For my last ten years in higher education, I oversaw the Veterans Program at a college in California. As young men and women returned from their deployments, they arrived at the college doorsteps. I did what I could to help with their transition into civilian life, and I was respected for my efforts. One day a marine came to see me with a particular concern. His friend, a former Army Ranger, had been told that he had to pay out-of-state tuition, and he did not have the funds. I met with the young man.
He told me that California was his only home. He had had many deployments in the Middle East, and when he was sent home, it was always to California. But, since he was not born in the state, he did not qualify for in-state tuition.
I told him I would do what I could to help him. He stressed that he didn’t want any handouts. He wanted California to realize that it was his only home.
“I was promised an education," he told me. "But, I have no means to pay for these high fees and no where else to go."
Then he asked the question I was afraid he would ask.
"Why can all these foreigners have in-state tuition and not me?”
I had no answer. I knew California law. I asked him to come back in a week.
I contacted elected officials, and I created an anonymous scholarship for him. But neither effort was sufficient. When I saw him again, he told me that he was re-enlisting in Special Forces, another branch.
“Aren’t you concerned about the danger,” I asked. His response haunts me even today.
“Yes, but it's what I know, and they respect me.”
I don't have any idea if this young man is still alive or not. But, I think of him often and especially when I make my donations. I wish everyone had the opportunity I had to work with veterans. It was an experience that changed my life; I suspect this would be true for anyone.
The four organizations below are all highly rated by Charity Navigator. Two of the organizations assist our injured heroes. With gratitude I write my checks, and with respect, I share these programs with you.
In 1999, Doctors Without Borders was awarded the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize. It was recognized for its work on multiple continents, and their medical staff who have treated millions upon millions of people were honored. These impressive professionals face their own risks when they leave the comfort of their homes. Doctors and workers have been murdered in Afghanistan and other sites, and yet they continue to go to areas of dire need.
Movies and television shows have romanticized the specialized work of the Navy Seals. What is rarely seen are the hardships endured through the years that follow deployments. The foundation provides a comprehensive set of programs specifically designed to improve health and welfare for these courageous sailors. It also helps the families by providing critical support during times of illness, injury, loss and transition.
Building Homes for Heroes® assists wounded American service members and their families. It is strongly committed to rebuilding lives and supporting the brave men and women who have been injured while serving the country. The organization builds or modifies homes, and gifts them, mortgage-free, to veterans and their families. These homes not only help to remove the family's financial burden, they help to restore the individual's freedom, and enable the veteran to lead a more independent and productive civilian life.
Direct Relief is a humanitarian aid organization, active in all 50 states and more than 80 countries, with a mission to improve the health and lives of people affected by poverty or emergencies. It provides assistance without regard to politics, religious beliefs, or ethnic identities. Its programs focus on maternal and child health, the prevention and treatment of disease, and emergency preparedness and response. They are tailored to the circumstances of most vulnerable and at-risk people.