Legacy Military Reunion with a Gold wreath between Military Reunions. Est 2023 written under the wreath
Honoring your legacy

Our Legacy

Bonds Forged

The above quote is from Maj. Zembiec, also known as The Lion Of Fallujah, who was our company commander. He passed away while serving our nation in 2007 and since then has been a major source of inspiration for us. Legacy was founded by three veterans who had served together in Iraq during the initial invasion in Echo Company, 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Division, and again as a part of Operation Vigilant Resolve in Fallujah in 2004. We fought a bloody battle in Fallujah which took brothers from us and wounded many of us physically and mentally. Afterward, we went our separate ways and struggled. Through our own experience with PTSD and self-isolation we discovered that one of the most effective forms of therapy was simple; reuniting with our brothers in a low-key, no-stress environment; Continuing the conversations left in the sand, and honoring the legacy we leave behind.

Reuniting

It’s not often discussed, but serving in and leaving the military can result in a deep sense of loss. The loss of community, friendship, and brotherhood can affect everyone, regardless of whether they served in combat or not. This is why our mission is so important – to reunite those who served together. When we reunite, it’s not just an opportunity to reminisce; it’s a chance to check in with each other and assess how we’re doing. Reuniting every 3-5 years is not enough time to keep up with each other, and people can slip through the cracks. However, if we meet every year, it gives us the opportunity to see how people are doing, identify who needs help, and stop the 22 suicides a day. This is how we can keep each other lifted up and support one another.

Moving Forward

We believe in taking a proactive approach to combat suicide and PTSD among veterans. We do this by helping them engage in positive therapeutic activities and unit reunions, which provide them with a chance to reset, reduce stress, and reform the camaraderie they once had. This approach helps limit isolation and feelings of loneliness, fostering stronger connections and encouraging people to stay in touch between reunions. In addition to bonding, we also assist those who need help with disability claims and connect them with resources they may not have known about. We share the tools and strategies we learn in our mental health journeys and build a support network that functions like a family.

Doug Hayenga – Treasurer, Board of Legacy Military Reunions 

Doug Hayenga grew up in St. Cloud, MN, where he graduated from Tech High School. Before 9/11, Doug joined the United States Marine Corps and served from August 2001 to December 2006. During his service, he completed two combat tours in Iraq. On his second tour in Fallujah in 2004, while serving as an infantry Team Leader with the 2nd Battalion, 1st Marines, he was severely injured and was subsequently medically retired after recovering from his wounds.

After his military service, Doug earned a degree in Workforce Education and Development from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale and a Master’s in Business Administration with an emphasis in Finance from Grand Canyon University. He currently serves as a Deputy Training Officer for the Navy.

Doug resides in Virginia Beach, VA, with his wife, Dinora, a retired Navy veteran, and their two daughters. He is passionate about helping veterans come together to form a community of support and brotherhood, which led him to co-found Legacy Military Reunions.

Robert Shumate – Chairman of the Board and Secretary of Legacy Military Reunions

Robert Shumate grew up in Northeast Texas, just outside of Texarkana, where he currently resides. In 2001, prior to the attacks on 9/11, Robert joined the Marine Corps shortly after high school. As a decorated combat veteran, he served two combat deployments in Iraq. His first deployment was in 2003 during the initial invasion as a radio operator. He returned to Iraq in 2004, serving in Fallujah as a squad leader, where he was awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal with combat valor distinguishing device and was combat meritoriously promoted to the rank of Sergeant. Robert continued his service in the Marine Corps Reserves, where he was later promoted to Staff Sergeant.

After leaving active duty, Robert pursued higher education at Texas A&M University-Texarkana, where he studied Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. During his time there, he founded the school’s Student Veterans Association in 2010, serving as its President. He also organized a community-wide event to commemorate the 10th anniversary of 9/11.

Currently, Robert is a Project Manager in the sports industry, collaborating with numerous professional teams and Division I schools nationwide. His extensive experience in organizing his unit’s reunions inspired him to co-found Legacy Military Reunions with Benjamin and Doug, where he continues to dedicate his efforts to bringing veterans together.