A few weeks back our organization gathered at headquarters in eastern Ohio for our 1st Annual 38VFR Summit. For a team such as ours, one that is distributed all over the world, such a gathering is essential. While the objective was to revisit the past couple years and plan for the near- and long-term, there was a definite social aspect to our meeting that was invigorating. We were fortunate to have spouses, girlfriends, children, vendors, and friends from the community present. This outside perspective proved pivotal since we have become a bit insulated in the past few months. The first 2 years of our existence was full of growing pains and at times we have had to keep our heads down and simply work hard. From the meeting we have gathered exciting new ideas and objectives we plan to work with in the coming 12 months. Beyond the strategic and tactical, our gathering motivated me to pen this post and pull back the curtain a bit and let our supporters know a little bit more about us and what drives us.
The idea of our nonprofit began informally. A few of us discussed what avenues were available for a more formal relationship as early as 2013. We had organized and attended numerous reunions. By 2015, a few of us had decided to go through the state incorporation process in Ohio and eventually applied for 501c3 status. By October 2015, we received both designations and were on our way. At the time none of us had extensive nonprofit experience beyond individual volunteer efforts. What we did have was a rock solid fellowship forged in Iraq and an unwavering belief in each other. This proved more than enough for us to get our project off the ground and become, with help from many outside the organization, a burgeoning endeavor.
As Marines tend to do…we moved quickly and organized ourselves, created a digital footprint, began fundraising, created awareness of veteran issues, and began helping our comrades in earnest. Initially, we mainly concentrated on perpetuating reunions amongst the constituent units of 3rd Battalion, 8TH Marines who served in the Fallujah and Ramadi areas of operations between 2005-2006. While we had a mission statement that covered other veteran’s issues, we weren’t sure if we would necessarily deal with those types of requests with any regularity. Soon, requests for assistance started coming in. These early requests were easily resolved. But as time would go on, we would be faced with numerous cases from veterans and their families coming from many backgrounds (USMC vets and otherwise) dealing with unique and complex situations. Funerals, substance abuse problems, and even food shortage were just the beginning. We had to become subject matter experts in all these issues and do so immediately. Fortunately, we were and are still aided by a generous outpouring of pro-bono assistance from legal and health professionals who have helped us navigate and learn what was necessary to help our brothers in arms. We also have been helped by a number of sister 501c3 charities such as Azalea Charities (http://www.azaleacharities.org) who mentored us and helped steer and guide our efforts. Lastly, our families and friends have acted as the ultimate advisory council. They have been there to cheer us on and hear our frustrations. Without all this help, we would still be a small nonprofit focused on getting a couple reunions together annually. While we believe that these reunions are pivotal for the well-being and networking efforts of combat Veterans, there is an obvious larger need that presents itself. Fortunately, we are eternally motivated for a very specific reason.
For most people, The United States Marine Corps is a monolithic organization with a veritable Pantheon of Heroes who have protected out great nation for over two centuries. But for those of us fortunate enough to have been apart of the Corps, it is much more. It was a proving ground for love. Over the course of the two deployments mentioned above, we lost 25 precious Marines and Corpsmen. In the streets, desert, and hamlets of Iraq these men
showed that the loyalty ethos of the Marine Corps is not theoretical, it is a reality. They, as Abraham Lincoln said, gave “The Last Full Measure of Devotion.” That act of devotion and love is something we cannot forget. It is what drives us to continue to help our comrades regardless of time or effort needed. While they paid a price we can never repay, we can honor their memory and will continue to serve our country and our comrades through our work with 38VFR.
We want to thank all those who have supported us with your generous donations. Know that we consider your donations a sacred trust and all expenditures are painstakingly discussed and dissected before use. We also want to thank all those professionals and community volunteers who raised their hand along the way to help. Word cannot express our gratitude.
Amarinder Singh Grewal, Executive Director, 38VFR