“Honor the fallen, by helping the living” – a mission statement


A few days ago, my mother called me to let me know that she had been reading Ralph Peters New York Post articles on helping the wounded warriors. She wanted to know if I had seen his articles and did I know of the Fisher type house that was being constructed in Texas to help them. She was sending out a donation to: “Returning Heroes Home” http://returningheroeshome.org/

She was dedicating her donation in memory of Army Spc. Thomas J. Wilwerth (my son’s friend) and Medal of Honor Lt. Michael Patrick Murphy United States Navy SEAL from Patchogue.

Returning Heroes Home is located at the BAMC (Brooke Army Medical Center) in Fort San Houston, Texas. This will be a “home away from home” for the wounded warriors and their families during treatment, recovery and rehabilitation. Research* has proved that those who receive care/treatment with immediate support of medical and family, recover quicker and without as many complications and have reduced levels of post traumatic stress and enjoy better health related quality of life (HRQol).

Our wounded warriors may have visible signs of injuries such as a missing limb (s), blindness or invisible, like traumatic brain injuries, spinal pain, post traumatic stress. We have many wounded Veterans and their families who have endured much. All need the compassion, skill and all the support now and later of medical and family- and their families will need support in dealing with the catastrophic injuries that their loved one has endured-and will continue to have for the remainder of their lives.

In reading, seeing, meeting with those who have been wounded, it is simultaneously humbling and inspiring. Many of the wounded are focused on regaining health, strength, autonomy and purpose of living. They need the awareness and support/help now from us as individual citizens and as a united country -and they will need our continued respect and support in the future too.

*NIMH National Institute of Mental Health http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/post-traumatic-stress-disorder-ptsd/index.shtml


Military Spouse Resource Center: http://www.milspouse.org/Benefits/SuppServ/PostDeploy/

American Institute of Philanthropy (AIP)just published a report today 12/13/07 with a rating of A+ (excellence to F – Failing) on many charities that collect/distribute funds for Veterans, Wounded Warriors and Active duty Servicemen/women. Here is a link to the report:


“Why are these large stockpiles of reserves not going to aid the vast numbers of homeless veterans? The answer is that most of the homeless vets do not meet the armed forces charities’ eligibility requirements. For instance, AER states that it only helps active duty soldiers and reservists and their dependants, or soldiers retired from active duty due to reaching age 60 or to “longevity,” usually defined as 20 or more years of service, or physical disability. AER also helps surviving spouses and children of soldiers who died while on active duty or after retirement from the military. Since poverty is the major cause of homelessness, the veterans eligible for AER assistance due to having obtained Army retirement status and the accompanying Army benefits are not likely to become homeless. It’s a shame that AER’s eligibility requirements keep aid from reaching those veterans that arguably need it most. ” (AER – Army Emergency Relief)

The report and articles from the Washington Post (listed in the comments)-were informative on how/who/what charities/organizations are actually providing help to those who need help/support and highlighted some organizations that are just that-a business designed to bring in funds for overhead.

Those who got an A or A+ (BRAVO ZULU!!)

Air Force Aid Society (A+)

Army Emergency Relief (A+) (the report stated that the AER is not reaching the homeless Veterans)

Fisher House Foundation (A+)

Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund (A+)

National Military Family Association (A)

Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society (A+)

8 Responses to ““Honor the fallen, by helping the living” – a mission statement”

  1. olotliny Says:



    December 13, 2007 — FORT SAM HOUSTON, SAN ANTONIO

    THE best way to capture the spirit of the severely wounded Marines who pass through the Center for the In trepid is just to tell their stories and let them speak for themselves:

    Sgt. Eric Morante, a squad leader in Fox Company, 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines stood watch in a sandbagged observation post atop a bridge west of Fallujah. Visibility was great – five miles in each direction – preventing terrorists from planting roadside bombs.

    But the bridge served a crucial highway, and traffic had to flow. Risk was unavoidable. The best the Marines could do was to keep vehicles moving. On April 20, a suicide bomber detonated 3,000 pounds of explosives underneath the Marine OP. The bridge collapsed.

    Sgt. Morante landed hard, blacking out as debris covered him. When he came to a few minutes later, he was pinned under concrete shards. Struggling, he shoved the wreckage off him – then saw that his right leg had snapped back behind his body.

    The leg was amputated by surgeons in Balad. Morante woke up in a military hospital in Germany. Next stop: San Antonio and rehab.

    His chief ambition is still to become a drill sergeant. Missing a leg, he arranged for the Marine Corps logo to be painted on his prosthesis. “I was back on my feet in three months,” he says proudly – but he still faces all-day therapy.

    It’s been a tough year: His father died, and his mother’s been sick. And some jerk stole the sergeant’s truck, which had been parked back home in Houston.

    So what does he worry about? The other Marines wounded in the blast – and, especially, his Navy corpsman. The medic’s still in a coma down in Tampa Bay and may never come out of it. He’s never seen the child his wife delivered a few months ago.

    Then there’s Gunnery Sgt. Blaine Scott, 35, and a “lifer.” The gunny served with the 3rd Light Armored Recon Co. of the 1st Marine Division in Anbar Province. He was 6½ months into his second Iraq tour when an IED detonated under his vehicle.

    Gunny Scott was burned over 40 percent of his body. He’s been in rehab for 16 months, with “too many operations to count.” Despite reconstructive surgery, his face still tells of wounds. But this Marine’s Marine is 1,000 miles away from self-pity: “Hey, this is what I do for a living, this is what I chose.”

    It helps that Marines stay close and support each other. And that this Iowa native has a strong marriage and three great kids.

    Gunny Scott praises the “awesome” quality of care he’s received. And he’s grateful for the Fisher House room in which his family spent three months before being assigned on-post housing.

    When you first meet Gunny Scott, your eyes go to the burn scars on his face. That’s the plain truth of it. But he projects so much fortitude and pride that a strange thing happens: After a little while, it strikes you that he’s still a handsome man – a man you’re privileged to know.

    His priority now? Working with new Marine patients to bolster their spirits.

    Lt. Col. Grant Olbrich, a Marine aviator, heads the local Patient Affairs Team from the Marines’ Wounded Warrior Regiment. He calls the Center for the Intrepid “wonderful” and the Army hospital “very supportive of Marines.”

    But he also notes that Marines do miss their own culture. Part of that culture is the Corps Commandant’s position on severely wounded Marines: “If you want to stay in the Corps, we’re going to find a way to keep you.”

    And Marines want to stay in. “They do not feel sorry for themselves,” Lt. Col. Olbrich says.

    Lance Cpl. Chris Traxson is on a high: He just got engaged to his high-school sweetheart.

    He’d been on a Humvee patrol in the black heart of Fallujah – before the city “flipped” and turned on al Qaeda – when a bomb struck the underside of his Humvee. It wasn’t even his regular Humvee – that had been hit by another IED two days earlier.

    Fire shot through the vehicle. He suffered third-degree burns over 56 percent of his body, along with bone exposure. He looks fine now – but, under his garments, he has to keep his skin moisturized at all times.

    He’s come a long way, though. His parents had been at his bedside for two weeks before he “really” woke up in the burn center. Now he’s determined to move on: “For a long time, I was pretty depressed . . . for four or five months . . . but over time I came to grips with it: This is my new body.”

    He was a police officer back home in Arkansas (the chief and his fellow officers came down to visit). That’s over now – but Traxson, who holds a degree in criminal justice, intends to go to law school. And he’s really looking forward to going home for Christmas.

    His buddies avenged him, by the way: “They caught the guy who planted the IED, and he rolled over. He gave up the bombmaker.”

    When Sgt. Jose Martinez arrived for our interview at the ad hoc Warrior and Family Support Center, the room was so crowded and noisy that we had to move out to the hallway for the interview. He had to step carefully, skirting dangling decorations and the Christmas tree.

    Sgt. Martinez is fighting blindness.

    The movie-star handsome sergeant describes himself as a “Navy brat.” A brother’s in the Army – in Iraq.

    Martinez is a Force Recon Marine, the elite of the elite. He’d been working with a sniper team in the city of Hit. The team pulled out of an infiltration mission to “act on intel” about insurgents planting a bomb – and a running gun battle developed. The Marines kept up the pressure, dueling with the insurgents. Wrapping things up, the team called for extraction by a Bradley combat vehicle.

    But the insurgents had lured the Marines into a prepared site. As the team approached its ride back to safety, a buried bomb went off. Three Marines and a translator were killed. The three remaining Marines were gravely wounded.

    Sgt. Martinez took shrapnel in his eyes. The retinal damage to his left eye limits him to three inches of vision. The right eye’s stronger, but his peripheral vision is gone and the discrepancy between his eyes prevents him from wearing corrective lenses as he walks. He’s at a point where further operations would only risk the vision that remains.

    The sergeant calls himself lucky: Others died. He’s alive, with a girlfriend he adores and college ahead. “Whatever I decide to do, I’ll get it done,” the Marine said.

    We joke about how close he has to be to recognize a pretty girl (the answer is very close). Then Sgt. Martinez grows wistful and adds a holiday message to us all, “Be grateful for what you have. Nothing is ever that bad.”


    You can donate to the Warrior and Family Support Center project via credit card by phone at 1-888-343-HERO or on the Web at ReturningHeroesHome.org.

    To give by mail, send donations to:

    Returning Heroes Home

    P.O. Box 202194

    Dallas, TX 75320-2194

    Checks should be made out to Returning Heroes Home, Inc. This is a nonprofit 501c3 endeavor; all donations are tax-deductible.

    All contributions, in any amount, will help our wounded warriors. Please give to those who gave so much.

  2. olotliny Says:



    December 13, 2007 — EVA Balcazar, nee Rosenthal, left her home in Berlin-Dahlem at age 8, a week after Kristallnacht, the Germany-wide assault on Jews in 1938. Ninety percent of her relatives perished in the Nazi death camps.

    In 1951, she married a US Army officer and became a US citizen. Now 77 and widowed, Eva’s back in the fight – as a volunteer aiding the wounded vets who crowd the interim Warrior and Family Support Center.

    Two years ago, Eva literally looked in the mirror and asked herself, “What are you doing to help?” Now the lady with the continental manners and the passion of a street-level activist works every week and every holiday. Fluent in Spanish, she specializes in helping family members whose limited English complicates working with the military bureaucracy.

    Sometimes those frightened parents just need to talk, and Eva’s a wonderful listener. But given a chance to speak for herself, her eyes cloud and she turns slightly toward the wall: “What do you do with a beautiful young man who has no arms, no legs, no face, but the most beautiful blue eyes . . . with no eyelids?”

    Thinking back on all the veterans she’s seen pass through the center, Eva sighs and says, “It takes them such a long time . . . and it’s not just the physical, but the mental damage they suffer . . . and the young families with no idea what they’re going to do for the rest of their lives . . .”

    She’s furious that her fellow Americans don’t do more to help. “Put politics aside . . . these kids aren’t interested in the politics of this war.” With her old-fashioned sense of duty, she’s particularly annoyed that retired officers rarely volunteer at the center.

    Eva – who looks 60, acts 40 and glows like a debutante at a ball – shakes her head and prepares to get back to work. “I love every boy who walks in here,” she says.

  3. olotliny Says:

    Laurence Binyon (1869-1943)

    For The Fallen
    With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children,
    England mourns for her dead across the sea.
    Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of her spirit,
    Fallen in the cause of the free.

    Solemn the drums thrill; Death august and royal
    Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres,
    There is music in the midst of desolation
    And a glory that shines upon our tears.

    They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
    Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
    They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted;
    They fell with their faces to the foe.

    They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
    Age shall not weary them, nor the years contemn.
    At the going down of the sun and in the morning
    We will remember them.

    They mingle not with their laughing comrades again;
    They sit no more at familiar tables of home;
    They have no lot in our labour of the day-time;
    They sleep beyond England’s foam.

    But where our desires are and our hopes profound,
    Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight,
    To the innermost heart of their own land they are known
    As the stars are known to the Night;

    As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust,
    Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain;
    As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,
    To the end, to the end, they remain.

  4. Tana Harmon Says:

    Hello my name is Tana Harmon. My husband is with the Big Red 1 and showed me the video clips. I along with other women were brought to tears just watching the men fight for us. Knowing that there are men and women who are willing to fight for us makes me proud to say I am an American. Just watching the video clips made us all as Army wifes proud of our husbands. All the men are in our prayers and wish them all to come back safely. God bless all of you soldiers!!

  5. olotliny Says:

    Dear Tana,

    A big thank you to you and to your husband and all the husbands, sons wives and daughters who serve.

    I read the following and thought of you and all the wives, moms, sisters and fellow American sisters who are supporting their families, friends and neighbors. God bless you too!

    Most Sincerely,
    Proud Navy Mom:)

    By the time the Lord made woman,
    He was into his sixth day of working overtime.
    An angel appeared and said,
    “Why are you spending so much time on this one?”
    And the Lord answered, “Have you seen my spec sheet on her?
    She has to be completely washable, but not plastic,
    have over 200 movable parts, all replaceable
    and able to run on diet coke and leftovers,
    have a lap that can hold four children at one time,
    have a kiss that can cure anything from a scraped knee to a broken heart
    -and she will do everything
    with only two hands.”

    The angel was astounded at the requirements.
    “Only two hands!? No way!
    And that’s just on the standard model?
    That’s too much work for one day.
    Wait until tomorrow to finish.”

    “But I won’t,” the Lord protested.
    “I am so close to finishing this creation that is so close to my own heart.
    She already heals herself when she is sick
    AND can work 18 hour days.”

    The angel moved closer and touched the woman.
    “But you have made her so soft, Lord.”

    “She is soft,” the Lord agreed,
    “but I have also made her tough.
    You have no idea what she can endure or accomplish.”

    “Will she be able to think?”, asked the angel.

    The Lord replied,
    “Not only will she be able to think,
    she will be able to reason and negotiate.”

    The angel then noticed something,
    and reaching out, touched the woman’s cheek.
    “Oops, it looks like you have a leak in this model.
    I told you that you were trying to put too much into this one.”

    “That’s not a leak,”
    the Lord corrected,
    “that’s a tear!”
    “What’s the tear for?” the angel asked.

    The Lord said, “The tear is her way of expressing her joy,
    her sorrow, her pain, her disappointment, her love,
    her loneliness, her grief and her pride.”
    The angel was impressed.
    “You are a genius, Lord.
    You thought of everything!
    Woman is truly amazing.”

    And she is!
    Women have strengths that amaze men.
    They bear hardships and they carry burdens,
    but they hold happiness,
    love and joy.
    They smile when they want to scream.
    They sing when they want to cry.
    They cry when they are happy
    and laugh when they are nervous.
    They fight for what they believe in.
    They stand up to injustice.
    They don’t take “no” for an answer
    when they believe there is a better solution.
    They go without so their family can have.
    They go to the doctor with a frightened friend.
    They love unconditionally.
    They cry when their children excel
    and cheer when their friends get awards.
    They are happy when they hear about
    a birth or a wedding.
    Their hearts break when a friend dies.
    They grieve at the loss of a family member,
    yet they are strong when they think there is no strength left.
    They know that a hug and a kiss
    can heal a broken heart.
    Women come in all shapes, sizes and colors.
    They’ll drive, fly, walk, run or e-mail you
    to show how much they care about you.
    The heart of a woman is what makes the world keep turning.
    They bring joy, hope and love.
    They have compassion and ideals.
    They give moral support to their family and friends.
    Women have vital things to say and everything to give.

  6. olotliny Says:

    Study Faults Charities for Veterans
    Some Nonprofits Shortchange Troops, Watchdog Group Says

    By Philip Rucker
    Washington Post Staff Writer
    Thursday, December 13, 2007; A01

    Americans gave millions of dollars in the past year to veterans charities designed to help troops wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan, but several of the groups spent relatively little money on the wounded, according to a leading watchdog organization and federal tax filings.

    Eight veterans charities, including some of the nation’s largest, gave less than a third of the money raised to the causes they champion, far below the recommended standard, the American Institute of Philanthropy says in a report. One group passed along 1 cent for every dollar raised, the report says. Another paid its founder and his wife a combined $540,000 in compensation and benefits last year, a Washington Post analysis of tax filings showed.

    There are no laws regulating the amount of money charities spend on overhead, fundraising or giving. But the institute’s report suggests that 20 of the 29 military charities studied were managing their resources poorly, paying high overhead costs and direct-mail fundraising fees and, in some cases, providing their leaders with six-figure salaries.

    The 12 charities rated as failing by the institute — including the Military Order of the Purple Heart Service Foundation, the AMVETS National Service Foundation and the Freedom Alliance — collected at least $266 million in the past fiscal year.

    “They know how to work the system, and they seem pretty good at not going over the line, although it is pretty outrageous that so little money is actually winding up benefiting charities,” said Daniel Borochoff, president and founder of the Chicago-based institute.

    The charities’ practices have sparked outrage among some members of Congress.

    The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform was scheduled to hold its first hearing on veterans charities this morning.

    “People want to help the veterans,” said Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), a member of the oversight committee. “They don’t want to enrich organizations that are cynically exploiting veterans for their own personal gain.

    “We need to make sure that the generous contributions of Americans to veterans will help veterans and not line the pockets of fundraisers and these organizations.”

    Richard H. Esau Jr., executive director of the Military Order of the Purple Heart Service Foundation, based in Annandale, said the cost of fundraising limits how much his group can spend on charitable causes. “Do you have any idea how much money it costs to advertise? It’s unbelievable the amount of money it takes to advertise in the print and electronic media,” he said. “I’m very proud of what we do, and we certainly do look after everybody. F or no F, the point is we do the right thing by veterans.”

    Borochoff said many veterans charities are “woefully inefficient,” spending large sums on costly direct-mail advertising.

    “They oversolicit. They love to send out a lot of trinkets and stickers and greeting cards and flags and things that waste a lot of money that they get little return on,” said Borochoff, who plans to testify before Congress today.

    The philanthropy institute gave F’s to 12 of the 29 military charities reviewed and D’s to eight. Five were awarded A-pluses, including the Fisher House Foundation in Rockville, which the institute says directs more than 90 percent of its income to charitable causes.

    One group received an A, and one received an A-minus.

    Jim Weiskopf, spokesman for Fisher House, said the charity does not use direct-mail advertising. “As soon as you do direct mail, your fundraising expenses go up astronomically,” he said.

    One egregious example, Borochoff said, is Help Hospitalized Veterans, which was founded in 1971 by Roger Chapin, a veteran of the Army Finance Corps and a San Diego real estate developer. The charity, which provides therapeutic arts and crafts kits to hospitalized veterans, reported income of $71.3 million last year and spent about one-third of that money on charitable work, the philanthropy institute said.

    In its tax filings, Help Hospitalized Veterans reported paying more than $4 million to direct-mail fundraising consultants. The group also has run television advertisements featuring actor Sam Waterston, game show host Pat Sajak and other celebrities.

    Chapin, 75, the charity’s president, received $426,434 in salary and benefits in the past fiscal year, according to a filing with the Internal Revenue Service. His wife, Elizabeth, 73, received $113,623 in salary and benefits as “newsletter editor,” the Post’s review of the tax filing showed.

    Chapin and other leaders of Help Hospitalized Veterans did not return calls for comment. But the charity e-mailed a statement stating that it is among “the finest veterans’ charities this nation has to offer.” The statement also said its “fundraising expenses, accounting methods, and executive salaries are comparable to other nonprofits in this field.”

    Bennett Weiner, chief operating officer of the Better Business Bureau, said the agency has 20 standards for reviewing charities, including that a charity’s fundraising and overhead costs not exceed 35 percent of total contributions.

    Weiner, who is scheduled to testify before the House committee today, said he could not comment specifically on veterans charities until after his testimony.

    Advocates for veterans said they worry that scrutiny could damage military charities in general.

    “In the rush to help, there’s a lot of innovative work and good work happening, but there’s also a lot of fraud and waste,” said Paul Rieckhoff, executive director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. “There’s never been a greater need for veterans charities in a generation, and I hope issues like this don’t deter people from giving.”

    Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), one of Congress’s leading critics of charities, said some of the groups are abusing their tax-exempt status.

    “Taxpayers are subsidizing that tax exemption,” Grassley said through a spokeswoman. “Sitting on donors’ money or spending too much on contracts and salaries doesn’t benefit the public.”

    Rep. John Sarbanes (D-Md.), a member of the oversight committee, wants veterans charities to be held accountable.

    “I hope there is an explanation, but it seems that most of the funds they raise never reach the veteran community,” Sarbanes said through a spokeswoman. “Some of the practices being described are simply outrageous.”

    Rick Cohen, an expert on nonprofit groups and former executive director of the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, called the spending decisions of some charities “grotesque.”

    “I think in light of the Iraq war and the Afghanistan war, these veterans are the people who we should really be protecting and not using as excuses or avenues for ripping off charity philanthropy,” Cohen said.

  7. olotliny Says:

    How They Fared

    Thursday, December 13, 2007; A16

    The American Institute of Philanthropy, a leading charity watchdog, issued a report card this month for 29 veterans and military charities. Letter grades were based largely on the charities’ fundraising costs and the percentage of money raised that was spent on charitable activities. The charities that received failing grades are in bold type.

    Air Force Aid Society (A+)

    American Ex-Prisoners of War Service Foundation (F)

    American Veterans Coalition (F)

    American Veterans Relief Foundation (F)

    AMVETS National Service Foundation (F)

    Armed Services YMCA of the USA (A-)

    Army Emergency Relief (A+)

    Blinded Veterans Association (D)

    Disabled American Veterans (D)

    Disabled Veterans Association (F)

    Fisher House Foundation (A+)

    Freedom Alliance (F)

    Help Hospitalized Veterans/Coalition to Salute America’s Heroes (F)

    Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund (A+)

    Military Order of the Purple Heart Service Foundation (F)

    National Military Family Association (A)

    National Veterans Services Fund (F)

    National Vietnam Veterans Committee (D)

    Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society (A+)

    NCOA National Defense Foundation (F)

    Paralyzed Veterans of America (F)

    Soldiers’ Angels (D)

    United Spinal Association’s Wounded Warrior Project (D)

    USO (United Service Organization) (C+)

    Veterans of Foreign Wars and foundation (C-)

    Veterans of the Vietnam War & the Veterans Coalition (D)

    Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund (D)

    VietNow National Headquarters (F)

    World War II Veterans Committee (D)

  8. olotliny Says:

    Welcome Back, Veterans

    U.S. Military, U.S. Department of Defense, Labor, Business

    Jack Keane, Retired U.S. Army General and Former Army Vice Chief of Staff
    Michael E. O’Hanlon, Senior Fellow, Foreign Policy

    The Washington Times

    July 06, 2008 —
    After World War II, some 10 million Americans in arms came home to a grateful nation. Together with a citizenry steeled by the sacrifices of wartime economic conditions and guided by a can-do spirit and the newfound wonders of 20th-century industrial methods, they built the most prosperous nation the world had ever seen. Tom Brokaw was right to call them the greatest generation.
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    Today’s veterans are beginning to return from wartime theaters in Iraq and Afghanistan, too. But of course, everything is different now. Relatively modest in numbers, they do not define a whole generation the way World War II veterans did.

    In fact, never has this country asked so much of so few for so long, while the rest of us have generally continued on with our lives as before. These veterans’ transition to civilian life is much more gradual. Like the case in Korea and even more so in Vietnam, the cause they pursue abroad is not as universally accepted by their fellow Americans (though, thankfully, the overwhelming majority of Americans are grateful to individual servicemen and -women for their personal sacrifice). Perhaps most of all, the economy to which these patriots return is not as able to provide them with needed jobs.

    Of course, the lack of good entry-level employment opportunities for young individuals often lacking college degrees is a challenge for our contemporary American economy in general. Trends in globalization, automation, and competition have been putting downward pressure on the middle class for several decades. This is a problem for all of us, but it is especially difficult for those who have fought our nation’s wars – to whom we owe a special debt, and for whom transition back to civilian life is often especially hard as they contend with interrupted relationships and in many cases physical injuries and mental health challenges.

    For these reasons, Fred Wilpon, owner of the New York Mets, as well as Major League Baseball and the McCormick Foundation, with help from Tom Hanks, have just launched a major effort known as Welcome Back Veterans (visit welcomebackveterans.org for more).

    Part of this effort’s purpose is simply to honor those who have given so much. Every major League Baseball team around the country planned for special commemorative activities during games over the Fourth of July weekend. We are sure the several million fans who attend games this weekend and the tens of millions more watching on TV will enjoy the chance to join team owners, managers, and players in honoring our men and women in arms.

    But the objectives of this program go much further. The crux of the Welcome Back Veterans effort is to complement government efforts where gaps currently exist or where a strong private sector role is crucial.

    Specifically, Welcome Back Veterans has two priorities. First, it is attempting to aid with mental health treatment for veterans and their families where needed, with a goal of raising $100 million for that purpose. Second, working with private firms such as Travelers Insurance and 1-800-Flowers and AlliedBarton Security Services, it is also trying to create job opportunities for those coming home – a demographic for whom the unemployment rate exceeds 10 percent and for whom recent national economic challenges remain especially acute – and these range from mortgage crises to rising gas prices to elusive income growth.

    Several major U.S. corporations have promised to create about 40,000 job opportunities for returning veterans, roughly the number of combat veterans leaving the service each year. Welcome Back Veterans is seeking pledges to increase that number to 100,000.

    Of course, the corporations nobly and responsibly making such pledges might have hired some of those tens of thousands of veterans anyway. But there is still a great value to their pledge: It sends a message to those returning home and perhaps feeling a bit forlorn and forgotten, holds corporations to specific commitments that they can be expected to honor, and should thereby lead them to develop recruiting programs attuned to the special needs and abilities of veterans.

    Of course, our obligations to those who have served should not stop with any one new bill from Congress or any one new initiative from Major League Baseball and its partners. We all need to remember wounded warriors and visit them, to do what we can for the families of those deployed while they are gone, and to stay engaged as citizens in the war effort – whether we support the ongoing operations or not – so we can be informed as well as compassionate citizens.

    But for now, we hope others will join in honoring our veterans this July Fourth weekend. And we hope employers around the country, as well as other interested citizens (like the high school student who just gave several hundred hard-earned dollars to the effort), will go to the Welcome Back Veterans Web site to learn more, and to investigate what they might do to help veterans themselves.


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