SALT LAKE CITY — As Veterans Day approaches, people often think of those who served and what those men and women have been through.
Perhaps they think of those we've lost.
That's where Shallon Cayias' mind will be this year.
"My best friend, Staff Sergeant Hoover," the US Marine Corps veteran said. "He's definitely going to be on my mind, heavy this year."Cayias said she attended high school with Staff Sgt. Taylor Hoover, and that they recruited out of the same office and had the same recruiter.Staff Sgt. Hoover died in an attack at the Kabul airport in August, amidst the chaotic end to the war in Afghanistan.
"My best friend, Staff Sergeant Hoover," the US Marine Corps veteran said. "He's definitely going to be on my mind, heavy this year."
Cayias said she attended high school with Staff Sgt. Taylor Hoover, and that they recruited out of the same office and had the same recruiter.
Staff Sgt. Hoover died in an attack at the Kabul airport in August, amidst the chaotic end to the war in Afghanistan.
With many service members having just returned from Afghanistan, there's something else to consider on Veterans Day: what veterans face trying to return to normal life, after what they've witnessed.
"You feel lonely at first. You feel out of sorts. You don't feel like you’re a part of society," Cayias said.
Levi Lee can relate. After four years active-duty Army and an additional six working as a contractor for the military-- which led him to places like Iraq, Afghanistan, and Japan-- he found that he suddenly lost the built-in camaraderie Lee was used to.
"To finally come back to full civilian life was quite a shock," he said.
"You’re kind of lost. And it took me a long time to transition," Will Wiggins echoed. Wiggins did four years of honorable service in the US Marine Corps. He did his first duty station in Okinawa, Japan and did one combat tour during Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.
Wiggins said he dealt with PTSD, and even little daily life things were difficult to adjust to. He was used to having a system. He even had to get used to not addressing everyone with "Yes, sir" or "Yes, ma'am."
He saw a need in the community for some sort of support organization that would help ease that transition for veterans and help those who may be struggling as they adjust to daily life following war.
In 2015, he began conversations around creating an organization and soon after, co-founded Utah Veterans Alliance.
Utah Veterans Alliance took on a unique focus of providing resources and assisting fellow veterans with everyday tasks, that they may not be able to accomplish-- and may be reluctant to ask for help with.
Lee does outreach and social media for Utah Veterans Alliance.
"If a veteran is not able to maintain their own yard, we get over there and we help take care of that kind of thing for them," Lee explained. "And also, if a veteran just needs some people to hang out with, we send them in the right direction."
Whether it's yard work, making this month's mortgage, or jump starting a new career, Lee and Wiggins explained Utah Veterans Alliance is there to fill in the gaps.
"We’ve been able to help veterans statewide, from home and auto repairs, to rental assistance, dental care, mobility assistance," listed Wiggins.
And now, they're embarking on one of their biggest projects yet, as they look to build what they call the Hero's House.
"It'll be a transitional facility that’ll help not only homeless veterans, but active military they when get out," Wiggins shared. He continued that Hero's House will offer a place to sleep and feature a cafeteria serving three meals a day.
The house will help veterans transition, he said, by providing resources for careers and support like a saving's account.
Right now, the Utah Veterans Alliance is in the fundraising stage for the Hero's House.
Wiggins, Lee, and Cayias each indicated that it doesn't matter the generation, or the war.
It's important to them that veterans get help fighting the battle, here at home.
"The important thing about Veterans Day, to me at least, is that it is a continued appreciation of what veterans have done, and what we continue to do," Lee said.
"We got to stick together," Cayias said, adding, "And we need the support as much as possible."