I have been around a number of social entrepreneurs who are making a tremendous impact in the Veteran community. As a Veteran, and one who has branded himself as an advocate, I often wrestle with where to best place my time and my money.
There are thousands (a few listed here on CharityWatch.org) of not for profit charities that assist Veterans or their families. From service dogs, to mortgage assistance, to rides to the VA, there are so many people doing great work. However, as these wars have wound down, it feels as if the pace of creating new Veteran’s non-profits has slowed. I think this is a good thing. A point that I am keenly more aware of now is that non-profit does not mean “can lose money and survive”.
Once Afghanistan shuts down, we will hopefully close up shop and effectively stop our production of “Combat” or “War” Veterans. I am totally fine with that state of being. This, however raises an issue for our community to continue to generate stories of interest in the population at large.
I often think about the “market” for charity dollars. Our 7% total population of America is declining in numbers quickly with the steady expiration of the Vietnam Generation. That generation, which had the draft, makes up a huge portion of our voter base and voting power, as well as a stable pool of funding for these new and needed charities. We have less news coverage, a small and declining population, and we are fractured and heterogeneous in our coverage across the country.
With the decline of the Vietnam generation, from an interaction and personal connection standpoint, we are an even greater endangered species. I venture to say that more people know someone with breast cancer or have a smaller degree of separation than someone who knows a Veteran. Granted, near our military installations, that is probably not the case, but in large metropolitan areas, I think that is most likely the case. Believe me, putting aside the struggles of all peoples, we face an uphill battle in the public consciousness for charitable, private dollars.
I think that we will, and should, enter into a phase where we consolidate and reorganize our Veteran groups. A key to this, in my mind, is to drop the “war” or “theatre” qualifiers for Veterans and Veterans groups. If you served and never left America’s soil, you still served. I talk to a good number of Veterans. I often hear many Veterans refer to themselves as “Gulf War Era” or “Vietnam Era”. This attempt to attach some other adjective to try and compare themselves to the current crop who served overseas is where we are failing to strengthen our numbers. This includes the many VFWs, AMVETS, Vietnam Veterans of America, IAVA, United Ware Veterans Council… you name it. I understand that people want to take care of their own, but we have to endear more and future generations now, with and without war. Anyone who has ever put on a uniform, or is wearing one now and will not see combat needs to be in our ranks, the rank of proud Veteran.
So, when you take out your wallet, or donate your time in the coming weeks, please keep in mind our story and the need for private dollars to keep coming in to support all of the Soldiers who, war or not, need these services to continue to serve with honor.
2 down. I am one behind, but I will make it up. Thanks for reading.