Over time, we have seen the needs change from funds for travel of family members to the injured soldier, to addressing more basic needs of those who have been discharged, even down to the level of providing food for their families. When reviewing the individuals who have received grants from the FWSF, it is telling that all are enlisted men and women who find themselves in tough financial straits. Often times, what they need is help on the rent and other essential expenses, such as medical supplies.
Each of the dozens of veterans who have been personally assisted has a different story to tell. They're from all over Michigan. From Portland to East Detroit, from Pittsfield Township to Wayne, we find veterans in need.
When we were approached by Rick D., every possible basic need was overdue. His car payment and rent were three months past due, and payments were behind on his insurance, his telephone, his water, light bills and credit cards. Rick explained that he had been deployed in November of 2006 with the 303 MP Company to Iraq. "Our primary mission was to train Iraqi police. We normally worked out of a city called Nafiit. My platoon. . . got hit the hardest in Iraq. Eighty percent of my platoon was wounded at some point in time throughout our deployment." He recounted one particular mission where he was wounded:
"When we radioed to battalion to let them know we were en route back to the FOB, they informed out that our normal route back had been closed due to a possible IED. We were redirected to travel through a city called Bayji, which bothered most of us because if you went through Bayji it was known that you were going to be shot at, at the very least. We had just entered the city when my truck was hit by an anti-tank grenade, and went off right above my seat. I was showered with shrapnel, my gunner sustained shrapnel wounds to his one arm and the civilian we had in the back seat of the truck was on fire. I still have shrapnel in both my legs, and sometimes my legs do bother me, if I walk or run or it's simply cold outside. I also have many other issues from being over there. I have PTSD, which seems to be one of my bigger issues."
It was clear that re-adjusting to civilian life was difficult for Rick. The assistance that was given to him from the FWSF helped catch him up on his outstanding bills. He wrote, "Once again, I would like to thank your organization for the help you have given me. It means a lot to me. And, if there is anything I can do for your organization by volunteering time or work, I would be more than happy to do so. Thank you so very much for all the help."
The veterans who have requested help from the FWSF often turn to the fund as a last resort. These are men and women who are proud, and asking for this kind of help is not easy. It is our duty, as recipients of their service, to honor their commitment to our country by helping them meet their needs.
We also had the opportunity to help out Gale J. He served active duty in the U.S. Army from 2004 to 2007 and was discharged as rank E4. He served in Iraq for a year with the 101st Airborne Division, 3rd Brigade Combat Team. He was injured on January 1, 2006 by an IED and knocked unconscious. That incident has resulted in short and long term memory loss, blurred vision, racing thoughts, headaches and nightmares. He has an inability to concentrate, fear of closed spaces and large crowds. He is still suffering panic attacks years later. He found the stress of college was too much. Gale says that he "tried to work at several places and couldn't keep employment". He has found help from the VA's Battle Creek TBI and PTSD clinics.
At the time his request came into the FWSF, Gale had received service connected disability from the VA, but had not been paid on the ratings. "This has caused a great hardship that has caused us to fall behind in our rent payment, our vehicle payment and all our other bills. My vehicle is about to be repossessed, while my landlord is about to start eviction proceedings. I'm at my wit's end and all I get from the VA is we're still working on it. I know when my country called I was there to serve; now I feel as though I'm a failure that can't even support his family."
The FWSF was there with monetary assistance for Gale and his family. About a month later, we received a note that said, among other things:
"I want to take this time to say thank you from the bottom of my heart for the monies that were granted to me by your organization. I never thought that such generosity existed in our great country. . . I want to assure you that every penny will be spent on bringing my family's needs up to date. A week ago, I was wondering and praying how we were going to make ends meet. Now that worry has been set aside, thanks to great Americans like yourselves. It has been hard for me to watch my family struggle as I struggle each and every day from injuries incurred on the battlefield. We will never forget what you have done for us. May God Bless You and Keep You."
The FWSF has found itself in the role of solving an ever-widening variety of veterans' problems. It seems that injured veterans are particularly susceptible to scams. We were contacted by a wheelchair-bound veteran in East Detroit who needed funding for a motorized ramp at the back of his house. He had been told by a contractor that he had to purchase two ramps--one for the front and one for the back, in order to qualify for a VA home assistance program. The contractor then tried to blame this dual requirement on the City zoning ordinances. A FWSF volunteer contacted the City and confirmed that no such requirement existed. The FWSF then alerted the City to the disreputable contractor and the project was completed with a reputable one.
The FWSF has worked with and financially supported a number of organizations that are also concerned with the welfare of our returning soldiers. This includes The Patriot Guard, Rolling Thunder, Special Operations Fund, Homes for Our Troops, the Michigan National Guard Family Support Fund, as well as the 10th FW Family Support Group. It is through these organizations that we have also been able to spread the influence of your financial contributions.
As Americans, we have all been exposed to the popular sentiment, "Support Our Troops." We see it on television, billboards, bumper stickers, and hear it spoken of on radio, even within the lyrics of popular songs. But, like so many other things in this fast-paced country of ours, it soon becomes part of the background noise of our daily lives. We know you want to help. We hear words of support from the public every day, and we are grateful. But we also hear, "I don't know HOW to help." Ladies and gentlemen, this is the way. By supporting the FWSF you directly, positively impact the lives of our hero soldiers and their families.
With our sincere and heartfelt thanks,
The Fallen and Wounded Soldiers Fund