Defensive Misgivings

Recently, at the Army's annual Force Protection Conference, I had the honor of speaking with a soldier who earned my immediate respect and admiration for the unique way in which he is continuing to serve his nation's needs long after retiring from active duty. This soldier, COL Michael J. Wagner, USAR, Ret, PhD, has been working at Walter Reed Army Medical Center for three years in a program to provide assistance to warriors returning from Iraq and Afghanistan bearing wounds of war, both physical and psychological.

Dr. Wagner's experiences there have convinced him and many others involved in caring for these veterans that these wounds of war affect not just the warriors but their families as well, and by extension their home communities. As Dr. Wagner put it to me,

'When a soldier goes to war, the family goes to war; when a soldier is wounded, the family is wounded and the community is wounded.'

An ex—paratrooper of the '70's, Dr. Wagner is keenly aware of the many problems so many veterans of our war encountered in their reintegration into their communities. He is determined that America will not fail our current warriors as it did those of that earlier era.

The Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs, already faced with budget constraints and mission limits, are ill equipped to deal with this societal mission creep.  Recognizing that reality, Dr. Wagner and other concerned citizens and professionals have formed an organization called MVFA, Military Veteran and Family Assistance, www.mvfa.org to take up this slack by providing needed services in a family based program that seeks to combine the support and resources of community, corporate, military and government agencies.

One program, the aptly named Phoenix Project, provides community—based retreats for warriors and their families. In tranquil, pastoral settings such as the Heart of the Hills Camp on the banks of the Guadalupe River in the Texas Hill Country, soldiers and spouses spend a week relaxing with such activities as hiking, fishing, canoeing, riding horses, or if they choose, just lounging around. But there are also group sessions where couples can freely discuss the problems they face and learn how others just like them are coping with similar difficulties.

But MVFA has encountered a problem not anticipated in its formative stages. Thinking that the huge military contracting corporations who take in hundreds of billions of dollars from manufacturing every conceivable item our warriors take into combat and use to fight on our nation's behalf, the organization sent letters soliciting contributions to support their unique programs to all the leading American defense contractors. To his utter astonishment, Dr. Wagner received refusal after refusal, some with explanations that such programs do not fit within the guidelines of their gifting programs. When he related this amazing situation to me, I was as astonished as the doctor and quickly remarked that if these veterans and their families were dealing with AIDS or sexual identity issues, contributions would be rolling in. Sure enough, according to the good doctor, that is exactly the response MVFA received from IBM, which has lucrative contracts with our military: 'Sorry, AIDS research is our priority.'

May I suggest to the CEO's of IBM and EDS, United Technologies, and Raytheon, who also are on record as refusing to support these wounded warrior programs that perhaps you should reconsider your corporate 'gifting' guidelines to reflect that you have at least as much concern for those harmed in the application of your weapons systems as you do for gender—challenged San Franciscans seeking funding for those ever so essential sex—change operations. Somehow, I think that most American voters and taxpayers and their elected representatives wouldn't mind a moderate redirection of corporate gifting away from pet programs like providing safe sex warning posters for gay bathhouses and healthy nutrition programs for inner city crack junkies, to something a little more mainstream America; like, hey, assistance programs for wounded American warriors.

What say you CEO's of Lockheed—Martin, Northrop—Grumman, General Dynamics, Boeing, ITT Industries, and all the rest of you titans of the defense industry? How about you Michael Dell? Everywhere I travel to military installations in my little consulting business, I see Dell computers. Surely out of the hundreds of millions in revenue generated by those computer sales you should be able to shake loose with a million or so for the troops who come to harm while using them. You know, gentlemen, it suddenly occurred to me that, offhand, I simply can't recall the last time I heard of an AIDS infected, trans—gendered, crack head buying a multi—billion dollar computer or weapons system. Can any of you guys?

Actually, I'm willing to be more charitable than these corporations apparently are, by giving their CEO's the benefit of the doubt that these refusals don't come from the top but from some tunnel—visioned, third—tiered functionaries far down the corporate ladder.

At least for now I am.

Russ Vaughn (Vietnam 65—66)   9 05 06

Recently, at the Army's annual Force Protection Conference, I had the honor of speaking with a soldier who earned my immediate respect and admiration for the unique way in which he is continuing to serve his nation's needs long after retiring from active duty. This soldier, COL Michael J. Wagner, USAR, Ret, PhD, has been working at Walter Reed Army Medical Center for three years in a program to provide assistance to warriors returning from Iraq and Afghanistan bearing wounds of war, both physical and psychological.

Dr. Wagner's experiences there have convinced him and many others involved in caring for these veterans that these wounds of war affect not just the warriors but their families as well, and by extension their home communities. As Dr. Wagner put it to me,

'When a soldier goes to war, the family goes to war; when a soldier is wounded, the family is wounded and the community is wounded.'

An ex—paratrooper of the '70's, Dr. Wagner is keenly aware of the many problems so many veterans of our war encountered in their reintegration into their communities. He is determined that America will not fail our current warriors as it did those of that earlier era.

The Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs, already faced with budget constraints and mission limits, are ill equipped to deal with this societal mission creep.  Recognizing that reality, Dr. Wagner and other concerned citizens and professionals have formed an organization called MVFA, Military Veteran and Family Assistance, www.mvfa.org to take up this slack by providing needed services in a family based program that seeks to combine the support and resources of community, corporate, military and government agencies.

One program, the aptly named Phoenix Project, provides community—based retreats for warriors and their families. In tranquil, pastoral settings such as the Heart of the Hills Camp on the banks of the Guadalupe River in the Texas Hill Country, soldiers and spouses spend a week relaxing with such activities as hiking, fishing, canoeing, riding horses, or if they choose, just lounging around. But there are also group sessions where couples can freely discuss the problems they face and learn how others just like them are coping with similar difficulties.

But MVFA has encountered a problem not anticipated in its formative stages. Thinking that the huge military contracting corporations who take in hundreds of billions of dollars from manufacturing every conceivable item our warriors take into combat and use to fight on our nation's behalf, the organization sent letters soliciting contributions to support their unique programs to all the leading American defense contractors. To his utter astonishment, Dr. Wagner received refusal after refusal, some with explanations that such programs do not fit within the guidelines of their gifting programs. When he related this amazing situation to me, I was as astonished as the doctor and quickly remarked that if these veterans and their families were dealing with AIDS or sexual identity issues, contributions would be rolling in. Sure enough, according to the good doctor, that is exactly the response MVFA received from IBM, which has lucrative contracts with our military: 'Sorry, AIDS research is our priority.'

May I suggest to the CEO's of IBM and EDS, United Technologies, and Raytheon, who also are on record as refusing to support these wounded warrior programs that perhaps you should reconsider your corporate 'gifting' guidelines to reflect that you have at least as much concern for those harmed in the application of your weapons systems as you do for gender—challenged San Franciscans seeking funding for those ever so essential sex—change operations. Somehow, I think that most American voters and taxpayers and their elected representatives wouldn't mind a moderate redirection of corporate gifting away from pet programs like providing safe sex warning posters for gay bathhouses and healthy nutrition programs for inner city crack junkies, to something a little more mainstream America; like, hey, assistance programs for wounded American warriors.

What say you CEO's of Lockheed—Martin, Northrop—Grumman, General Dynamics, Boeing, ITT Industries, and all the rest of you titans of the defense industry? How about you Michael Dell? Everywhere I travel to military installations in my little consulting business, I see Dell computers. Surely out of the hundreds of millions in revenue generated by those computer sales you should be able to shake loose with a million or so for the troops who come to harm while using them. You know, gentlemen, it suddenly occurred to me that, offhand, I simply can't recall the last time I heard of an AIDS infected, trans—gendered, crack head buying a multi—billion dollar computer or weapons system. Can any of you guys?

Actually, I'm willing to be more charitable than these corporations apparently are, by giving their CEO's the benefit of the doubt that these refusals don't come from the top but from some tunnel—visioned, third—tiered functionaries far down the corporate ladder.

At least for now I am.

Russ Vaughn (Vietnam 65—66)   9 05 06