Len Harris served in the US Army for 22 years, and is now leading the team at Illinois Joining Forces (IJF). The IJF network launched in October of 2016 and is the first coordinated network of Veteran service providers in Illinois. The network has continued to strengthen IJF's mission to coordinate services for Veterans, Service Members, and their Families in Illinois.
Working with Len to expand and grow the network and explore more ways to make an impact in Illinois has been an empowering experience for us here at Unite Us. Our Interview with Len shows the impact that he is having on the Veteran and Military community in Illinois and his determination to make an even larger impact in the future.
Q. What are the reasons that you got into the work you're doing now?
A. When I made my transition, I decided I wanted three things from my next job: a position that challenged me, one that provided stability for my family and I, and one that included the sense of service I had in the military. While nonprofit work can sometimes be unstable, it certainly fulfilled the other two. Being able to serve my fellow brothers and sisters in arms felt like the perfect way to continue my service.
Q. What has been the impact of what you are doing?
A. There are many organizations doing great work to help support veterans and their families. Unfortunately, their efforts are not always coordinated. Additionally,Veterans often drown in the “sea of goodwill”, and don’t know where to go when they need something. Illinois Joining Forces fosters collaboration amongst organizations to help them all function better, and provide better all-around capability. IJF also connects service members, Veterans, and their families to the organizations that can meet their various needs.
Q. What is a success story of helping another Veteran or Service Member?
A. As one of our team members struck up a conversation with one of the security guards in our building, he discovered that the guard was a former Marine. More than that, he found out that the guard had been dealing with severe back pain incurred during his time in service, with no compensation or assistance from the VA. The first thing we did was set the Marine up with a pro bono pain management specialist, who helped him cope with the back pain and gave him ways to mitigate it in the future. We then connected him to the Veterans Assistance Commission to help him with drafting and filing his VA disability compensation claim. He is awaiting his determination, but is doing much better health-wise, and now feels capable of pursuing his goal of serving in law enforcement.
This story is a perfect example of the need for an organization like Illinois Joining Forces. So many Veterans and their families don’t know where to go, or what to do, when they have an issue. IJF serves as that connector between the service member, Veteran, or family member, and the organization that can meets their needs.
Branch of Service: Army
Length of Service: 22 Years
When did you serve: Nov. 1992 – Dec. 2014
Where did you serve: Japan, Panama, Honduras, Italy, Bosnia, Maryland, Germany, Texas, Virginia, South Korea
Len thank you for your service and thank you for making the decision to serve your brothers and sisters in Illinois. We are very excited for the future of our partnership and the impact that we can have in serving our Veterans, Service Members, and families in Illinois!