Instagram Page Helps Veterans and First Responders Through Humor and More

Jay Fain has 17,000 followers on Instagram. Until a year ago, he really wasn’t that interested in social media. But that changed when he got a job with Rogue American Apparel, a veteran-owned company which generates most of its sales through social media.

Jay is a veteran of the US Army. He served in Iraq and lost his right leg in an IED attack in 2007. While on the road to recovery, he was painted in a portrait by president George W. Bush.

Images from left to right: Jay Fain and his comrade on guard in Iraq. Jay Fain, Army Veteran, working out with his prosthetic leg. Jay Fain and his workout partner.

Jay has come a long way. He has good days and bad days. Like many other veterans, he often turns to humor to help pull him out of those bad moods.

One place he finds humor is a page on Instagram called Uniform Humor. “People often look to Uniform Humor when they’re having a rough time or simply bored. I see what they post and it brightens my moment, makes me laugh and gives me a better attitude. And I’m sure it’s the same for a lot of people.”

Uniform Humor was created by James Kidwell and Alexander Thalmann. They both lived in North Carolina and worked in law enforcement. The two were great friends but worked opposite shifts. To keep connected, they created Uniform Humor and shared funny memes. People started to notice and their following grew.

Then on March 31, 2014, seven months into his job as a police officer, Alexander Thalmann was shot and killed in the line of duty. James was devastated, but he remained strong for his brother’s family.

He also kept operating the Uniform Humor page. “Anybody who has been in our type of jobs or situation, knows we turn to jokes and laughter to release stress. We get put in really bad situations, and sometimes the only thing we can do is joke about it, and that’s a way of coping. So I took that to heart after Alex passed away, and I continued with it, because it really helped me.”

The following continued to grow, and today the page boasts 428,000 followers. The page is geared toward anyone in a uniform, whether that’s police, EMT, fire service, military, etc.

“In these types of jobs, people sacrifice a lot, and all I want to do is give back”, explained Kidwell, now a volunteer firefighter. “In the past few years since Alex passed, I’ve helped a number of veteran owned businesses advertise their products so they can grow. Same thing with law enforcement and fire service. I’ve worked with lots of people all over the nation, helped them create their business image and help their sales go through the roof because of the service we provide.”

Earlier this year, Kidwell applied to incorporate Uniform Humor, Inc. as a business. Coincidentally, on March 31st, the government recognized Uniform Humor as an incorporated business, which is the anniversary of Alex’s death.

“It really tied everything together in a weird way. Definitely a sign.”

Through Uniform Humor, Inc., Kidwell has connected with uniform professionals and veterans all over the nation. He communicates online with many of them, and has also travelled the USA to visit them and learn about their businesses.

Kidwell even met Jay Fain and stayed in his Texas home. “At the time, I was a complete stranger to Jay, yet he invited me to stay at his house for the weekend” Kidwell recalled. “It was a top-notch welcoming. Hospitality at its finest, and that is the best thing about the camaraderie in our community.”

Kidwell recently came up with a new purpose for his page. He wants to use Uniform Humor, Inc. as a launch point for a new non-profit organization, one based around the same military and first responder community. He’ll call it Uniform Heroes.

“Anybody that is wounded, killed, or suffering from PTSD, we could give back to the individual, the departments or the families of these victims” Kidwell explained. “Whether its starting college funds for the kids of those who were lost, or providing products that help with mobility around the household to make everyday life easier. Say someone is missing a leg or an arm, we can provide things that would help assimilate them back into a normal, everyday life. They’ve given so much to our country, and we want to give back to make life easier on them.”

“For the men and women who belong to our community as first responders and military personnel, that brotherhood is very close,” Kidwell explained. “We pull together in times of need. When you’re in the field of battle, or you’re in the street as an officer, or you’re running into a burning house, your brothers are right there with you. Not behind you, not in front of you, but right there with you. They’re going into the same situation. They have lives outside of work, they have lives at home, they have family and friends back home, they’re going in there and sacrificing just as much as the next person.

“So when something bad things happen to us, we tend to pull together inside of that community, and just the massive amounts of people we have already, we can generate a lot of information, a lot of great ideas, and a lot of support in a lot of different areas. All different walks of life. This guy may be a woodworker, this guy over here is an electrician. Plumbing, bookkeeping, medical personnel, psychiatrist, company connections. We rely on social media heavily because of the broad reach to be able to reach people all over. There are people from everywhere losing life and limb, sacrificing from all over our nation, and we want to give back. We want to put boots on the ground. We want to be able to go door to door and help. There are hundreds of thousands of people across this country who have sacrificed, and there’s no reason we can’t get groups of people to help out.”

Uniform Humor, Inc. (and soon Uniform Heroes) is also a place where veterans and first responders turn for help. Jay Fain said “A lot of times nowadays, people are kind of afraid to reach out for help. So social media is a good way to inadvertently look for that help from humor and other people on these platforms. Pages like Uniform Humor, Inc. help people start the transition process to seeking help. Get a laugh, reach out, repeat.”

For this story, Kidwell shared a private message he received from one such veteran that solidified what Uniform Humor is doing. The message reads, “So many times I have sat there drunk out of my mind with my side arm right in front of me thinking… “(Screw) everything!!!” and wishing it would end!!!! But I know God has a special plan for me…I can’t speak for everyone but accounts like this give me hope and understanding! Please keep up with things like this, because you never know who you’re saving!!!!”

Kidwell knows he’s doing important work. And he hopes to take the next step by launching Uniform Heroes in the summer of 2018. “We are wanting to hit 500,000 followers, and then we’ll launch.”

Images from left to right: James Kidwell in his firefighter gear at a North Carolina elementary school. James Kidwell working with the folks of MagPacker, a veteran owned company in Texas.

We will follow up with Kidwell, Uniform Humor and the new Uniform Heroes.

James Kidwell’s Keys to Instagram Success

  • Use hashtags, use hashtags, use hashtags
  • Go to similar pages and like and comment their content
  • Engage in conversation with folks.
  • Be proactive in what you post. Are holidays or special types of events coming up? Build content around that.
  • Be sure to respond to those who spend the time to write to you! (Follower engagement seems to be a huge downfall in the social media industry)