By now, many know my story. My name is Samantha Steward and I am an attorney at Meuser, Yackley & Rowland, P.A. I am also the wife of a retired Minneapolis police sergeant. While my husband, Chris, was going through the workers’ compensation process, I often felt like I was not doing enough for my family. I thought if I did everything “just right,” I would be able to protect my husband. Regardless, his feelings of shame and guilt quickly converted to depression and isolation. Every day seemed to be a shade darker than the day before. Despite extreme efforts, I constantly felt like I was failing him and our family. After I acknowledged that outward appearances would not change our internal strife, I channeled my energy on support. Through hours of tough and uncomfortable conversation, Chris and I conceded he would not survive this transition without some type of change.
I have a running joke that I’m married to my job. Every day I work through the claims of displaced first responders who have been forced to leave their chosen professions to put their mental health first. What I saw in my husband, I see in my clients. Each one left their family. While there is certainly life on the other side of PERA and workers’ compensation, there was nothing to bridge the gap. Frequently, I would come home and express concern for some of my clients. Chris soon realized that he was not alone. While he was away from his brothers and sisters in blue, there were so many others searching for the same sense of belonging. As we continually worked through his issues, Heroes Helping Heroes (H3) was born. At first, I thought it would be something that would allow Chris to get out of his own mind. Something that would last a few weeks or months. I am happily admitting that I was wrong.
Through his own grief and struggles, Chris was able to create a 501(c)(3) nonprofit committed to helping first responders suffering from the effects of work-related mental health conditions, specifically PTSD. It is the first and only of its kind in the State of Minnesota. H3 is about 15 months old and currently has over 400 members. Anywhere from three to six events per month are held around the state for free or low cost to its members. While most events are for members only, some are open to spouses and family members.
Heroes Helping Heroes exists because of generous donors, some of whom believed in H3 while it was nothing more than a pipedream. Three of the people who decided to swing for the fences with Chris were Ron Meuser, Jen Yackley, and Lindsey Rowland. At first glance, it may have seemed obligatory for them to support H3, but it was always so much more than that. Their unwavering support and commitment to first responders has been unmatched. In early 2022, Jen Yackley joined the H3 Board of Directors. Meuser, Yackley & Rowland, P.A. committed to being the title sponsor for the Inaugural Heroes Helping Heroes Golf Tournament on June 1 in Prior Lake. The sold-out golf tournament will serve to be H3’s biggest fundraiser to date. Chris and Lindsey joined forces to testify in front of a legislative committee against a proposed bill that would impede first responder access to necessary benefits.
Very frequently, I am asked by my clients’ spouses how they can best support their loved ones with PTSD. What worked for my family is not a one size fits all. Support your partner. Lend an ear, even though you can’t relate. Encourage healthy treatment. Ask for help. Take care of yourself. Promote participation in organizations such as H3, apply for a service dog through Soldier’s 6, try equine therapy at Abijah’s on the Backside.
For more information of H3, you can visit HeroesHelpingHeroesMN.com. While all foursomes are sold out for June 1, dinner tickets are still available. H3, like Meuser, is committed to all of Minnesota’s first responders. No donation is unappreciated. All donations go directly back to H3 members.