The mission has taken several key forms since SoldierStrong was founded in 2009. SoldierStrong has provided basic supplies to frontline troops, shipped holiday items to troops and veterans, and now provides cutting-edge medical rehabilitation devices to injured and paralyzed veterans, along with scholarships for veterans seeking to finish their education with a focus on continuing their public service in non-military careers.
SoldierStrong got its start in Stamford, Connecticut in 2009. The organization was co-founded by philanthropist and businessman Chris Meek in response to a July 2009 letter from Sergeant Major Luke Converse. Converse requested help in obtaining socks and baby wipes for his Marines serving in Afghanistan who were having difficulty getting these types of supplies at forward operating locations.
Shortly after receipt of this letter, Meek formed a 501(c)(3) to help raise funds and gather basic supplies for the troops. In its first six weeks, SoldierStrong shipped over 1,100 pounds of supplies to Sgt Major Converse and his US Marine Corps unit fighting in Afghanistan.
By December 2014, SoldierStrong had shipped over 25 tons of personal hygienic supplies to US Armed Forces serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, supplying over 60,000 pounds of supplies to 74 units fighting overseas.
SoldierStrong broadened its reach in the fall of 2010 to include a new initiative with a similar objective. The group created SoldierSanta in an effort to send gifts to the troops for them to open during the holiday season.
As the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan wound down, SoldierStrong expanded its mission to aid returning military servicemen and women with innovative rehabilitation technology and educational opportunities through its SoldierSuit and SoldierScholar programs.
SoldierStrong has expanded its original Northeast focus and has held drives countrywide from Boston, Massachusetts to Alamo, Texas to Hollywood, California. Fundraising efforts have been made by Elementary and High Schools, Colleges and Universities, Cub Scout groups, Boy Scouts of America, Girl Scouts of the USA, nursing homes, Police and Fire Departments and Fortune 500 companies.
Commander Rorke Denver has run every phase of training for the U.S.Navy SEALs and led special-forces missions in the Middle East, Africa, Latin America and other international hot spots. Denver was awarded the Bronze Star with “V” for valorous action in combat. He is also a best-selling author.
Kathleen Hicks is senior vice president, Henry A. Kissinger Chair, and director of the International Security Program at CSIS. She is a frequent writer and lecturer on U.S. foreign and security policy; defense strategy, forces, and budget; and strategic futures. From 2009 to July 2013, Dr. Hicks served as a senior official in the Department of Defense. Dr. Hicks is also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and an adjunct with the RAND Corporation.
Christopher K. Hummel was appointed Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer in 2016. Prior to United Rentals, Mr. Hummel served as the chief marketing officer of Schneider Electric SE, with responsibility for the development and implementation of Schneider’s global marketing strategy. Mr. Hummel has more than two decades of senior management experience, having previously held senior sales and marketing positions at Unify, SAP and Oracle. He holds a master's degree from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, as well as a bachelor's degree from Tufts University.
Now Senior Counsel at the law firm of Kasowitz, Benson, Torres, and Friedman in New York, Joseph I. Lieberman was for 24 years a member of the U.S. Senate from Connecticut. At the end of his service in January 2013, he was Chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, and a senior member of the Armed Services Committee. In 2000 he was the Democratic candidate for Vice President of the United States.
Senator Lieberman is married to Hadassah Freilich Lieberman. Together they have four children and 13 grandchildren.
Mr. Linnartz is a nationally recognized trusted advisor, consultant and speaker to leading family businesses, family offices, family foundations and family councils. He is highly experienced in multigenerational enterprises and helps to create the environments where affluent families have the greatest chance of flourishing.
Mr. Linnartz has over 30 years of experience in the for-profit and non-profit arena. Previously, he excelled in positions with two Fortune 500 companies, Becton Dickinson & Co. and General Electric & Co. While at GE he attended GE Management School (Crotonville) in leadership, innovation, and strategy in a digital age. His collaborative approach has helped build resilient teams, merged organizations, create needed programs, mentored and grow individuals, boards, and has led organizations in a strategic planning process.
Robert B. Murrett is a professor on the faculty of the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University, and serves as the Deputy Director of the Institute for National Security and Counterterrorism (INSCT) at the University. He is also a member of the Board for the Institute for Veterans and Military Families, and is responsible for a series of ongoing research projects between the University and the Syracuse Veterans Administration Medical Center.
Previously, Murrett was a career intelligence officer in the U.S. Navy, serving in assignments throughout the Pacific, Europe, and the Middle East through his thirty-four years of duty, retiring in the grade of Vice Admiral.
Jon D. Runyan served as a Member of the United States House of Representatives from January 2011 until his retirement in January 2015. Representing New Jersey’s Third Congressional District, Congressman Runyan served his constituency on three key committees: the Armed Services Committee, the Veterans Affairs Committee, and the Natural Resources Committee.
He retired from the NFL in 2010. Jon is heavily involved in numerous charities and organizations that benefit the South Jersey/Philadelphia area, including the New Jersey Special Olympics, the American Red Cross, the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation, the USO, the Armed Forces Freedom Ride and Habitat for Humanity.
He also served on the Board of the Alzheimer’s Association of the Delaware Valley. Jon currently resides in Mount Laurel, New Jersey with his wife, Loretta, and three children, Jon Daniel, Alyssa and Isabella.
Donna E. Shalala is Trustee Professor of Political Science and Health Policy at the University of Miami.
In 1993 President Bill Clinton appointed her U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) where she served for eight years, becoming the longest serving HHS Secretary in U.S. history. At the end of her tenure, a Washington Post article described her as “one of the most successful government managers of modern times.” In 2008 the Council on Excellence in Government named her one of the greatest public servants of the past 25 years.
Bill Smullen was appointed as the Director of National Security Studies at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs in June 2003. He is also Maxwell’s Senior Fellow in National Security and a member of the faculty of Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications as a Professor of Public Relations.
Prior to his appointment at Syracuse University, he was the Chief of Staff to Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and of the U.S. Department of State beginning in January 2001. As principal advisor to the Secretary, he was responsible for monitoring and evaluating the formulation and implementation of departmental policies. He was also involved in the planning and development of concept strategy associated with foreign policy matters.
Christopher Meek- Chairman of the Board
Scott Duffy – Vice Chairman
Dominic Caglioti – Treasurer
Colleen Grimm – Secretary
Karla Carpenter – Director
William Colfer III – Director
Michael Fontneau – Director
Maria Lovello – Director
Tyler McAllister – Director
Lisa Silveri – Director
Alexandra Smith – Director
Jeremy Wien – Director
Marc Morgenthaler – Executive Director
Since its inception, SoldierStrong has partnered with a host of local organizations in its drive to supply troops with basic necessities. In addition to local businesses and organizations, elected officials and community leaders have also assisted in this initiative.
Connecticut’s Hope Street Pharmacy was the first local organization who offered to partner with SoldierStrong. After Hope Street Pharmacy, Soldier Socks attracted numerous other partners from the local community including The New Balance store in New Canaan, CT, Reveal Hair Salon in Stamford, CT, the Stamford Public Elementary Schools, the Stamford Fire and Police Departments, and Vineyard Vines to name a few. SoldierSocks works with the Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 49 and Air National Guard out of Stewart Air National Guard Base in Newburgh, New York.
In November 2009, The Elvis Duran and the Morning Show teamed up with SoldierStrong and pushed the organization onto the national scene via their network of syndicated radio stations in over 30 markets across the country. WWE and Elvis Duran and the Morning Show helped to collect more than 12,000 pair of socks and 2,500 pounds of supplies. The Connecticut General Assembly partnered with SoldierSocks in December 2009 for a drive at the Connecticut State Capitol building in Hartford, Connecticut. They were able to collect more than 500 pounds of tube socks. Former Lieutenant Governor Michael Fedele along with US Senators Joe Lieberman and Scott Brown Scott Brown have lauded the program along with several other elected and business leaders.
In July 2012, SoldierStrong expanded its efforts launching the new Soldier Socks Veterans Grant Foundation to help those returning from the frontlines of battle. Corporate sponsors included Sports Illustrated Magazine and Cablevision.
American Airlines has provided corporate support in the form of free airfare for certain SoldierStrong donation events.
In 2016, Dinosaur Bar-B-Que sponsored the “Sauce for a Cause” promotion to benefit SoldierStrong. Dinosaur Bar-B-Que provided all proceeds of their co-branded SoldierStrong/Sensuous Slathering BBQ Sauce to SoldierStrong during the Memorial Day season in 2016.
SoldierStrong also maintains a general scholarship fund available to veterans who wish to finish their college education in order to continue public service careers after their military service concludes.
In July 2013, SoldierStrong again set its focus on returning veterans and further expanded the scope of its mission. Partnering with Ekso Bionics, the latest efforts are aimed at raising money to aid paralyzed returning veterans in walking again. In October 2013, SoldierStrong launched a fundraising campaign to raise funds to provide these mechanized suits to veterans. In December 2013, SoldierStrong donated its first suit to a veteran who became paralyzed when his truck drove over an IED in Afghanistan. Their initial goal was to deliver 10 of these suits to wounded and paralyzed veterans. That commitment subsequently grew to 90 suits over four years.
In the spring of 2013, the Milwaukee VA Medical Center (Wisconsin) hosted Ekso Bionics to demo the mechanized suit. In December 2013, SoldierStrong donated the suit to a wounded veteran seeking treatment at the Milwaukee VA. SoldierStrong delivered its next suit to the VA Boston Healthcare System in April 2014, followed by 2014 donations to VA Medical Centers in Palo Alto (June 2014), Richmond (July 2014), Dallas (October 2014), New Orleans, and New York City (Bronx) (December 2014). In 2015, suites were donated to VA Medical Centers in Oklahoma City (April 2015), Seattle (June 2015), and Houston (October 2015). In 2016, suits were donated to VA Medical Centers in Denver (January 2016), Philadelphia’s Magee Rehab Center (March 2016), and Minneapolis, Minnesota (May 2016). In 2017, suits were donated to VA Medical Centers in Long Beach (May 2017), Omaha’s CHI-Immanuel Rehab (August 2017), and San Antonio (October 2017).
In December 2014, SoldierStrong expanded the scope of the SoldierSuit to include paralyzed arms when they announced a partnership with Myomo, a supplier of myoelectric orthotics, with the established goal of purchasing 120 of their MyoPro myoelectric arm braces for veterans.
Myomo devices have been donated to veterans in Burlington, MA; Lake Forest, CA; Middlefield, OH, Port Angeles, WA; Sandown, NH, and Lansing, MI.
On April 2, 2014, SoldierStrong Chairman Chris Meek was presented with the Orange Circle Award for the groups' philanthropic work. Presented by Syracuse University, the award recognizes members of the SU community who have done extraordinary things in the service of others.
On December 8, 2014, SoldierStrong held their inaugural Awards Ceremony at the Union League Club of New York, where it awarded its 2014 Commitment to Service Award to FOX News anchor Martha MacCallum and the 2014 Corporate Leadership Award to Stamford, CT-based United Rentals, Inc.
SU Magazine profiled SoldierStrong in its April 30, 2016 issue.
SoldierStrong has been featured in a number of professional sporting events.
In 2015, SoldierStrong was featured during MLB’s “Welcome Back Veterans” events at a Yankees-Red Sox game and at a Cubs-Brewers game.
In 2016, SoldierStrong became the charitable partner of Turns for Troops. Turns for Troops is sponsored by United Rentals and the Rahal-Letterman-Lanigan Indycar team. A donation is made for every lap Indy Driver Graham Rahal completes. Team Rahal-Letterman-Lanigan hosted SoldierStrong and SGT Dan Rose at several races, including pre-race appearances on-track in the Ekso suit. The program was renewed and expanded for 2017.
SoldierStrong began hosting an annual gala event in 2014. Each year awards are presented to individuals and organizations who SoldierStrong believes have made outstanding contributions to American Service Members and Veterans in the preceding year.