By Jeffrey Wilson
Veterans Day 2011 may be behind us, but Americans are always eager to support those who have fought for our country and their families. No matter what you see on cable news, with all the divisive politics and both parties accusing the other of not loving America, most ordinary Americans love our country, and they are always ready to lend a hand. They just need direction. Dollar for dollar or hour for hour, no one is more willing to give both money and their time when crisis strikes than Americans.
In light of the tragic events of August 6th of this year, when a Special Operations helicopter carrying Navy SEALs and support personnel was shot down by insurgents in Afghanistan, more people than ever are looking for ways to give to those who have given so much. The families of these valiant warriors, and all the other veterans and loved ones who have sacrificed so much, deserve our helping hands and Americans stand ready to help them. The problem is—how to help? Where do you give? Choosing the right organization can be overwhelming, and no one wants his or her money to be wasted. Here are three stand-out possibilities for giving, because these organizations do it right.
1) The Navy SEAL Foundation
The Navy SEAL Foundation, formerly known as the Naval Special Warfare Foundation, is a non-profit organization dedicated specifically to helping members of the SEAL teams and their families. As such, they are particularly relevant after the loss of so many SEALs in the August 6th attack. Donations to NSF directly support Team members and their families in times of crisis, helping families travel to be closer to recovering wounded team members, providing support to families who have lost loved ones, providing educational funds for families left behind, and ensuring that the legacy of the team members live on.
2) The Lone Survivor Foundation
The Lone Survivor Foundation was founded by Navy SEAL (ret.) Marcus Luttrell in 2010. Luttrell is the only survivor of Operation Red Wings in Afghanistan. During that operation, the other members of his four man team were killed during a prolonged fire fight between the SEALs and an enemy force that may have been as large as 50-100 fighters. The team leader, LT Michael Murphy, was later posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions. Another 16 Special Forces troops, including 8 more Navy SEALs, were killed in an attempt to rescue Luttrell. The Lone Survivor Foundation is dedicated to the men who lost their lives in that action. The stated mission of the organization is to “restore, empower, and renew hope for our wounded warriors and their families through health, wellness, and therapeutic support.” The foundation organizes, among other things, retreats designed to help the service members and their families deal with physical and emotional injuries they have sustained in battle.
3) The Wounded Warrior Project
The Wounded Warrior Project has stayed true to its mission and goals despite its size. Often, when foundations grow as rapidly as WWP has, they can become bogged down in their own bureaucracy, but that has not been the case here. Their stated mission is “foster the most successful, well-adjusted generation of wounded warriors in this nation’s history.” They are doing their part to make this a reality, with an incredibly diverse number of programs which not only help wounded veterans, but aggressively work to help them learn to help each other through mutual support.
Along with these organizations, there are hundreds of legitimate organizations that accept donations of money for their projects or toys and clothes for families of deployed or wounded troops. Books for Soldiers (www.booksforsoldiers.com) provides donated books, games, and DVDs for deployed troops overseas to make their deployments a little easier. This is a nice option with the holidays approaching. You and your group can organize holiday letters to be sent to deployed troops, have care packages put together for delivery, or purchase phone cards. All of these can get to the men and women far from home with the help of the USO. Go to USO.org and look at their holiday boxes and phone home programs.
The generosity and patriotism of America is alive and well, no matter what accusations fly around Washington, DC. These are some of the ways you can help keep them alive. Celebrate our veterans by giving something back to those who have given us so much.
Jeffrey Wilson is a surgeon and Iraqi War veteran and the author of the novel “The Traiteur’s Ring.” Visit him at www.jeffreywilsonfiction.com/.