Thomas headshot April 2019.jpg

Thomas Winkel,

MA, LPC, NCC, Director

Arizona Coalition for Military Families

ACMF is a non-profit organization in Arizona that works with public and private partners to build the state’s capacity to support Arizona’s 500,000+ service members, veterans, and their families with a collective impact model that uses an upstream approach to suicide prevention. 

From the Desk of Thomas Winkel

The Healing Power of Social Connection

I’d like to address a common and pressing issue that affects millions of Americans: loneliness. In a world more interconnected than ever, the prevalence of loneliness has reached epidemic proportions, with more than half of Americans reporting feelings of isolation.

Loneliness can have serious consequences on our well-being. Research has shown that chronic loneliness and social isolation can increase the risk of premature death, heighten the risk of heart disease, stroke, and other illnesses, and increase the likelihood of anxiety, depression, and even dementia. Social isolation is also a risk factor for suicide.

Coaching Into Connection

To combat the public health epidemic of loneliness, we introduce the Be Connected Coaching Into Connection program. This statewide program pairs Connection Coaches, who are military veterans, with veterans and family members who want to increase their social connection. 

Connection Coaches work with participants to identify their individualized areas of interest, find options, and get connected. For example, some might be interested in sports or outdoor recreation, while others like activities such as book clubs or crafting groups. Connection Coaches can also help participants find support groups and rebuild connections with family and friends. 

We're Here For You

Loneliness and social disconnection are very common and Coaching Into Connection is here to help. If you or someone you care about could benefit from this service, please submit a referral form so one of our team members can reach out and help or call 866-4AZ-VETS (866-429-8387).

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Copper Eagle Award

Arizona Veterans Hall of Fame Society

Arizona Department of Veterans’ Services Director Wanda Wright and ACMF Project Director Nicola Winkel attended a Veteran Suicide Prevention Workshop hosted by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and Deloitte in Washington, DC, in October 2022. The purpose of the workshop was to develop action plans for addressing suicide in three focus populations: women, rural and American Indian veterans. The two-day event featured remarks and panels from leaders from the VA, Department of Defense, and other key entities, as well as intensive workgroup sessions. 

All three workgroups identified social isolation and disconnection from support as key takeaways and essential focus areas to reduce suicide risk. Workgroup members will continue to work together to develop and implement the action plans. In Arizona, we are zeroing in on reducing social isolation through our new Coaching Into Connection program, which recently launched in the Spring of 2023.

Congratulations to all of the winners of the Arizona Veterans Hall of Fame Society awards and scholarships.

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Military Officers Association of America

Distinguished Service Award

General (USAF) Gary North (Ret.), Chairman of the Board for MOAA greets Amanda Yanez and Dee Person who represented the Arizona Coalition for Military Families at the awards event on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. Colonel (USAF) Pete Kloeber (Ret.), MOAA Board of Directors, nominated ACMF for the prestigious national award.

The Arizona Coalition for Military Families (ACMF) along with partners including the Arizona Department of Veterans’ Services, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the Governor’s Office of Youth Faith and Family, TriWest Healthcare Alliance, the Arizona Healthcare Cost Containment System, and many others have been recognized with the National Military Officers Association of America (MOAA) Distinguished Service Award. This award is given to individuals or organizations that have demonstrated exceptional leadership and service in support of the military community. The ACMF was nominated for the award by Pete Kloeber, a member of the Arizona Veteran Hall of Fame and member of the MOAA Board of Directors.

ACMF was awarded for its significant contributions to supporting military members, veterans, and their families, not only in Arizona but also nationally. These efforts have included providing technical assistance to every state and territory to help establish and support national efforts to provide vital resources, advocacy, and education for service members, veterans, and their families. 

The ACMF joins past MOAA Distinguished Service Award recipients such as Starbucks, Toby Keith, and LinkedIn. MOAA will present the award to the ACMF at an event on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, in April.

This recognition highlights the important work being done across Arizona through the Be Connected Ecosystem of Support to assist service members, veterans, and their families.

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13th Annual Statewide Symposium Recap

Reflecting on the 13th Annual Statewide Symposium in Support of Service Members, Veterans & Their Families

It’s hard to believe it’s been one month since we closed out the 13th Annual Statewide Symposium in Support of Service Members, Veterans & Their Families. After a four-year gap from the last in-person event, it was great to convene again in person on April 19 & 20 at the Desert Willow Conference Center in Phoenix. 

At the core of the Arizona Coalition for Military Families are you and all of the partners, people, and communities who are caring for, supporting, employing, educating, and assisting Arizona’s service members, veterans, and families. We’re delighted that this year, we could witness the excitement, collaboration, and camaraderie that comes with bringing together an ever-expanding community of individuals and organizations with a shared passion and dedication to making a difference in the lives of our military-affiliated community.

Here are a few responses that we received through the end of the event survey:

  • “The Symposium was amazing!! I made so many contacts and obtained a lot of resources. It was great to see everyone in person again! Thank you so much!!”
  • “Symposium was such an amazing experience for me, the energy of that place, the energy of people participating, so much to learn from people working in the community for service members and vets. Everyone did an excellent job.”
  • “I just wanted to say, what a great two days. Loved every minute of it.”
  • “WOW I was blown away with what a well-organized and great content-packed symposium you all put on. I had such a great time and will definitely be back next year.”
  • “I was thoroughly impressed by the entire Symposium, and I can't remember the last time I had so much fun. Plus, two days of talking and interacting with Veterans, it doesn't get better or more interesting than that!”

Our heartfelt appreciation goes out to our distinguished speakers, who generously shared their wisdom and insights, leaving us with valuable takeaways to apply in our work. Thank you to all attendees, exhibitors, volunteers, and sponsors. Because of everyone’s participation, the 13th Annual Statewide Symposium was a resounding success. 

Looking ahead, we will continue to build on this momentum, leveraging the knowledge, connections, and inspiration gained from the Symposium. We remain steadfast in our mission to serve and support our service members, veterans, and their families, solidifying Arizona’s place as a national model for how we build and strengthen the ecosystem of support. 

Thank you for helping to be the driving force that propels positive change and lasting impact for our military-affiliated community.

If you were not able to join us this year, we have the general session videos and the presenters’ slides available at

Thomas Winkel, Dee Person, Governor Katie Hobbs, Nicola Winkel and Dana Allmond and 500 attendees gather for the opening session of the 13th Annual Statewide Symposium.

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Join the Be Connected Team!


Real Stories, Real Successes!

How Be Connected Helps Arizona Veterans

Navy Veteran Becomes a Home Buyer

When a 76-year-old Navy veteran with mobility issues called in seeking help obtaining a VA home loan, the Be Connected team sprang into action. Not only did the team successfully connect the veteran to the Veteran Benefits Administration, but they also helped him fill out and submit the application. Just three weeks later, the veteran was approved for a loan and is on the hunt for his one-story dream home.

Arranged Ride Helps Veteran to Surgery Appointment

Recently, the Be Connected team helped a veteran secure transportation for his surgery. This is one of many support services that the Be Connected support line assists with. In this case, the veteran called back to share his gratitude for the assistance. He even remarked that transportation was critical to his ability to receive relief from the surgery. The Be Connected team is always thrilled to hear back from people who follow up to let us know how everything worked out well. The veteran was so grateful that he can now count on Be Connected for future transportation needs.

We Can Help You Navigate Resources

Upcoming Events


PTSD Awareness Month

June 27

PTSD Awareness Day

June 28

Military/Veteran Resource Navigation Training

July 4

Independence Day

July 25

National Hire a Veteran Day

August 4

Coast Guard Birthday

August 7

Purple Heart Day

For more information on these and other events, please visit

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The Arizona Coalition for Military Families works collaboratively with government agencies, community members, and partner organizations to form an Ecosystem of Support that Arizona's service members, veterans, and their families can access through the Be Connected support line, 866-4AZ-VETS, and Be Connected offers no-cost support and connections to resources and has trained more than 6,000 community members to provide resource navigation services.