In September my friend Richard Botkin suggested I make a trip with him to Camp Pendleton, and to the Wounded Warriors Center across from the base hospital. Though a civilian, I was happy to return to the base as I married my wonderful Marine Corps brat in the Ranch House Chapel there. (And on my wedding morning my bride's USMC Colonel dad asked why I hadn't bothered to shine my shoes. Col. Helmer was a fine father-in-law, but every inch the Marine.)
The Wounded Warrior Center is home to up to a few dozen Marines completing their rehabilitation from wounds suffered in the war or in training for the war. It is one of many projects sponsored by The Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund, which contributed over $100,000 to the outfitting of the center. A Fallbrook friend, Carl, had helped get the center painted and had written me about it, but until you visit, you don't "get" the commitment of these wounded heroes to their rehabilitations.
That visit led to a three hour radio show yesterday which featured more than a dozen Marines from around the country who are in various stages of their rehabilitations from wounds ranging from the loss of one or two limbs, to severe burns, to traumatic brain injuries. It was a parade of heroes as each Marine (and an Army Sergeant and two Navy Petty Officers and a Corpsman) came forward to tell their stories of enlistment, service in war, injury and recovery. Often they were joined on air by a parent or spouse, and they all told of how the Semper Fi Fund had played a crucial role in allowing their recovery to proceed, whether by facilitating the travel to their side of a parent or family member or the purchase of needed equipment, like a specialty wheel chair which is allowing a Marine paralyzed from the waist down to attend culinary school on his way to a job cooking in a New Orleans eatery.
Listeners were near unanimous in their response: What amazing young men, so dedicated to their fellow Marines and so absolutely without complaint about their injuries. While every civilian was left stunned by their character, the Marines just wanted to say thank you to the supporters of the Semper Fi Fund for their support of their rehabilitation. I asked almost every young man how they wanted civilians to react to them and to their wounds. They all advised that we civilians avoid staring and just ask the questions on our minds. Almost all of them allowed as to how they appreciated the thank you letters they had received on their journeys back to civilian life. And each was quick to encourage contributions to the Semper Fi Fund which would be there to assist the next Marine beginning his or her recovery.
The Semper Fi Fund has raised more than $7 million since it began in 2003, and is one of many fine organizations that exist to help our military during this long war. A few days ago I received this e-mail from a listener:
I'd like to make a request that may have some broad applicability. I've discussed with my parents and my wife's family that this year we give to armed services charities en lieu of gifts of things we don't really need. We're not hurting nor are we rich. We don't want to make a political statement; we want to help the families of those who have contributed to America at a level that most of us don't. You've been a good source in the past of worthwhile ideas. Fyi; between our families we will probably contribute a couple of thousand. Could you suggest worthwhile organizations and aid functions? My wife and I have a list but there are probably others that deserve support.
If you were to acknowledge this in your blog, don't use our name. Let's focus on organizations we need to support.
If this is not blog material could you still send a list? We're committed to this idea.
I responded by listing three of the great ones:
There are many more organizations assisting the troops, and in the comments below you will find them. The key is to pick one or more and direct some seasonal giving towards them.
Your aunt or uncle, or brother-in-law or co-worker will be pleased to receive from you a note stating that a donation has been made in their name to one of these groups. Far more pleased, in fact, than with a new tie or a fruitcake. Give it some thought. And then give some help to the men and women of the military who have given much in the service of the country.