Background Information on James McGonigle, Founder - Founder and CEO of Help Soldiers, Inc., a corporation that started approximately 10 years ago, whose sole purpose is to improve the quality of life for our wounded heroes and their families. (See Attachment #1)
Co-Founders of this Program - Lt. Gen (Ret.) Ronald Blanck, former Surgeon General of the Army (see Attachment) and Vice Adm. (Ret.) Harold Koenig, former Surgeon General of the Navy (see Attachment).
How This Program Got Started - The idea originated on Christmas Day after returning home from Fort Belvoir where Help Soldiers sponsored a Christmas Dinner for those soldiers who were unable to go home for Christmas for whatever reason.
During this event, we were able to spend some quality time with Amy Altersitz, the USO individual in charge of events, and her combat veteran husband, Tom, who volunteers at the base. We heard part of their “story” which still remains with us. While Tom was serving in a combat area in Iraq several years ago, he learned that his 7 year old son had passed away. Hard to imagine the pain and helplessness being in a war half-way around the world and getting that crushing news!
We arranged to have lunch with Amy on our way home from Key West in February. We asked if she and her husband would allow us to “treat” them to a week in Key West. Her response was, and I quote, (a) “Are you serious?” (b) tears of joy/surprise and (c) “no one has ever done anything like that for us!” We took that as a “YES”!
Amy & Tom’s Story - (See Attachment #2)
Military Support in Key West - American Legion Post 28 (See Attachment #3)
Goal of “Operation: Key West” - To provide a week of fun, relaxation and intimacy to deserving military parents that have suffered the worst loss possible…their child. Today, 2 depressing statistics stand out: (a) there is a higher incidence of divorce among couples that have lost a child and (b) 22 veterans commit suicide every day in America. If our program could prevent just 1 of these sad events from taking place…we have won!
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