Serving Those Who Serve: Youth Support U.S. Military Members

April 03, 2018

Emma Suttell, 16, is a high school sophomore from Phoenix, Arizona. She is an executive officer of Veterans Heritage Project, a nonprofit organization dedicated to recording, writing, and telling the stories of our nation’s veterans. Emma is an avid volunteer in her community, actively involved in children’s ministry and teaching children’s musical theatre programs. An aspiring journalism major, Emma is a student blogger and writer for several online and local publications and is especially passionate about encouraging fellow high school students throughout America to become leaders of awareness and acceptance in their own communities. In her free time, she enjoys performing with her show choir, playing piano, and blogging.

When youth are asked about their community service, not many can say that they started their own nonprofit. Youth for Troops, populated with mainly youth volunteers, is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that is focused on celebrating the service of our nation’s veterans.

Through various service projects such as visiting nursing homes, assembling care packages for active troops, holding flags during honor flights, and marching in local parades, the Youth For Troops team is filled with passionate, dedicated, and driven young people who aspire to make a difference.

Youth Advisory Board Member Heather Piatt said that the main goal of the organization is to inspire others to help military service members by encouraging those of all ages to contribute as much as they can. Heather, one of the founders of the organization, said that she has always valued veterans and servicemembers since she was young.

“We always volunteered at events for them (veterans) until one day, my mom and my best friend’s mom had this idea for us to start a nonprofit,” Heather said. “At first, some of us were a little hesitant, but eventually we all decided to just go for it!”

Their leap of faith paid off when Youth For Troops officially became a nonprofit in April of 2017, and the organization has exceeded expectations with flying colors ever since. The group arranges monthly visits to a local nursing home where those participating can interact with residents and work on patriotic-themed projects together. They also arrange monthly meetings at their local outlet mall to meet with members of the community and construct care packages, as well as monthly get-togethers to cut plastic bags and crochet them into plastic mats for homeless veterans. Anyone is welcome and encouraged to attend their events, from experienced adults to younger children who haven’t volunteered in the past.

Heather’s favorite service event? She emphasizes that it is definitely the monthly care package event.

“I love how people from all over North Phoenix come together to help send our overseas soldiers items that they would not normally have available, such as conditioner, lip balm, and quality feminine hygiene products,” she said. “It’s definitely one of our most popular events.”

The organization sets itself apart from other veterans organizations because it is mainly run by youth. The majority of volunteers for Youth For Troops and those who sit on the Youth Advisory Board, a group of six people who are driven to serve, are all under the age of 18. The nonprofit also focuses on recruiting more young people who desire to make a difference in their community by visiting local schools and other youth organizations to spread their message and mission of service.

Heather placed emphasis on the importance of teaching young generations about those before them, stating “I think it’s important to teach our generation and future generations about helping others.”

The organization’s mission emphasizes the importance of respecting those around us and supporting others whenever possible.

“I think it takes a kind person to want to give up their time to help others,” Heather said. “Someone who is selfish isn’t going to want to spend their Saturday morning laying roses at a cemetery. Most people’s lives are so busy that they rarely get free time, so when they do have time off and decide to spend it helping someone else, I think that’s the epitome of kindness!”

Not only do the youth involved with the organization get to help others, but they get to learn about history in a unique and firsthand manner. Partnered with other veterans organizations, Heather and other members of Youth For Troops have the opportunity to meet and bond with veterans from various wars and backgrounds. Heather points out that hearing from the veterans themselves verifies how much youth community service is appreciated.

“I’ve gotten to know some of the veterans pretty well, so hearing people that I respect tell me they are proud of me means a lot, especially when we have done so little compared to what some of them have gone through,” she said.

Youth For Troops operates out of Anthem, Arizona, and focuses on serving the community throughout the year. For more information about the organization, visit, or follow them on Facebook.