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EMT 7/4/15 Sparkler edition. [Krakatoa] | Main | A Brief Independence Day Open Thread - [Niedermeyer's Dead Horse]
July 04, 2015

Saturday Morning Thread: Helping Our Heroes [Y-not]

One of the nice things about living in the Utah is the extent to which patriotism is on display. There seems to be a color guard at nearly every civic event and I think I've recited the Pledge of Allegiance more times in my five years here than I had in the previous twenty-five years of my adulthood.

Yesterday our Governor spent part of his day calling military veterans to thank them for their service:

Gov. Herbert signed a one-year resolution during the 2014 legislative session designating Thurs. July 3, 2014 as "Call Your Military Hero Day" in Utah. The resolution urged Utah's citizens and military personnel to strengthen bonds of friendship with military veterans and active duty servicemembers.

Then there's the "Candy Bomber:"

OREM -- Seventy years after his first missions, the candy bomber struck again Friday afternoon. Gail Halvorsen dropped 1,000 chocolate bars to anxious kids below at Scera Park in Orem.

Halvorsen first made headlines when he delivered candy to children in Berlin at the end of World War II by dropping parachute sweets. Friday's candy drop was reminiscent of his historic flights during the Berlin airlift decades ago.

He flew over our house several times yesterday, although the candy drop itself was a couple of miles from our home. Pretty cool.

As it so happens, my husband's home town in Western Massachusetts is semi-famous for its Fourth of July parade. Mr Y-not's dad was always involved in the parade in some way through his American Legion post's activities. Here's a video of the parade from a couple of years ago:


So I thought today that we could spend a little time talking about how to honor and serve the men and women of our military, past and present, who have served all of us so well.

Charity Navigator tweeted a link to this list of charities that support soldiers and their families that I thought I'd share, in honor of the day.

With so many charities engaged in these endeavors you may wonder how you can find one to trust to spend your money wisely. To assist you we've compiled this list of charities supporting soldiers and their families. These organizations provide various services from lifting the troops' morale to financial assistance for food, rent, utilities and medical expenses.

Charity Navigator's ratings run from 4 stars down to 0 stars. Their system focuses on the financial health of the organization and their accountability and transparency. It is just one method for evaluating charities (and it has its flaws), but overall I think it's a helpful one.

Amongst the organizations receiving top honors is DAV (Disabled American Veterans), which happens to be a charity that my family has always supported. The Navy Seal Foundation and Operation Homefront also earned four-star reviews. I was surprised (and somewhat saddened) to see that the USO only earned two stars.

Incidentally, the Wounded Warrior Project, which has been subjected to criticism from some circles, both on the Left and the Right, received a good rating (3 out of 4 stars) by Charity Navigator. I think that some of the criticism WWP has received stems from a misunderstanding of the group's mission, as well as some confusion about the different types of charitable organizations, in particular the difference between grant-making foundations and foundations that deliver services.

If you're interested in learning more about the distinction, you might find this column that appeared last month in The Chronicle of Philanthropy helpful. The author wrote it to try to clear up confusion about the Clinton Foundation. Despite the fact that I loathe the Clinton Foundation with the red hot intensity of a thousand suns, I think that this article is worth reading. It was not intended as a defense of the CF so much as an explanation how to evaluate the financial statements put out by non-profits. A short except below:

Although it has "foundation" in its name, the Clinton Foundation is actually a public charity. In practical terms, this means both that it relies heavily on donations from the public and that it achieves its mission primarily by using those donations to conduct direct charitable activities, as opposed to providing grants from an endowment.

Failure to understand the difference led to the widespread claim (covered by the New York Post, Rush Limbaugh, Fox News, and others) that only a small portion of Clinton Foundation spending goes toward charity. While measuring charitable endeavors by the amount of grants awarded may be appropriate for many private foundations, it is not for an organization that acts as a direct service provider like the Clinton Foundation.

(None of this changes the sleezeball nature of the Clintons' sleezeball organizations, but I still think there are valid points in this article.)

Although Independence Day is not strictly speaking a holiday "for" (or about) members of the military (or veterans), I thought it might be nice to talk about which organizations you support and/or which ones those of you who are veterans find the most helpful (or enjoyable). To get the discussion started, I thought that this column that appeared at This Ain't Hell last year was interesting. In it, Jonn Lilyea responds to the claim that VSOs (Veterans Service organizations) like the VFW and American Legion are out of touch with the needs of younger veterans. He goes on to make the case for the benefits of membership in VSOs.

What has been your experience?

What do you plan to do this weekend to celebrate our freedoms and to honor the men and women who protect them?

**UPDATE: I just had to add this awesome video that I saw on Twitter:

(Open thread below for wildly off-topic discussion.)

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posted by Open Blogger at 08:35 AM

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