Author’s note: Please read through the entire article BEFORE passing judgment or choosing to comment.
A coworker once described me as so patriotic that all I lacked was a trail of fireworks shooting out of my bum. I served six years on active duty, three tours during Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm. I can give a firsthand account of the sight and smells during the aftermath of the Turkey Shoot or the feeling of being on the first ship to enter the Gulf after Saddam invaded Kuwait. Today, I am a bit longer in the tooth, but no less patriotic.
In the past, I have championed hiring veterans over others because I understood their dedication and work ethic to have survived boot camp and the military structure. I’ve held back well-meaning, but uneducated, “sillyvilians” when a Navy SEAL explained the folly of claiming to have been a Navy SEAL when you had not.
The discussion did not last long, but at least the wannabe could then honestly claim he had been in a skirmish with one of the best warfighters in the world and shed some of his own blood (albeit from the nose and lip and not the breast) in the process. He did not win the Purple Heart for his efforts, but I suspect he was rewarded with a purple eye by the next morning…
I love America and have more respect for those who made the sacrifice—be it the ultimate, lasting injury or simply being away from family and loved ones—than I can express in words…And I look for ways to show that respect every day, not simply on Memorial and Veteran’s Day.
To support our fighting men and women, I have worked behind the scenes as a contractor in the intelligence arena, solicited money to buy supplies, packed care packages and attended the funerals of friends who sacrificed all. I have also had the honor and pleasure of participating in hunts with our wounded heroes in conjunction with the Wounded Warrior Project.
Veterans who wear the scars—internal or external—and prosthetics from war injuries deserve the highest amount of respect and support we can offer, which has led me to this dilemma.
Although the controversy is just making its way to the mainstream radar, the Wounded Warrior Project has been disassociating itself with firearms and knives for the past couple of years. References on its website have changed from “firearms” to “weapons.” Corporate sponsors such as Savage Arms are now replaced with Acosta Sales and Marketing and UHAUL.
Listening to a recent interview with Wounded Warrior Project’s CEO Steve Nardizzi, well, you would have thought it was ‘ol Slick Willy dodging the question. He started off by saying the WWP supported the Second Amendment and was happy to participate in hunting adventures and shoots as fundraisers—yet it prohibits using the WWP logo at such events.
Nardizzi went on to explain that the Wounded Warrior Project would not co-brand with firearm or knife manufacturers and retailers. He explained, “The return on investment just wasn’t there.” Return on investment? How much investment is WWP putting into the pot? It has no problem taking the firearm industry’s money; it just doesn’t want to be seen in public with us. So, essentially, the Wounded Warrior Project’s stance is that it does not want to be seen kissing us after it is done poking us?
What a great message this sends to our wounded heroes: “You were trusted with assault weapons (real ones, not what politician’s term ‘assault weapons’ when seeking reelection) until you were injured in service to our country.” Then…well, you might decide to hurt yourself so—in defense of the WWP’s reputation, not your future well being—we cannot be seen as partnering with ‘those companies’ in public.”
This was brought out in Leslie A. Coleman’s—public relations director for WWP—response to an e-mail message asking for a clarification to its stance, “Our position regarding firearms and alcohol is in response to the struggles that many injured service members face with substance abuse and suicide and the roles those items often play in those issues.” I wonder if WWP even considered the fact that the extra money could go toward additional support and treatment. Sweeping it under the carpet by playing politics sure as hell isn’t going to prevent a tragedy, but funds and support might!
If WWP does not want to play with the firearms industry, and it is all about the money, well WWP picked which side of the fence it wanted to be on, not me. And let’s go a step further in seeking the truth. It is not about the money. While being interviewed Nardizzi explained that co-branding requires significant internal coordination with lawyers, PR people and others to manage it and finished by stating that we wouldn’t understand it. Really? I certainly do.
Nardizzi was then countered with the suggestion of an offer to cover all WWP internal expenses, then co-brand (use WWP’s logo on guns and knives) as a way to contribute to WWP. Nardizzi refused to give a straight answer. So if it is all about the money and you offer to cover all costs, why wouldn’t WWP jump at the opportunity? Because it is not now, nor has it ever been about the money—it’s about the politics.
During the interview, Nardizzi took the offensive, saying, he “can’t believe donors would withhold donations from wounded vets because we don’t get anything out of it” (use of the logo). Yet, WWP would risk losing donations by playing politics instead of focusing on raising the funds to help our vets.
And this is where my dilemma really begins. Wounded Warrior Project does help a significant number of vets, and a call to action against it could negatively impact those vets. Would the onus of withholding support because of WWP’s position be on me, or WWP who made the decision? Either way it is the vets who could feel the pain from WWP’s politics and that has kept me up at night.
So I have a choice to make; after significant thought and soul searching (I would say prayer, but WWP bans any religiously affiliated organization as well—WWP lumps it in the same category as, guns, knives, sex and alcohol; although WWP has held fundraisers at the Playboy Mansion in the past), I have decided to drop my support of the Wounded Warrior Project, but NOT for those it serves.
In that regard, I plan to do quite the opposite.
I am pledging to double my efforts—both financially and physically—over the next year to one (or several) of the other great organizations dedicated to helping our wounded vets and challenge you to do the same.
Now, some have suggested that there is pressure from the board, from big donors or from elsewhere to take this position and it really is not Wounded Warrior Project’s fault. Who knows, and who cares? I will vet other organizations before offering my support. Quite honestly, I do not care if it takes money from the anti-gun crowd as well as the pro-gun groups. Apolitical is just fine with me. My priority is to help our wounded veterans any way I can, but I will not deal with those organizations bent on taking a stance firmly against organizations, groups or beliefs that I strongly relate with. An organization does not have to endorse my beliefs, but it certainly cannot sweep it under the carpet as the Wounded Warrior Project has done. “Oh, you are with who? Guns? Please leave your money at the back door, WWP does not want to be seen accepting it at the front!”
A call to action has been started by other industry leaders and I am going to follow in those footsteps.
- We need to start speaking out.
- Whenever the media airs a distorted report about guns, we have to be vocal in our opposition.
- When a business or politician makes an outrageous statement that is disparaging toward gun owners, we need speak out.
- Businesses that label firearm manufacturers, retailers and gun owners as ‘undesirable’ must understand the act will result in the loss of our support. We have rights and alternatives—we will exercise both!
To do any less is tantamount to passive acknowledgement and agreement to the policies that seeks to demonize our sport.
This is my list of organizations at which I am looking to move my support:
National Military Family Association
Fisher House Foundation
Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors – T.A.P.S.
Let’s Bring ‘Em Home
Special Operations Warriors Foundation
Navy Seal Foundation
The Semper Fi Fund
(A highly-rated charity that helps wounded vets of all branches)
I am sure there are as many opinions in support, as against, the Wounded Warrior Project’s stance of excluding certain groups. So please, feel free to express your comments and let everyone know of your favorite charities for veterans.
The opinions and statements contained within this article are solely those of the author and in no way should be construed to be reflective of Cheaper Than Dirt, its management or employees or any other commercial or non-profit entity mentioned in this article.