that are already providing vital services for vets — or, warriors, as Tony calls them.
Tony has spent the past 26 years adapting to life as a wounded warrior. His story started in the first Gulf War, when a Scud missile attack in Saudi Arabia killed 28 soldiers and badly injured his right leg. In February, doctors finally had to amputate his leg after years of surgeries and complications.
Tony says his work with Veteran’s Passport to Hope is centered on helping veterans embrace a warrior lifestyle, which includes drawing up a battle plan for success in all aspects of life, such as family, finances, and physical and emotional fitness.
“It’s helpful in times of duress if you have a set of navigation tools and guides so you can stay focused,” Tony says.
Vets are more susceptible to depression, opioid and other chemical addictions, divorce, and homelessness. A veteran comes home immersed in military hierarchy and vocabulary, so it’s like coming back speaking a foreign language.
“People struggle, wanting to know what they’re supposed to do after their service,” Tony says. “But I say, ‘what are you good at and what do you enjoy? You tell me that and I’ll tell you how to adapt.’”
Tony says he had his 15 minutes of fame after that missile attack in 1991, being featured at the time in national publications. But his story had only just started, and it’s been a process of ups and downs since.
“I’ve been homeless. I’ve been addicted to opioids. I’ve been depressed,” Tony says. “I’m not here repping my story like I’m super soldier. I have to be representative of what it’s like for warrior transition stories.”
"People struggle, wanting to know what they’re supposed to do after their service. But I say, ‘what are you good at and what do you enjoy? You tell me that and I’ll tell you how to adapt.’"
Veteran’s Passport to Hope was founded by Parker resident David Fingers and serves as an umbrella nonprofit organization to raise money, awareness and cooperation among nonprofits already providing needed services to veterans. Get involved at VeteransPassport2Hope.org.
Veteran’s Passport to Hope Executive Director Tony Drees is a transition coach and motivational speaker. Find him on Facebook @1tonydrees.