Cars of all makes and sizes from Ford Model 'T", to military jeeps and tanks, to motorcycles and cars that were altered for disabled passengers were on display at the 7th Annual Wounded Warriors Car Show in Long Beach, CA on Sunday, August 10, 2014. Held at Wyotech, a division of Cal State Long Beach, the large campus trains adjutant professions as mechanics, ultra sound technicians, nursing, and others
Run by former Marine Mike Green, he stated that for the past years they have raised over $80,000 to help the organization Semper Fi Fund. Receiving a newsletter from the group, six years ago and realized that he could help. "So I gathered together some of my Marine friends and we found sponsors." In the past years, the car show has taken a veteran's car and rehabilitated the car to fit his disability. Unfortunately, this year there was no sponsor to step up. Gift baskets were auctioned off to help the veterans, as well.
The motto for the group - Semper Fi - comes from the Marine motto "always faithful." Started in the kitchen of Karen Guenther, she was joined by other Marine wives from the 1st Marine Division -- who felt the need to do something to help those who needed additional support.
While Karen was on duty as a pediatric nurse, that she experienced her first medical evacuation (MEDEVAC) combat wounded arriving at the hospital. Each one she saw reminded her of the incredible bravery of how the service members were coping and their profound sacrifices. She was struck with how they would cope with their new existence and the wounds they had suffered.
A few at the hospital began providing simple support including welcome home packages providing basic necessities. They realized that not only were the service members suffering, but their families, as well. After all, the DOD (Department of Defense) provides only for three family members to come visit the disabled service member. What about the grandparents? Or the kids? What about what happens when he gets out? The DOD provides medical support and take care of the service member, but Semper Fi Fund fill in the gaps.
One day, Karen met a service member paralyzed from combat sustained trauma. The quadriplegic desperately needed adapted transportation and through a gracious donation, they delivered a van to the courageous young man, all the while realizing there were many more like him out there.
The group of wives began meeting weekly. Each put in $100 of their own money, thinking that this would be a limited service engagement as they did what little they could to assist the men and women of the services. Soon they realized that the need was enormous and ongoing for the life of service member. They needed to broaden their scope of services to include all type of needs.
It was to be a marriage - a commitment for life. When one veteran's ten year old car broke down, the Semper Fi Fund stepped up to provide another disabled adapted vehicle for him.
When one young man was diagnosed with PTSD, the fund provided him with gas cards for his family to come visit him in the hospital. It's the little things that people often forget that mean the most. Having them come visit him gave him the strength to complete his treatment and the iPAD helped with his TBI issues giving him reminders for appointments and medication.
Many military personnel thinking asking for help is a sign of weakness, but it's not. If someone is wounded with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress), but not enough to go to the hospital, they start meeting with SFF through the recovery care center coordinator. Those with PTSD might not be hospitalized, but they are referred by different channels including , military liaisons and direct calls.
A young service member was given a crib with side rails so that, while in the wheel chair, he could get his child out.
For another family, Semper Fi Fund provided a stroller specifically adapted for the injured service member. They assisted a triple amputee gain back his courage and his self esteem, they have provided funds to train dogs to help with tasks and give respect and love back to the disabled, they modify houses and provide ramps.
One young man couldn't see his folks because of the lack of a ramp at his parents' home. SFF provided the ramp and modified the house so that he could visit.
Another Marine Staff Sergeant, having served in Iraq, had been blown up by an IDE. The blast broke both his legs, ribs, collapsed lungs and broken vertebrae resulted in a spinal cord injury. Paralyzed from the waist down, he became a quadriplegic. "When you join the military, you think of sacrificing your life for your country, and your brothers in arms. What most don't think of is the possibility of sustaining lasting significant injuries. The Semper Fi Fund was there from the beginning of my recovery . They assisted for my family to travel to see me and adapted my vehicle that accommodated my wheelchair. Assisting with the modification of my home, they also got me involved in handcycling and a racing wheelchair as well as work out equipment to use."
Disabled, many isolate themselves and become depressed. Together with SFF, many of the families bonded and learned they are not alone.
In May, 2004, the group officially incorporated as the Semper Fi Fund. The first checks given to the service members were met with grateful thanks. Even then, they thought their work would be just temporary and that they would be back at their day jobs before too long.
It's been now ten years and tens of thousands of donors. They've been able to provide assistance totaling more than $94 million to more than 12,000 families. While they have helped many Marines, they also assist Sailors, Soldiers, Airmen, Coast Guardsmen, and Reservists. Today, their passion is stronger than ever. Their work is sacred as the service members and their families inspire them to keep the critical mission moving forward.
The American motto is no soldier left behind and the Semper Fi Fund follows this to a 'T." Rated highest among charities ( A+ from Charity Watch and 4 stars from Charity Navigator), Semper Fi uses only 6% of the donations for overhead costs and the rest of the monies goes directly to support the veterans and their families. They do not do fancy ads or give aways and most of the fundraisers are done by individuals and community groups. Some of our most heartwarming contributors are kids who give their piggybanks.
Every day, every way, they find a new way to help.
How do service members learn about SFF? Each of the military hospitals and VA’s have a liaison which will refer those in need to SFF. The SFF has case managers in all the major military hospitals and PolyTrauma VA’s , we work with case managers at the VA’s across the nation, District Injured Support Cells, Recovery Care Coordinators and wherever service members are being treated or cared for. Service members and their families can also call us directly.
In November, Matt Littrell will ride cross-country from Camp Pendleton to raise awareness for PTSD and will be aided by Semper Fi. On the site, you will also see several stores that give a % of their proceeds to the fund. One young boy gave up his piggy bank to the fund while others - both personal and corporations - have given thousands. With the burn rate of over 1 million a month, anything and everything is welcome.
The way may be over, but the suffering is not. It is crucial that we don't forget these men and women who fought and suffered for us. They are still in pain and will be for many years to come. We are in for the long haul, " says Wendy Lethin, Vice President of Community Outreach. "We have to continue to fight for awareness and to fund and sustain the needs of our service men and women."
Your donation is tax deductible. Awareness is needed and doors need to be opened. "The war is over but the veterans need care for the rest of their lives and we cannot forget them. It's a marriage vow that we intend to keep."
Go to SemperFiFund mail your check to Semper Fi Fund, 825 College Blvd., #102, PMB 609, Oceanside, CA 92057. They have offices throughout the country from California and Tennessee to Virginia. For more information call 760 725 3680 or 703 640 0181.