“I have always regarded the forward edge of battle as the most exclusive club in the world.” -Lt. Gen Sir Brian Gwynne Horrocks (1895-1995)
The author of the above quote, Lt. Gen. Sir Brian Horrocks, knew from whence he spoke. He was the commander of XXX Corps in Operation Market Garden, the largest daytime airborne drop ever held, and the event chronicled in the Cornelius Ryan book — later made into a movie of the same name — A Bridge Too Far.
This month, remember that Memorial Day is meant to signal much more than the traditional start of summer. It’s the day we remember those who paid the ultimate price during their service. Here’s a look at some veterans groups to whom you may wish to donate in order to say a small thanks for the work and sacrifices of the members of that “exclusive club.”
A caveat with any type of donation to any organization or solicitation. Before blindly giving to a charity, check them out. A good place to start is Charity Navigator (which also happens to be a charity as well). The American Institute of Philanthropy is also a great site.
Here are some highly-rated and oft-overlooked organization worth donating to. They are by no means the only ones out there (The Veterans Administration lists well over 100 different organizations), but four that Charity Watch rates as A+ organizations and one honorable mention.
Fisher House Foundation is best known for a network of comfort homes where military and veterans’ families can stay at no cost while a loved one is receiving treatment.
These homes are located at major military and VA medical centers nationwide, close to the medical center or hospital they serve. Fisher Houses have up to 21 suites, with private bedrooms and baths. Families share a common kitchen, laundry facilities, a warm dining room, and an inviting living room. Fisher House Foundation ensures that there is never a lodging fee. Since inception, the program has saved military and veterans’ families an estimated $200 million in out of pocket costs for lodging and transportation.
Fisher House Foundation also operates the Hero Miles program, using donated frequent-flyer miles to bring family members to the bedside of injured service members; as well as the Hotels for Heroes program, which uses donated hotel points to allow family members to stay at hotels near medical centers without charge. The Foundation also manages a grant program that supports other military charities and scholarship funds for military.
Begun in 2000 and established as an independent not-for-profit organization in 2003, the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund has provided close to $150 million in support for the families of military personnel lost in service to our nation, and for severely wounded military personnel and veterans. These efforts are funded entirely with donations from the public, and hundreds of thousands of individuals have contributed to the Fund. They have provided close to $20 million to families of United States and British military personnel lost in performance of their duty, mostly in service in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In January 2007 the Fund completed construction of the Center for the Intrepid, a $55 million world-class, state-of-the-art physical rehabilitation center at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas, and the National Intrepid Center of Excellence (NICoE), a 72,000 square-foot, two-story facility located on the Navy campus at Bethesda, Maryland, adjacent to the new Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, which provides the most advanced services available for advanced diagnostics, initial treatment plans and family education, introduction to therapeutic modalities, referral and reintegration support for military personnel, and veterans with TBI and post traumatic stress.
Created by a group of Marine Corps spouses nine years ago — and still run by those women today — the Semper Fi Fund is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. Together with its program, America's Fund, they provide immediate financial assistance and lifetime support for injured and critically ill members of the U.S. Armed Forces and their families. The charity directs urgently needed resources to post 9/11 service members who meet its criteria for assistance, from the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, and Reserves. It provides financial, emotional, and tiered support for injured/ill service members and their families through the following programs: Family support, adaptive housing, adaptive transportation, specialized equipment, education and career transitioning, rehabilitative sports programs, and more. It is known for providing rapid assistance sans red tape.
Since Semper Fi Fund was established in 2004, it has issued more than 69,000 grants, totaling close to $88 million in assistance to over 11,000 of our heroes and their families.
This is a national organization, but one of its chapters serves Fort Drum (home to the 10th Mountain Division of the US Army) in Watertown, NY. The organization is part of the national Armed Services YMCA (ASYMCA) of the USA network.
Watertown Family YMCA became an ASYMCA affiliate in 2001 and serves Fort Drum’s junior enlisted military service members and military families (a much underserved population across the military, in this writer’s opinion), through programs and services designed to improve or enhance Army-family quality of life. They provide programs such as free babysit twice a week for the spouses of deployed military and address the emotional needs of children with deployed parents and school aged children having a rough time adjusting to military life. They sponsor a variety of youth athletic programs, and many other programs to ease the lives of military families.
Their greatest need is resources that support programs for middle-school-aged youth, since those in military families experiencing family transitions like relocation or deployment must cope with those problems while transitioning from young child to adolescent.
The Patriot Guard Riders is an organization that bears mentioning, even though they’re not what comes to mind when one thinks “charitable organization.” These folks provide a service far and above what can be called the norm for our fallen. It’s the group of people who ride motorcycle escort to“ensure dignity and respect at memorial services honoring fallen military heroes, first responders and honorably discharged veterans.”
I’m proud to count a few of them as friends, and while they’re not a charitable organization in the traditional sense, what they do is absolutely amazing (and they are a not-for-profit) … all over the country in any weather, under any conditions. If — in this day and age —you’d ever like to meet a bunch of non-self-serving, humble, matter-of-fact people whose only mission is making sure the fallen are laid to rest properly, then these folks are it.
Gary Joyce was a US Army LRRP and Ranger and served in Vietnam from August 1968 to January 1971.