How best to support our troops/our veterans?

Discussion in 'Dog Brothers Martial Arts' started by Crafty Dog, May 21, 2015.

  1. Crafty Dog

    Crafty Dog Active Member

    [h=1]Wounded Warrior Warning[/h][h=2]Emotional Appeals? Caveat Emptor[/h]By Mark Alexander · May 20, 2015 [​IMG]

    "Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclination, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence." —John Adams (1770)
    [TABLE="align: center"]
    It appears that some Leftmedia talkingheads have finally decided to ask some tough questions about the corrupt practices of the Clintons, Bill and Demo presidential hopeful Hillary, and their flush Clinton Family Foundation.
    Charity Watch has the CFF on its "watch list," and Bill Allison, senior fellow at the non-partisan Sunlight Foundation, a government watchdog group, has likened the CFF to a "slush fund" for the Clintons. And for good reason: The Clintons took in more than $140 million in donations in 2013, but spent a comparatively paltry $9 million on direct aid.
    Seeing the corrupt Clinton Machine subjected to some scrutiny by the media is a welcome sight indeed, but it's also a temporary one. It won't be long before the Clintons' media sycophants have circled the wagons around their Demo darlings and once again trained their guns on Republican presidential hopefuls.
    But I digress...
    [TABLE="align: right"]
    This week, midway between Armed Forces Day and Memorial Day, a Marine officer requested I ask some tough questions about another foundation amid charges of questionable practices.
    He forwarded me an email assailing the integrity of the Wounded Warrior Project (WWP) — a Florida-based organization that spends so much of its revenue on advertising that it is now the most widely recognized veteran support organization.
    My Marine colleague asked that we investigate the email claims, and we did.
    On behalf of our readers, including tens of thousands of military Patriots and their families who have or are considering financially supporting WWP, here is what we've determined concerning the questions raised by a widely circulated email.
    That email makes claims about exorbitant salaries being paid to WWP executives and then referenced a website "that exposed exactly how the charity spends the money it receives from patriotic Americans." It then concludes, "WWP might as well be run by the Mafia," and references an article at an online site called "Veterans Today" as the source.
    Notably, that article has now been removed, and for the record, Veterans Today is a purveyor of mindless "conspiracy theories" and borderline neo-Nazi propaganda. Thus, neither the original email nor its "source" is credible.
    That errant email notwithstanding, I have noted the enormous amount of donor dollars WWP spends asking for more donor dollars, and so further reviewed WWP's history and financial statements.
    For background, the WWP was founded in 2003 by John Melia, who himself suffered severe injuries in a 1992 Somalia helicopter crash. In 2005, the United Spinal Association granted $2.7 million to WWP to "develop into a stand-alone charity with its own identity and programs." WWP became an independent charitable organization shortly thereafter, certified by the IRS as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit.
    WWP's mission is to "honor and empower Wounded Warriors" and to "foster the most successful, well-adjusted generation of wounded service members in our nation's history." Its stated objective is to "raise awareness and enlist the public's aid for the needs of injured service members, help injured service members aid and assist each other and provide unique, direct programs and services to meet the needs of injured service members."
    Fact is, WWP makes great strides to achieve its mission — all well and good. But to determine the degree to which WWP's revenues support that mission, our team reviewed the two most recent audited financial statements available, 2012 and 2013, as well as the WWP's marketing material and website.
    In 2013, WWP took in almost $305 million in donations and claimed service to about 35,000 registered alumni and 4,000 others defined as "family or caregivers of a registered alumni." Those donations were up from $200 million in 2012, due primarily to massive advertising expenditures.
    With its proceeds, WWP funds about 15 programs and writes grants to other veteran support groups. But what we found most alarming is the amount of funding paid for advertising and administration.
    [TABLE="align: left"]
    Many veteran support organizations are run effectively by volunteers — but not WWP.
    According to Charity Navigator, the nation's largest oversight and review organization for charitable groups, WWP allocates about 55% of its revenue to program expenses while the remaining 45% is used for fundraising, salaries, consulting, meetings, events and travel.
    WWP received a "D" rating from the American Institute of Philanthropy and only a C+ by Charity Watch. Indeed, WWP ranks substantially below other national veteran support groups like Fisher House Foundation, Operation Homefront and the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors.
    WWP's CEO Steven Nardizzi, a lawyer who now receives a $375,000 salary, served up a legalese rebuttal to the evaluations from Charity Watch and Charity Navigator, insisting in The Chronicle of Philanthropy that those rating organizations were "horribly ineffective and misinformed."
    However, facts are stubborn things, and an organization's audited financial statements can certainly expose a lot of facts.
    While WWP expenditures appear to qualify under the legal parameters for 501(c)(3) nonprofits, only about 55 cents of every dollar WWP takes in goes to direct benefits for a wounded warrior. We have no objection to WWP's considerable efforts to raise funds, but it should raise questions when such a large percentage of donations fail to make it to our wounded warriors.
    My recommendation?
    The growth of veteran support organizations since 2001, some of them worthy of your investment, is as viral as those surprise military homecoming videos — and most of those organizations are appealing to similar sentiments.
    Of course, no American Patriot would oppose supporting veterans, particularly those who have suffered severe injuries. I know more than a few of them, and last year The Patriot Post helped build a house to accommodate the needs of a young soldier who lost both legs to an IED in Afghanistan.
    But, when organizations pitch strong sentimental appeals asking for your money, whether those appeals be for starving children in Africa or disabled Veterans at home, caveat emptor.
    When investing your dollars to support veterans, seek out good third-party evaluations to determine how much of those dollars will actually support that mission, and choose one where at least 75% of revenues do just that.
    Pro Deo et Constitutione -- Libertas aut Mors
    Semper Vigilans Fortis Paratus et Fidelis
  2. Crafty Dog

    Crafty Dog Active Member

    The following is something I posted elsewhere on January 15:

    Woof All:

    For several years now we have been making monthly donations to the Wounded Warrior Project.

    As of today, we have discontinued that donation.


    Just to make double sure, I just checked with Frankie McRae and he is of the same general opinion.

    As part of our research on all this conducted on the "Things Soldierly" thread on the DBMA Ass'n forum, one of our members posted as follows:


    Woof, Guro -

    Here are some four-star (Charity Navigator) rated charities doing similar work to The Wounded Warrior Project:

    Special Operations Warrior Foundation:
    The Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund:
    Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS):
    Operation Homefront:
    DAV (Disabled American Veterans) Charitable Service Trust:
    Homes For Our Troops:
    Fisher House Foundation:
    The Air Warrior Courage Foundation:


    Thus we are now giving a monthly donation to:

    Frankie confirms them as an excellent group. He also recommends: with which is is personally involved; the event is held at his gun range just outside of Fayetteville, NC.

    God bless America,
    Marc/Crafty Dog

    Crafty Dog, Jan 8, 2015
  3. Crafty Dog

    Crafty Dog Active Member

    Operation Lost in Translation
    What do we owe the Iraqi and Afghan ‘terps’ who fought with us in Iraq and Afghanistan? This Army vet is trying to save their lives.
    William McGurn
    May 22, 2015 6:12 p.m. ET

    His Maryland driver’s license lists his name as “FNU Ajmal.” The FNU stands for “first name unknown.” It’s the way all his legal and identification documents appear, because this is what some bureaucrat slapped on the green card he received from Uncle Sam when he came to America.

    His real name is Ajmal Faqiri. But the FNU that has become his legal name in America is a metaphor for the bungling that characterizes one of the noblest efforts to come out of our long wars in Afghanistan and Iraq: a 2008 decision by Congress to grant special visas to the Afghan and Iraqi interpreters and translators who put their own lives at risk to serve American troops.

    “There are hundreds just like Ajmal who now go by F-N-U,” says Matt Zeller, a 33-year-old Army veteran of Afghanistan who now runs a nonprofit—No One Left Behind—founded to hold America to its promise to resettle interpreters such as Mr. Faqiri here in the U.S.

    Mr. Zeller hails from upstate New York, descended from a Scottish clan whose proud claim is never to have made its peace with England. He produces a photo of three military uniforms that hang alongside his in his closet: his grandfather’s Navy uniform from World War II, his great-grandfather’s Army uniform from World War I, and the dress blues of the great-great-great-great-great grandfather who fought for the Union in the Civil War.

    His family’s martial contributions to America trace back even further, to a colonel who served under George Washington. In short, these are not people who shy away from a fight. So it was probably inevitable that not long after 9/11, when a friend left him alone for 10 minutes in a shopping mall, he returned to find Mr. Zeller had enlisted in the National Guard. While still serving in the Guard, he signed up for ROTC to become an officer. After graduating from Hamilton College, he studied Arabic at the University of Chicago and was then poached by the CIA.

    But in 2008 his National Guard unit was deploying to Afghanistan, and the Army claimed him back. There he would learn how vital the local terps—affectionate Army slang for interpreters—were to the Americans. “Your terp is your eyes and ears,” says Mr. Zeller. “They are your best early-warning signal, because they know the terrain and they know the people and they can sense when someone is lying or something is wrong.”

    He adds, “My terp was more important to me than my weapon.”

    Mr. Zeller means that literally. On an April day in 2008 on a mountaintop in Ghazni province, then-Lt. Zeller and 14 other soldiers were ambushed by the Taliban. With the U.S. troops outnumbered three to one and running low on ammunition, he was sent flying into a ditch when an enemy mortar landed nearby. When he regained consciousness, Mr. Zeller says, he thought he was going to die on this Afghan hillside.

    Then he felt someone jump in next to him and heard shots being fired right by his head. When he looked up, he saw the bodies of two Taliban who had been about to kill him when they were shot dead by his interpreter, Janis Shinwari. Mr. Zeller says he knows of at least four other Americans who returned home alive because Mr. Shinwari saved their lives in Afghanistan.

    Whether in Iraq or Afghanistan, the reward for a record of service to American troops too often has been to become a marked man. The plight of such men has become especially poignant now that the enemies our troops fought are reasserting themselves. While Americans who read about Ramadi might think of it as the fall of an Iraqi city, Mr. Zeller and his terps think of the terrible retribution awaiting any Iraqis found to have helped our men and women in uniform.

    Mr. Shinwari notes that the social media the terps use to keep in touch with the American soldiers and Marines they served with now make it easy for the Taliban or Islamic State to identify them. “All interpreters have Facebook pages with their names and their pictures and photos of their American friends,” he says.

    We’ve been here before. Forty years ago in Vietnam, those who worked for the Americans also became the most vulnerable once Saigon fell to the Communists. Some were killed; others were forced into re-education camps; some took to leaky boats in a desperate effort to escape. “This time it’s going to be brutal and in our faces,” says Mr. Zeller. “Filmed beheadings put out on the Internet and televised around the world.” The retribution is already happening, he says, but it goes unreported because there is no longer any U.S. press outside the bigger cities.

    Mr. Zeller got into the business of helping terps because of Mr. Shinwari. The man who saved his life had applied for one of the special visas for Iraqis and Afghans who could prove their service to American forces. But the application became bogged down in paperwork and security clearances. At one point it was revoked and then re-approved. Meanwhile, the Taliban had stuck a note on the hood of his car: “Judgment Day is coming.”

    As he waited, Mr. Shinwari’s wife and children went into hiding, moving among family and friends. Meanwhile, over in America, Mr. Zeller was putting his Scottish orneriness to good effect, enlisting members of Congress, prodding the bureaucracy and in general refusing to take no for an answer. Finally, in October 2013, Mr. Shinwari and his family stepped off a flight onto American soil.

    They were free but they had nothing. Mr. Zeller had prepared for that too. On a crowdfunding website, he had raised $35,000 for the Shinwaris. But when he went to their apartment in Alexandria, Va., to give it to them, Mr. Shinwari refused the gift. He wanted to make his own way.

    “He told me, ‘Brother, I cannot accept this from you,’ and I was thinking to myself, I have no idea how I am going to return this money,” Mr. Zeller remembers. Mr. Shinwari suggested they use the money to help others like himself. On that October night in a modest Virginia apartment, the No One Left Behind foundation was born.

    The concept is simple. Soldiers take care of their own. And if they can’t find a way to go around an obstacle in the way of helping a brother or sister who served with them, they’re going to run it over.

    The foundation is still young. But it focuses on three practical elements that Washington is unable to address. The first is Operation Welcome Home, which meets the instant needs of an interpreter family: a place to live while they get on their feet. Sometimes someone will throw in a battered old car—which Mr. Zeller says these guys immediately use to earn some money, whether by delivering pizzas or driving to a job.

    The second is Operation Got Your Back, which helps these Iraqi and Afghan families with jobs and assimilation. Though the interpreters all speak English, their wives and children, who have been more sheltered in their home cultures, often do not. So the foundation helps them with English and entry into American life.

    The last is Operation Lost in Translation. This is designed to reunite the translators and interpreters with the military vets they served with. It’s also a naked enlistment effort. Mr. Zeller says as more American vets and community leaders come into the foundation’s network, it is becoming easier to find the terps jobs and get their families settled.

    But as word of the foundation grows, there also come more pleas for help. They come by email, by Facebook, by phone call. And it’s always the same: My family is in danger because I worked for the Americans. Please help us get out before it’s too late.

    The biggest hurdle, says Mr. Zeller, is bureaucracy. The same government responsible for all those Iraqis and Afghans now having “first name unknown” on all their official papers has a cumbersome application process that can include requiring you to track down people you served with years ago to write you a recommendation. Then you have to be cleared by multiple security agencies from the FBI and CIA to the NSA. And so on.

    “I get that no one wants to be the person who accidentally lets a bad guy slip through,” says Mr. Zeller. Earlier this month, for example, a former Iraqi translator who came to the U.S. on this program was arrested after the FBI said he’d lied to its agents about pledging allegiance to the Islamic State. Mr. Zeller says this is the first case he’s heard of out of the thousands of military translators who have been brought here. “Surely America can meet our security needs while honoring our debt to those who stood shoulder to shoulder with us in combat.”

    In 2014 Washington stepped up its game after years in which it approved only a fraction of the annual visa allotment. Thanks to the big boost in 2014, roughly 18,000 Iraqi and Afghan terps have been admitted. That still leaves a backlog of 13,000 applications pending for Afghanistan and 2,500 for Iraq.

    Clearly the work has its joys: In scarcely a year and a half, No One Left Behind has helped 24 terps get their visas approved and 456 others, which includes family members, resettle here. And every day Mr. Zeller and his merry band get better at cutting through the red tape. But the organization is still small and lacks the resources to help everyone who deserves it.

    Mr. Zeller says one of his goals is to get Americans to see the terps the way the Americans who served with them in combat see them. “To the government, these guys are refugees,” says Mr. Zeller. “To me and the others who fought there, these guys are fellow vets.

    ‘When I came home from Afghanistan, there were people I didn’t even know at the airport cheering me. I can’t tell you how profoundly moving that was. I’d like to see these men and their families get that same kind of welcome when they come to America.”

    This Memorial Day weekend, Mr. Zeller says he will spend some time at Section 60 in Arlington National Cemetery, the final resting place for the Americans who wore the uniform of our nation and gave their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan. He will also have a barbecue out at a horse farm in the western part of Virginia. Mr. Shinwari and his wife and two children will join him. There they will remember the dead, give thanks for the blessing of living in freedom—and resolve not to rest so long as there remains some Iraqi or Afghan whose life is now in peril because of his service to our troops.

    “I’m probably the only guy in the foundation world whose goal is to have my nonprofit go out of business in 10 years,” says Mr. Zeller. “Because if we can do that, it will truly mean we have left no one behind.”

    Mr. McGurn is a Journal columnist and member of the editorial board.

Share This Page