- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 29, 2004

Dear Sgt. Shaft:

I read your column in The Washington Times on July 26 about the Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund. What a great program this is. My son is in the Army nursing school at Walter Reed. He was a Marine for four years before going Army. Many of the patients he works with are men injured in Iraq and Afghanistan.

I would like to donate my frequent-flier miles to the Semper Fi Fund to provide airfare for the family members who visit their injured sons/husbands/fathers.

Is there an e-mail for the Semper Fi Fund, or a phone number that I could call? If possible, would you please pass on this e-mail to someone at the Semper Fi Fund?


Jane H.


Dear Jane:

Thank you for your generous offer. Please read on.

Dear Sgt. Shaft:

Thank you so very much for getting the word out about the Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund. I wanted to pass on some exciting news. The fund has received its 501(c) 3 tax-exempt status from the IRS and all donations are tax-deductible. We have started to receive donations into the fund. In fact, just this week alone we’ve assisted seven families of injured Marines with financial grants to help offset their heavy financial burdens. Thank you for your continued support and please thank your readers as well. With your help, we are able to help alleviate financial hardships and allow injured Marines and their families to focus on their physical and emotional healing.

Semper Fi,

Rene Bardorf

Vice President, Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund

Donations can be sent to: Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund, 825 College Blvd., Suite 102, PMB 609, Oceanside, CA 92057.

Dear Rene:

As you read in my July 26 column, the Semper Fi Fund was set up to assist families of U.S. Marines serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Every day Marines are wounded in combat. These American heroes are returning to the United States after being stabilized at military hospitals in Germany. Their destination is typically the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, but on some occasions the Marines are sent to other hospitals across the country.

The length of their stay depends on the severity of their injuries and when they recovered enough to proceed to a rehabilitation hospital or a hospital closer to their duty station. However, some have initial hospital stays for durations of more than one month and rehabilitation can last years.

The Semper Fi Fund was created to facilitate immediate resources to active-duty Marines and their families who have been injured in combat.

At this time, the Department of Defense will pay lodging and travel expenses for only two next of kin to visit those Marines considered seriously injured. The Defense Department pays for these two individuals to stay for up to one week. After the term of one week, if the family members choose to stay at their Marine’s bedside, it is the sole responsibility of the family to arrange and pay for lodging and transportation.

Additionally, next of kin are defined as the two family members a Marine lists in his record. In the case of a married Marine who has listed his spouse as his primary next of kin and his father as the secondary next of kin, the Defense Department cannot accommodate the mother, children, siblings or grandparents with payment of travel expenses. The Defense Department does not reimburse families under any circumstances for rental cars, long-term child care or lost income. In the case of Marines requiring long-term rehabilitative care, these financial burdens remain with families for a period of years.

The Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund has a close working relationship with the Marine Corps and is assessing the needs of injured Marines and their families on a regular basis. In the short term, lodging, transportation and assistance with daily financial burdens for the families are the most challenging area of concern and will be a major focus.

Shaft notes

The sarge is looking forward to joining other members of the National Press Club and their guests at an NPC luncheon featuring Homeland Security chief and friend, the honorable Tom Ridge, former governor of Pennsylvania and fellow Vietnam combat veteran.

On Oct. 8, 2001, Mr. Ridge was sworn in as the first Office of Homeland Security adviser in the history of the United States of America. In the words of President Bush, he had the strength, experience, personal commitment and authority to accomplish this critical mission.

Mr. Ridge was twice elected governor of Pennsylvania, serving from 1995 to 2001. He kept his promise to make Pennsylvania “a leader among states and a competitor among nations.” Born Aug. 26, 1945, in Pittsburgh’s Steel Valley, Mr. Ridge was raised in a working-class family in veterans’ public housing in Erie. He earned a scholarship to Harvard, graduating with honors in 1967. After his first year at the Dickinson School of Law, he was drafted into the U.S. Army, where he served as an infantry staff sergeant in Vietnam, earning the Bronze Star for valor. After returning to Pennsylvania, he earned his law degree and was in private practice before becoming assistant district attorney in Erie County.

He was elected to Congress in 1982. He was the first enlisted Vietnam combat veteran elected to the U.S. House, and was overwhelmingly re-elected six times.

This luncheon will be Sept. 7 at noon. For additional information, contact Pat Nelson at 202/662-7500.

Send letters to Sgt. Shaft, c/o John Fales, PO Box 65900, Washington, D.C. 20035-5900; fax 301/622-3330; call 202/257-5446; or e-mail sgtshaft@bavf.org.

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