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This guest blog was written by the Semper Fi Fund. On September 16, 2003, the first wave of wounded Marines and Sailors landed at Camp Pendleton, California. A registered nurse named Karen Guenther, whose husband was deployed to Iraq, stood among the small crowd of service members as they reunited with family and friends. Suddenly, a young woman who had been standing nearby collapsed into Karen’s arms; the woman had just caught a glimpse of her injured husband. Scars and stitches covered his swollen face; a row of metal sutures across his shaven head indicated that he had survived an emergency craniotomy conducted overseas. As Karen held the Marine’s wife in her arms, she could only offer words of strength. “You can do this,” Karen whispered. “I’m right here if you need me.” At that pivotal moment, Karen realized that a growing number of service members were facing similar situations. So, eight years ago, Karen and a small team of military spouses launched the Semper Fi Fund: a 501(c)(3) nonprofit set up to provide immediate financial support for injured and critically ill members of the U.S. Armed Forces and their families. Since its inception in 2004, the Semper Fi Fund has assisted over 8,000 service members with over 43,000 grants, totaling more than $62 million in assistance. The Semper Fi Fund provides relief of financial needs that arise during hospitalization and recovery within 24-72 hours of request, as well as provides continuous assistance for those service members with perpetuating needs. The basic ideal that drives our efforts is simple: as much as our heroes have sacrificed, they deserve the best care and support available in their hour of need. Injuries are often severe, and the road to recovery can be long and costly. Beyond the staggering costs of hospitalization and treatment are related expenses, which pile up quickly: childcare, plane fare, other travel expenses, adaptive housing or transportation, specialized equipment, and more. The list goes on, and so does the bills, often stretching a family's budget to the breaking point. That's where we come in. Our organization offers support in a variety of ways: Service Member and Family Support, Specialized & Adaptive Equipment, Adaptive Housing,Adaptive Transportation, Education and Career Transition Assistance, Post Traumatic Stress and Traumatic Brain Injury Support, Team Semper Fi, and more. Each area of support has a specific focus for directing assistance, with the overall goal of providing quality of life solutions to our brave injured service men and women The Semper Fi Fund’s streamlined structure keeps overhead very low – at 5% – because we realize that every dollar saved can be put to better use elsewhere. The American Institute of Philanthropy has given us an "A+" rating and Charity Navigator has given us their highest rating of "Four Stars. " The Semper Fi Fund continues to thrive thanks to the support of our loyal donors, both individuals and corporations, who have donated to our mission, or made efforts to raise awareness through events and fundraisers. Here are a few examples of our donors’ dedication to our mission, for which we are forever thankful:
- This past year, the Semper Fi Fund has developed the Tim & Sandy Day Canine Companions project, thanks to support from the Timothy T. Day Foundation. Grants from the project will not only unite injured service members with service dogs, but they will also ensure that the dogs are properly trained and continually cared for.
- Recently, a retired Marine named Rick Hermelin rode 3,000 miles across country on a cross-trainer machine to raise funds and awareness for our organization; he raised over ten thousand dollars.
- On Sunday October 28, 2012, the Semper Fi Fund will have over 800 runners participating in the 37th annual Marine Corps Marathon, held in Washington, D.C. In addition to training for this event, the runners have spent many hours of their personal time seeking donations in support of the Semper Fi Fund.
The Semper Fi Fund has been successful over the years, but our challenges continue to intensify as the level of severe trauma sustained by our heroes increases, and more and more service men and women bring home injury and illness. Whether donations are large or small, a one-time gift or ongoing endowment, every individual or corporation has the power to make a real difference, here and now; no matter where they are in the world. The Semper Fi Fund is forever grateful to our donors, and we are always excited to have others share in our mission of “serving those who preserve our freedom!” This post is part of a series to help highlight the good work of military support organizations and fulfill the mission of the Bush Institute’s Military Service Initiative to honor the sacrifices and service our U.S. servicemen and women and their families make for our freedom. The Institute helps military support organizations achieve their missions more effectively by raising awareness and spotlighting best practices.