We had the good fortune of connecting with Shelly Kirkland and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Shelly, let’s start by talking about what inspires you?
Nearly a decade ago, I met several veterans who changed the course of my career, and frankly, my life. Those who were on the front lines, protecting my freedoms, in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and other key locations around the world. Often, they returned home different than when they left. Some scarred physically; some scarred morally; some scarred mentally. All were certainly changed. And my encounters with them, in turn, changed me. These were folks who were my age who were quite literally putting their life on the line for me. And doing it selflessly. Courageously. Without question. It was humbling. It made me proud, and it made me more committed than ever to make sure that when veterans come back, we give back in a meaningful way — a way that changes their life for the better and for the long-term. I’m inspired every day by those who wear or have worn the flag to protect and defend our freedoms as part of the United States Armed Forces.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
At Boot Campaign, our mission is to unite Americans to honor and restore the lives of veterans and military families through individualized live improving programs. We do that in three ways. 1. This first is by showing gratitude for those who sign their name on a dotted line to protect and defend the United States and asking Americans to lace up the most visible sign of military service: combat boots. More than 500 celebrities and influencers as well as thousands of patriots have donned the symbolic footwear to say, “Thank you for your service.” They do this by purchasing boots through our website, bootcampaign.org, and are encouraged to share photos in their boots with the hashtag, #laceupamerica. 2. Our second program, affectionally called Santa Boots, provides specially curated gift boxes to deserving military families who have faced a challenging year. Maybe a loved one is deployed or has been wounded or injured while serving, or in one case, the family’s house tragically burned down. In December, Boot Campaign is able to help us spread the holiday spirit and take the stress away of gift buying for the whole family. 3. Finally, where we spend the bulk of our funding is in the health and wellness arena. Our Health and Wellness program, built on the principles of providing holistic care and working to identify the root cause of hidden wounds of war, delivers personalized treatment plans to veterans and their families to treat diverse health challenges connected to Posttraumatic Stress and/or Traumatic Brain Injury, as well as addressing trauma-based insomnia, chronic pain, substance abuse, nutrition and fitness. The healing road can be long for veterans and military families but our team at Boot Campaign promises to be here for those we serve every step of the way. One of my favorite quotes is, “Every time I witness a strong person, I want to know: ‘What dark did you conquer in your story?’ Mountains do not rise without earthquakes.” Powerful, right? We all have winding roads in life that lead us to present day. Our roads are rarely smooth or straight. But oftentimes it’s in the process of traveling a route full of potholes, steep hills and rough terrain that we develop a passion to help and serve others. And, that has been my experience. My path certainly hasn’t been easy, but it helped shape me into who I am today and has fueled my professional career to help others overcome stigma associated with brain and mental health issues. It brings me joy to meet the veterans and military families that we have impacted and to hear from them directly about how their lives have been changed by our programs.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I love it when my friends visit the great state of Texas and Dallas specifically. Over a week-long trip I’d definitely include some time for seeing the sights, fun, relaxation and of course all of the good food Texas has to offer; we’d certainly start one morning at Ascension for delicious coffee, grab a taco at Resident Taqueria for lunch and snag a table at Gemma for dinner. I’d love to see a game at the new Rangers Stadium, Globe Life Park, in Arlington because what’s more American than baseball and my friends at O&H Brand Design had a heavy hand in the interior design. Instead of heading back to Dallas, I’d stay west towards Fort Worth, visiting Whiskey Ranch for a cocktail making class and ending with dinner at Bonnell’s. Hopefully we’d have some time to swing by the Stockyards too! There’s so much to see and do in Dallas and Fort Worth a second visit would definitely be necessary!
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I am tremendously grateful for my family and their faith in me, their unwavering support and their commitment to jump in to further the cause of Boot Campaign. I’m also honored to work the most dedicated team in the veteran space; these men and woman — the staff, the board, our veteran ambassadors and volunteers — lace up each and every day and truly are the boots on the ground to unite Americans to honor and restore the lives of veterans and military families.