Supporting Veterans and their families through community and connection

Michigan’s VETLIFE promotes a safer and healthier post-service lifestyle, connecting Veterans with services, benefits and resources

“It’s not that Veterans don’t want their benefits, it’s that they don’t know how to access them—or might not even fully understand what they are.”

Joshua Parish and his wife Cortnie identified what they call a “systemic issue” in 2018 after Parish returned from active duty in Iraq. While post-service supports were thought to be simple, Joshua and Cortnie found that the reality of accessing services and benefits was wrought with barriers.

“My wife and I sat at the kitchen table one night to dream up a way to help Veterans so they wouldn’t have to face the same struggles we did,” says Joshua. “We never thought we’d start a non-profit, but we figured that if no one else was doing it, then why shouldn’t we?”

VETLIFE was launched in 2018 to help address issues of access and awareness by offering sustainable solutions and resources to improve quality of life for Veterans and their families across the state.

Military service can be difficult and dangerous, but returning to civilian life also poses risks of its own. A 2020 report found that the suicide rate for U.S. Veterans was 57% higher than non-Veteran U.S. residents.

“The impacts of trauma, isolation, and stress all contribute to the difficulties that Veterans often experience when reintegrating into civilian life,” says Joshua. “The last thing they need is issues accessing support that will help them overcome these impacts.”

Active duty, retired, or military Veteran families also gather for Vet Fest every year, where VETLIFE hosts thousands of attendees to gather and learn more about Veteran-specific resources. Vet Fest is Michigan’s largest Veteran engagement event and is offered free of charge.

Serving Veterans aligns with our company’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion commitments. We’re also committed to supporting vibrant and sustainability communities near our operations. Our $12,000 Fueling Futures donation to VETLIFE this year helped defray costs of 2023 Vet Fest, which is held every summer on the second Saturday in August.

“Every cent of Enbridge’s support went toward running this event to help make Veterans and their families’ lives better,” says Joshua.

The mission of VETLIFE is simple: engage Veterans and their families as early as possible to help reduce negative outcomes and improve mental health.

The impact of VETLIFE’s mission is already being felt in the community. When the organization started, less than 18% of Michigan’s 570,000 Veterans were connected to a federal benefit.

“Our goal is to screen every Vet in Michigan over the next 10 years,” says Joshua “We’ve already screened thousands, but if you don’t connect the dots before they leave the military they can end up falling through the cracks.”

Veterans who want to learn more about benefits and eligibility can access resources online and follow VETLIFE on social media for up-to-date news.

“When Veterans leave the service, they can often lose a sense of identity and purpose,” says Joshua. “VETLIFE helps to give that back.”