By Lauren Caggiano
Jim Chancellor knows what it’s like to be on the other side− of war, that is. That’s why he is working to help spread the word about veterans’ issues and advocate for returned soldiers, through his nonprofit, American Veterans Collection.
Chancellor, who lives in Lowell, served in the U.S. Army from 1969 to 1970. Little did he know that one fateful day would change his life forever. On April 21, 1970 he was wounded and received a Purple Heart and an award for valor. Chancellor returned to Indiana with an intense passion to advocate for veterans and increase awareness about the issues they face. “I had a story to tell, and I needed a way to share that experience,” he recalls about his return home.
The American Veterans collection is the formal manifestation of his drive to help fellow warriors. To that end, his mission is four-fold. First, the nonprofit is the purveyor of a “beautifully handcrafted piece of tangible pride,” a ring. This ring is sold at manufacturer’s price to all combat veterans, their families and their friends. The concept of the ring was introduced in 1982, and since then has been worn on the fingers of hundreds of people worldwide—from Bob Hope to country music artist Toby Keith. Chancellor likens the ring to that worn by Super Bowl winners.
“(The ring) promotes a community of individuals in a group with a shared experience,” he says. Of course in this case that common experience is serving in a war, or knowing someone who has dedicated their life to their country. In his words, the ring symbolizes an unspoken message: “I know; I understand; I care.”
This principal relates to the second and third lines of American Veterans Collection mission: ” We wish to promote the undeniable bond that exists between all combat veterans on sight, without saying a word.” Similarly the third prong of the mission is to “begin the healing with something as simple as a ring.” As Chancellor explains, the ring is to be worn silently, as a sign of solidarity.
In contrast to the symbolic nature of the ring, the last parts of the organization’s mission are more action driven: “We wish to educate our youth on war, to lecture at colleges and universities on post-traumatic stress and the after affects of war. To let our students know that the war does not simply end when the veteran returns home… For some it only begins.”
And Chancellor has done just that. Over the years he has spoken at U.S. colleges about the lasting impact of war. In particular, he educates students on the gravity of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and its toll on veterans of all eras. One important point he tries to get across is that PTSD is not unique to soldiers. It can equally be the result of a one-time, horrifying incident such as rape, or the trauma of serving of a long, drawn out war. To better relate to his young audience, he likens PTSD to the experience of the loss of a friend in a car accident.
While Chancellor is willing to reach out to a veteran in need, he stresses that it takes a community to help returned servicemen and women. And that starts with overcoming a common stigma: “People don’t understand that the vast majority of veterans went back into mainstream society. It can be difficult to understand (what they went through) when on a different plane.”
Chancellor depends on support from the colleges and individuals to continue his work. Naturally the toughest part of his role is to raise funds. To that end, he graciously accepts donation for the cause. Contributions may be sent to American Veterans Collection, 11206 Belshaw Road, Lowell, IN 46356.