2018 Year in Review

As the year winds down, I thought I would take a minute to give you an update on 38vfr.  Thanks to a huge fundraising effort at the end of 2017, we came into this year with our largest budget to date.  This in turn gave us the flexibility to help seventeen combat veterans that needed support.  We had the opportunity to assist men with combat deployments spanning from Afghanistan clear back to Vietnam! Staying true to our roots, 38vfr hosted three company reunions in 2018.  Weapons company had two separate reunions; one for the Fallujah and Ramadi Marines, and a separate one for the Afghanistan Marines.  This was the first reunion for the Afghanistan Marines and it was extremely successful.  Rachel Ries, a spouse of a Weapons Co. Afghan Marine took on the majority of the reunion planning and will do so again for their reunion in 2019. Kilo Company had their reunion in August of 2018 and it was there largest one to date.  This year’s reunion in North Carolina hosted 37 Marines, spouses, girlfriends, and kids.  Kilo Company is currently planning an even bigger reunion for 2019, hoping to have over fifty people in attendance!

Earlier in the fall, 38vfr hosted its first ever healing retreat for combat veterans. Partnerships with Columbus Scuba and Mid-Ohio Dive Club were made, and Project Barracuda was created.  Nine combat veterans, spanning from Maine to Nevada, came to Ohio to participate in Project Barracuda.  Over the course of three days, these combat veterans become PADI certified Scuba Divers.  The diving was amazing, but when interviewed, these Marines and Soldiers unanimously stated that the best part of Project Barracuda was being back in a tribe and feeling that comradery once again.  Ryan Vaughn filmed Project Barracuda and we are excited to announce that in the upcoming months his video of the retreat will be released on our website!  A heartfelt thank you goes out to Cari Stahlman. Without Cari, Project Barracuda would have never happened.  Cari devoted countless hours to planning and coordinating this event.

In October, we had the largest turnover on our Executive Board to date.  Amarinder Grewal, Donald Briere, and Marc Ziegler all stepped down to the Advisory Board.  Phillip Guadalupe, Graham Platner, and Chris Vaughn replaced them.  I would personally like to thank Amarinder, Don, and Marc for their dedication and sacrifice to this organization over the past couple of years.  I look forward to the next year as well, with Phillip, Graham, and Chris on board.

In an effort to ensure that we are providing the best possible assistance to combat veterans in need, we decided that we should be willing to look at outside view points on how to best accomplish this task.  With that in mind, the Executive Board unanimously voted to add three Advisory Board members that were not 3/8 Marines.  These three individuals are Rachel Ries, Wade Spann, and Mark Jesinoski. Rachel is the wife of a Marine, Wade was an Infantry Marine in 1/5 who deployed to Fallujah and Ramadi, and Mark is a Clinical Psychologist that specializes in working with veterans with emotional trauma.  Please join me in welcoming these three new members to our team.

At the end of last month, we launched our second annual Giving Tuesday campaign.  While the final numbers will not be in until sometime in January, we are estimating that we were able to raise somewhere between eight to nine grand in that campaign!

To wrap this up, all of this would not be possible without literally thousands of people that are willing to help. There is a saying that goes “It takes a village to raise a child.” I feel like that quote holds true to what we do at 38vfr.  It takes all of you to help one combat veteran in need.   I am humbled to know so many amazing people that are willing to donate their time and money to help us achieve our mission.  Lastly, I want to personally thank our friends at the DAV; Barry, Mark, and John.  How many veterans across this nation live better lives because of your service? It’s an honor to know you.

Semper Fidelis Justin Carlisle Executive Director, 38vfr.org




Media Release For Immediate Release

38VFR Partnership with the DAV

Bolivar, Ohio – The 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Veterans of Fallujah and Ramadi or 38VFR is an Ohio-based, 501(c)(3) nonprofit focused on helping veterans and their families who are in need. We are also very determined in finding like-minded organizations and individuals to partner with to make the greatest impact possible in the veteran community. With that mind, we are proud to announce an official partnership with the Disabled American Veterans (DAV).

The DAV has been serving veterans for almost a century, acting as a staunch advocate for our community to the highest echelons of our government. As an organization, we are looking forward to the various ways we can help each other to aid veterans with their disability claims, conduct outreach, and a myriad of other possibilities that will surely present themselves. In the days ahead, you will learn more about this partnership and about the DAV as a whole. Please, regularly monitor our social media channels and webpage for more information.

We would like to thank the DAV and it’s leadership for the warm welcome we have received and we look forward to years of working together to help our comrades in need.

For more immediate information and requests, 38VFR can be contacted by email to Team@38VFR.Org.

New Executive Director - Justin Carlisle

Transition within an organization is natural. Many times internal moves are cause for trepidation. However, when the organization is as tight knit as ours, it a cause for celebration. With that in mind, effective 22 OCT 2017 Justin Carlisle (veteran of Kilo Co.) took over from me as Executive Director of 38VFR. Justin brings a wealth of knowledge and inexhaustible energy that will power the nonprofit in its next phase of development. This comes as we as an organization have expanded greatly. Currently, we are a staff of 15 members who are all volunteers. We have also been able to connect with many new partners with whom we hope to have a long-term, mutually beneficial relationship that will have a positive impact on the lives of Veterans and their families. In the weeks to come, we will be slowly introducing you to each of these new team members via our Facebook page and adding them to our “Team” section of the website.

I have been honored to lead this organization over the last 2 years. I have watched it grow from an idea to a fully functioning 501c3 nonprofit organization that has helped a large number of our comrades in their time of need, organized multiple reunions, and built a large network with like-minded parties who have helped in our development along the way. I will continue on in the organization as the Operations Chief for the next fiscal year and look forward to this new role and the opportunities it brings.

Please join me in Congratulating Justin Carlisle in his new role and as always, we appreciate your support.

Amarinder Singh Grewal Operations Chief, 38VFR

A Veteran's Race to Recovery

“THAT’S RIGHT, KEEP RUNNING! RUN FROM YOUR PROBLEMS YOU FUCKING PUSSY!” Sounds harsh, right? Six months ago, I was standing on top of a picnic table in a park outside of Washington D.C. yelling this statement as Chris Vaughn ran by me. He gave a little head nod along with a whimsy smile, but that is about all he could muster. Chris was somewhere in the middle of a 50-mile ultra-marathon race. He knew that what I was saying was an infantry Marine’s way of encouraging a fellow brother. It’s how we talk to each other. Civilians around me flashed some harsh looks and certain ones mumbled to friends under their breath. But a retired Green Beret and Navy Seal standing beside the bench chuckled and continued watching as Chris ran off into the tree line. They understood what was taking place. Chris was doing the exact opposite of running from his problems, he was running straight into them. For 11 hours and 47 minutes he faced those thoughts in his head and continued to pound them out, one step at a time.

Four months prior, in January, Chris had called a member of 38vfr.org. He was at the end of the road. Chris was homeless and suffering from PTSD, substance abuse, depression, and suicidal thoughts. He felt that he could no longer tackle these issues alone. He had heard of the organization but didn’t know if or how we could help. At the very least, he could talk to a friend, someone who loved him unconditionally and would offer some words of guidance.

At this time in our organization’s history, we had a solid network built to help Veterans with behavioral health issues, but we had never fully utilized it. A flood of phone calls went out in all directions. The response was enormous. Claire White from the Smedley Butler Veterans Justice Project offered guidance on how to navigate through any legal issues that could arise and homeless shelters we could contact. Members of the Navy and Marine Corps Relief Society offered help in longtime recovery options. But more impactful than any other would come to be Frank Lasch with Azalea Charities. We had found an excellent rehab facility in Maryland by the name of Tranquility Woods. We knew this was the place that we needed to get Chris into but the cost was steep. Our network was built and had worked, but our operational budget was not high enough to support the associated costs. Graham Platner had an established relationship with Frank and reached out to him. Frank, a veteran himself, and a man of great generosity approved a vote that would fund Chris’s rehab.

The end of February had come and gone and Chris was out of rehab. For the first time in a long-time Chris had a renewed sense of life. He knew the path to recovery would not be a yellow brick road, but rather an IED laden street in the heart of central Ramadi. Chris needed an outlet that would keep him on the right path. While at Tranquility Woods, he had met an energetic and charismatic female that had similar life struggles. She and Chris had become close friends and that friendship extended outside the walls of the rehab facility. Chris had the opportunity to meet his friend’s sister, who was an ultra-marathon runner. She invited Chris on a jog with her one day and the rest is history. Like Forrest Gump, he had found his reason to run.

Three days from now, Chris will embark on his next journey. He will build a lather on Saturday in Baltimore while running a half marathon and then on Sunday, October 22nd, he will participate in the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington D.C. Chris will run for Azalea Charities and the opportunity they provided him through funding his rehab. Chris will run for 38vfr.org; an organization that will exhaust every resource available to them to provide their members with a means to finding peace in a life after war. Chris will run for the twenty-five brothers he lost in Fallujah and Ramadi, a solemn tribute to the price they and their families paid for the citizens of this great country. Most importantly, Chris will run for himself. He will run with a renewed sense of purpose. Each step will be a reminder of the struggles in days’ past. Each deep breath will remind him of the horrors of war and the toll it takes on a man. But he will fight through those dark times, like he has done in his own life. He will cross the finish line and embrace those who care for him most. He will live in this moment of joy and embrace it for what it’s worth. But as time passes, he will tighten his jaw and prepare for the next race. He knows that in running, just as in war, the moments of jubilation will always be equally opposed by the moments of pain. It’s the dynamic tension that is necessary. It’s the tension that drives us all.

Semper Fidelis,

Justin Carlisle

Board Member (Director of Outreach/Hardship) 38VFR




Combat Related Special Compensation (CRSC)

The Facts Concerning Retired Pay and VA Disability Compensation Military retired pay can be difficult to understand, regardless of the nature of your specific retirement. You may fall into one of several different categories; retired with 20 years or more of service, disability retired, or retired under the Temporary Early Retirement Authority (TERA). Along with this retirement payment, you also may be eligible for Concurrent Receipt of Disability Pay (CRDP) or Combat Related Special Compensation (CRSC), depending on whether or not you have service connected disabilities as rated by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The text below is meant to define the programs and agencies listed above and the application procedure for each. Hopefully this will clear up the confusion that arises when these programs are discussed.

Military retired pay is a benefit for service members who fall into very specific categories. The first category is probably the one most people associate with a military retiree, and that is the completion of 20 years or more of active service. In this case, the retiree is awarded a percentage of their base pay based on years of service, starting at 50% and increasing with total time in service. If you entered Active Duty on or after September 8, 1980 you will fall into the High-36 plan, which awards 50% of base pay for 20 years of active service and increases 2.5% for every year after 20 reaching 75% at 30 years of service. The next category is medical, or disability retirement, and it works in practice very much the same as the High-36 plan, additionally taking into account a disability rating as determined by the service member’s branch of service. The final category is TERA. TERA retirees have between 15 and 20 years of active service and are payed an initial 35% of base pay plus 1% for each year of service over 15. A TERA retiree with 15 years of service receives 35% of base pay. That number goes up to 38% of base pay with 18 years of service, for example. An important note, all of these retirees rate additional benefits such as access to Tricare for family health insurance and PX/Commissary/MWR privileges. All of these forms of retirement pay are also considered taxable income. For more information on military retired pay visit the Department of Defense Military Compensation site at: http://militarypay.defense.gov/Pay/Retirement/.

VA Disability Compensation Pay is paid by the VA. A service member must apply to the VA for any disabilities incurred through service. The VA will conduct an evaluation and award a percentage for each claimed disability. Disabilities must be found, by the VA, to be service connected to be awarded a disability percentage. When multiple disabilities are claimed, the final disability rating is not purely cumulative. What this means is that 2 separate disabilities rated at 50% do not equal 100%. Rather, the VA starts a service member off as 100% healthy, if you will. They then subtract the highest disability rating, in this case 50%. This leaves the individual with a 50% disability rating, meaning there is only 50% remaining. The VA will then take the next highest disability, another 50% in this case, and take 50% of the remaining. In this case, the second disability will take 50% of the remaining 50% for a net of 25%. This is then added to the first disability calculation- 50% + 25% = 75%, which they then round to the nearest 10 for 80%. VA Disability Compensation also pays the individual for dependents, unlike military retired pay. There is no required length of service in order to file a claim for VA Disability Compensation. Applications can be made by an individual directly with the VA or through a Veterans Service Organization. VA Disability Compensation is not considered taxable income. For more information on VA Disability Ratings see the VA site at: https://www.benefits.va.gov/compensation/resources_comp01.asp.

Retirees who have been found to have Service Connected Disabilities by the VA are eligible to receive CRDP. In basic terms, this means that you will receive your retired pay plus your VA Disability Compensation. To be eligible you must have a Combined VA Disability rating of 50% or greater. There is no application process for CRDP and the Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) will automatically determine eligibility and begin payment. CRDP is considered your retirement pay if you qualify for both retired pay and VA Disability Compensation, and as such it is considered taxable income. For more information on CRDP see the DFAS site at: https://www.dfas.mil/retiredmilitary/disability/crdp.html.

CRSC is a tax free entitlement that must be applied for through your branch of service. CRSC is awarded in the case that an individual’s Service Connected Disabilities are proven to be the direct result of one of the following:

-Armed Conflict

-Hazardous Duty

-An Instrument of War

-Simulated War

If an individual believes their injuries fall into the categories listed above, they will apply to their branch of service and the application will go before a review board. Applications may be submitted directly to the board by an individual or processed through a VSO. Medical records, as well as the application itself will be considered. It is possible for this rating to be different than the Combined VA rating, such as if one or more injuries were not proven to be the direct result of one of the listed categories. DFAS will inform the individual upon receipt of the decision from the branch of service and it is the decision of the individual to receive CRDP or CRSC, but not both. As stated above, CRSC is not considered taxable income. For more information on CRSC see the DFAS and Department of the Navy sites at: https://www.dfas.mil/retiredmilitary/disability/crsc.html; http://www.secnav.navy.mil/mra/CORB/pages/crscb/default.aspx.

Navigating retired pay, CRDP, CRSC and VA disability pay can be frustrating and exhaustive. The same question will get different answers from the VA and different VSOs. It seems no one knows the bottom line to some or all of these programs until and unless they have been through the process and can speak from personal experience. I would highly recommend utilizing a VSO that you trust to handle these affairs. I cannot and will not recommend one over another, as my experience has been that all VSOs have good offices and good people and bad ones. The bottom line, in closing, is that my own misinformation cost me money when I retired. Because I did not take the time to thoroughly research all options I ended up paying taxes on CRDP when I should have been receiving CRSC, and then subsequently having to file amended tax returns for 4 years at the state and federal level to attempt to recoup my losses. I was fortunate to run across fellow veterans and good VSOs who took the time to help me, and now I am trying to pay that back in the hopes that it will help someone else and save them from the ordeal that I went through. DFAS has a page dedicated to comparing CRDP and CRSC at: https://www.dfas.mil/retiredmilitary/disability/comparison.html. DFAS also has an online tool called a Retirement Disability Pay Estimator at: https://www.dfas.mil/militarymembers/woundedwarrior/disabledretireest.htm.

If you have any questions, comments, or concerns please email us at team@38vfr.org.

Semper Fi,

Josh Holrath

Hardship Advisor,  38VFR

2017 Kilo and Weapons Reunions

The last month has been an especially good one for the organization. During this time we were able to successfully orchestrate reunions for the veterans of Kilo and Weapons Companies who served in the 2005 and 2006 Iraq deployments. In early August veterans of Kilo Company descended upon the quiet shores of Lake Anna, Virginia for the second annual company reunion. Last year’s reunion in Myrtle Beach was the first time in almost a decade many of these Marines had seen each other. This reunion was no different with many new faces in attendance as well as many returnees. The first night we counted 25 Marines in attendance as well as spouses and girlfriends, a higher number than last year and one that will hopefully continue to rise as the years go by.

The location in central Virginia allowed for the attending Marines to pay their respects to Corporal Blake Thomas who passed in early August. Corporal Thomas was not only a Kilo 3/8 veteran from Afghanistan, but also related by marriage to a Kilo 3/8 Fallujah and Ramadi veteran who is a regular at the reunions. His loss was felt by the greater 3/8 family, and we were humbled to be allowed to attend and pay our respects to a fellow warrior. Fair Winds and Following Seas Corporal Thomas, you will always be in the hearts of your brothers.

With day trips to the Marine Corps Museum and several northern Virginia Civil War battlefields, the 2017 Kilo reunion was an excellent opportunity for warriors to strengthen the bonds forged in combat. The evenings were raucous affairs with all the necessary storytelling and debating that comes with combat Marines reuniting over a “few” drinks.

This ability to let loose and comfortably discuss topics that are usually kept inside is a cornerstone to these reunions, and it also expands the support network as men realize they are not alone in many of their struggles. It also allows for guys and their significant others to learn more about programs that can be of help. This year the topic of VA benefits was discussed at length, with lots of advice and knowledge passed along. This ability to expand the support network is a benefit of the reunion that almost cannot be quantified in its positive effects, and it alone makes all the planning and preparation worth it.

For Weapons Company’s veterans, this year saw the largest reunion turnout ever. These Marines and Corpsmen have had a reunion in one form or another since roughly 2009. In the past, it was more of an ad-hoc event put on by a group of volunteers. The first couple gatherings took place in the Philadelphia metropolitan area thanks to the generosity of Joe and Penny Santoro, parents of a 3/8 veteran of the Iraq deployments and current advisory board member Nick Santoro, who opened their home to us. In time, however, the gathering would expand to take place at various locations up and down the eastern seaboard. With the advent of our nonprofit in the last couple years, we added a level of organization not seen before. This year, for example, preparations for the event begin in the 1st quarter of the year. A reunion committee of 4 veterans of the unit led by Advisory Board member Nick West spent roughly 5 months working on the minutiae involved with pulling off such a large gathering. Pigeon Forge, Tennessee was chosen as the venue due to its central location and ample lodging options. The committee used social media and other channels to spread the word and coordinate dates, travel, etc. While a large turnout was expected, the actual number exceeded our wildest expectations. Thirty-three people attended the event. This included veterans of the unit, their spouses and significant others, and a gold star family of one of our fallen comrades. There were also a number of first-time attendees, which will hopefully be a trend that will continue.

For both reunions the settings were idyllic, the company was of the highest caliber, and the weather couldn’t be better. With this backdrop, these veterans did what warriors undoubtedly have always done when they meet with comrades after a prolonged absence – they caught up on each other’s lives, introduced spouses, recollected war stories, revitalized the most important connection many of us have, and most importantly honor our fallen brothers. For it is because of their sacrifice that any of us exist, there presence is always felt.

Reunions are an integral part of this organization’s mission. We believe that such gatherings have a therapeutic impact on our community. Many of our number consider the event as the pinnacle of their social calendar. We will continue to strive to enlarge the attendee list and continuously improve the event.

We want to send a special thank you to the volunteers of this year’s events. From those that planned, cooked, ran errands, etc. Without your assistance this event would not have happened.

Semper Fi,

Graham Platner

Director of Fundraising and Hardship