INDIAN TRAIL – Mayor Michael Alvarez was leaving Harris Teeter on an icy day a few years ago when Garland Denny approached him, handed him a pocket-sized copy of the Ten Commandments and explained his mission to help veterans and first responders suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
Years later, Chuck Denny is continuing his late father’s dream with the PTSD postage stamp and the Unity Challenge.
“Chuck grabbed his dad’s dream without hesitation,” Alvarez said.
Denny said his father spent the last nine years of his life advocating to get a new postage stamp created to benefit those who suffer from PTSD. Denny said his father reached out to government officials in Washington, D.C. Denny himself reached out to Vice President Mike Pence about the mission. The stamp was released in Charlotte on Dec. 2. At 10 cents a stamp, proceeds will go toward the VA and post-traumatic stress relief
“It doesn’t sound like a lot when you say it’s 10 cents a stamp,” Denny said. “But there’s a breast cancer stamp that was issued in 1997 that has raised over $90 million. We think, since this is for our veterans and how much our nation loves our veterans and first responders, when the public hears our message, it’s going to take off like wildfire.”
Denny hopes to bring awareness to PTSD through the postage stamps and the challenge, which encourages people to make a year-long commitment of educating themselves and learning about PTSD.
He said there is often a stigma around the issue, so he hopes this initiative allows for more open conversation.
“We have to join together,” Denny said. “Some people, when you start talking about it, they want to push it to the side and they don’t want to deal with it and I understand that, and we’ll get there one day, but I would like people to start taking the time and learn on their own. Go out and learn what is PTSD.”
Paul Belk, who is a veteran and commander for the Union County VFW Post 2423, said he plans to commit to the challenge.
“This challenge is a great thing,” Belk said. “I suffer from PTSD. It’s not something you openly admit because there’s a stigma associated with it. I know a lot of veterans who do suffer from it and can’t openly talk about it because they’re worried that they won’t be able to function in a normal society.”
Belk said he plans to first spread the message to his direct colleagues, then hopes to take it further.
Denny said this is a non-political issue. He encourages people to put their politics aside and come together to support this cause.
“They need to see that politics doesn’t matter and that we’re stronger than politics,” Denny said. “This is our answer.”
The stamp will only last two years if it does not get enough attention, according to Denny. This is also the reason for the challenge.
This cause has been in the works for a long time, Denny said. He hopes the end result will be a PTSD Stamp Act signed by Congress.
“This started in 2006,” Denny said. “It started from a little spiral notebook with people signing their names in it and we had to fight to get here today and I will be damned if we are not going to come away like heroes doing this. We’re going to do something great for our country and we’re going to stand together and we’re going to be proud of when it happens.”