AN OPEN LETTER

AN OPEN LETTER TO CELEBRITY SPOKESPEOPLE FOR WOUNDED WARRIOR PROJECT

In recent years it has become fashionable to support veteran causes; it is now good business, good PR, good exposure. Wounded Warrior Project is the dominant charity among more than 60,000 others, the vast majority of which are ethical.  In the mind of the public, Wounded Warriors are to veteran causes as is Kleenex to tissues.  You’ll probably see their ads over Super Bowl Weekend.  Their advertising is professional, persuasive and prolific.

It should be.  With annual donations of $100 million, they can afford the best.  Of that $100 million, $60 million is dispersed among numerous veteran initiatives…the remaining $40 million is not; it is applied to “administrative costs”.  By having become the most successful player, they siphon off funding to more efficient initiatives, such as Fisher Houses, which returns 95% to their work.  Or The Soldiers Project, (TSP) which returns 88%.  https://www.thesoldiersproject.org/

My generation, Vietnam, succeeded in teaching America not to blame the warrior for the war.  TSP provides free, confidential care to post-911 veterans and to their loved ones, contending with PTSD.  You should know that I serve on their board, that I am a Vietnam veteran and that I also live with PTSD.  Each day, 22 veterans end their life.    Help for them will not come from the VA and their multi-billion dollar budgets.  Confidentiality of care is non-negotiable to those with PTSD; they will avoid the VA if at all possible.  Civilians may question my opinions but veterans know that I speak the truth.

So what is to be done?  I encourage celebrities to become better informed.  Many worthy initiatives would benefit from your endorsements.  Find one whose programs you respect and lend them your support.  They may not be able to offer you air fares and posh hotels and elegant gatherings.  Is that really important to you?  Spread your love around, Sam Waterson, Gary Sinese, Trace Atkins, Mark Wahlberg, Dean Norris, Alec Baldwin, Alan Cumming, Al Roker, Bill O’Reilly, Bob Costas, Jimmy Buffet, Kyle Petty, Mike Myers, Sean Connery and others.

Perhaps you didn’t know the facts before.  Now you do.

 

Tucker Smallwood

Actor, Veteran, Advocate

AMERICAN SNIPER

I went to see AMERICAN SNIPER yesterday. I’d read a great deal about Chris Kyle’s life; I wanted to see the story that Clint Eastwood wanted to tell. It’s not a documentary. It will never show up on any list of my 10 favorite films about war. This was a troubled man and understandably so. His job was not directing fire to coordinates and being merely a participant in death. His targets were obviously human beings, he saw them thru his scope. There is nothing abstract about that. He justified it in the ways that he did; it’s not my place to judge his mental legerdemain.

You can only tell so many stories in a film. Chris Kyle’s problems were both unique and universal. PTSD has many outcomes. The absence of teamwork, of a clear mission, of shared danger is unimaginable for those who’ve never know it. I’ve described combat and Vietnam as Technicolor; life thereafter is largely Black and White. Not like the absoluteness of right and wrong but in the diminished intensity. Chris found meaning in his work with other troubled veterans…and it cost him his life.

He was a far more complex and flawed man than the very fine work suggested by Bradley Cooper. I resist artist’s efforts to rehabilitate our veterans in their storytelling. Many of us become very ugly human beings…because what we do is so very ugly. It’s been oft observed that my generation grew up on Audie Murphy and John Wayne. One was a real hero and a troubled human being. The other was a movie star. This film speaks more to the gamer in our culture than to the child in need of role models and an understanding of the consequences of being a participant in war, willing or not.

I guess every cinematic effort reveals some aspect of the beast that is war. I’m unsure what Clint would have me take away from this. Perhaps someday I’ll get to ask him.