For Iraq veteran Shane Schmutz, the epiphany came during a routine run through Central Park last year. “It suddenly dawned on me: ‘I’m not getting shot at and I don’t have deployment looming over my head,’ ” explains Schmutz, whose service in the U.S. Army totaled more than 11 years. “I felt guilty that all of the soldiers who I’d served with in Iraq were now going on their fourth, or fifth, or even sixth deployment overseas.”

The gnawing feeling Schmutz experienced that day only grew stronger. When a friend and fellow Army veteran invited him to a New York City fundraising gala for the Wounded Warrior Project, a nonprofit that supports injured soldiers and their families, Schmutz experienced “the most moving night” of his life. The next step suddenly became clear: Schmutz would utilize his passions to help returning Armed Service men and women navigate the often bumpy transition back to civilian life.

Schmutz began by coordinating a fundraiser to benefit the Wounded Warrior Project in July, 2011. When he relocated to Denver in September, 2011, Schmutz kept up the work and officially launched Veteran’s Passport to Hope in January to improve the quality of life for the 421,300 (and counting) veterans who call Colorado home. “The military today only makes up about 1 percent of the entire U.S. population,” Schmutz says. “We’re trying to bridge the gap and help the 99 percent of the remaining population better understand the issues veterans are dealing with.”

Get Involved: Veteran’s Passport to Hope holds an inaugural benefit event on October 4 from 6 to 11 p.m. at Wings Over the Rockies Air and Space Museum. Festivities include a silent auction, live music, hors d’oeuvres, and a keynote address from Afghanistan veteran Neil Duncan. For more information and to purchase event tickets, visit

Image courtesy of Shane Schmutz