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Spirit of America; a Civilian Force-Multiplier

August 25, 2011
By Andrew Lubin

It’s more than just sending boxes of candy for the Marines to throw to the Afghan kids, or a body count of Taliban killed - success in Afghanistan will come only when the Afghan are convinced that co-operating with America will give them a better life.

But that means jobs-schools-health care-school supplies; it’s pushing the “Build” segment of the Marine Corps “Clear-hold-build-transition” strategy, and in this asymmetrical war, the non-profit Spirit of America foundation (www.spiritofamerica.net) is arguably one of the most effective supporters of the Marine Corps asymmetrical strategy.

Since being established in 2003, SoA has responded to Marine requests for computers, winter blankets, solar-powered radios, hygiene kits, sewing machines, teacher supplies, ultrasound machines, wheelchairs, soccer balls & shoes, midwife supplies, and other equally diverse items.

“Our troops tell us what they need to help the locals” said founder Jim Hake, “and with your support we provide it. Fast, with no red tape.” That’s incredibly important in RC Southwest, where SoA provides the items to the Marines that USAID, State Dept, and the other government groups are not allowed to supply.

“We had a canal-cleaning project in Mian Poshtay”, said LtCol Matthew Reid, the 2nd Bn, 1st Marine commanding officer,” and needed shovels and boots. Simple items, but we weren’t able to supply them, so we asked SoA for help.  They got us 1000 shovels and 1000 pairs of boots in 4 days!” Former Army officer Matt Valkovic was on the ground as SoA’s field rep “We have a list of pre-approved Afghan vendors, so not only do we know where to get goods locally, but there’s the additional benefit of the money we spend staying in Afghanistan and helping boost the local economy.”

A surprising bonus to the project was that the farmers took the shovels home and cleaned-improved the canals on their own land, on their own time; a display of individual initiative unknown when the Taliban ruled.

One of Spirit of America’s newer projects is their School Partners Program, which uses a video link to introduce school students in America and Afghanistan to each other. As the students build relationships with each other, they learn culture, food, English, Pashto – and how similar they are at these ages.

Spirit of America is funded by private citizens, corporations, and private foundations, and receives no government grants or funding. What makes SoA unique is the ability of contributors to pick the project they wish to support, plus that 100% of the donation is used for that project. “We’ve raised $ 16+ million since our inception, said Hake, “with 83% being distributed. And we’re getting better; last year we raised $ 4.3 million and raised our distribution rate to 88%”

Donations come from a variety of corporate and private sources; the Wall Street Journal’s Dan Henninger wrote a 2003 article “Here’s a way you can help the Cause in Iraq” that called “Sprit of America and the Marines a coalition of the can-do” that brought $ 100,000 worth of television production equipment to Anbar Province so the locals could produce a show that would counter Al-Jazeera’s biased reporting.

Gen James Mattis, now Centcom’s commanding general, has worked with SoA since Fall 2003, when he asked them for medical and school supplies as he returned to Iraq. “We’re all about getting our troops the tools they need to succeed,” explained Hake, as SoA shipped 10,000 school supply kits, three tons of medical supplies and two tons of frisbees. Mattis was impressed “Spirit of America is just like the Marine Corps. Both are aggressive organizations and mission-oriented.”

Equally important, according to Mattis, is how SoA enables Americans to connect and support their Marines and soldiers overseas. “You can’t support the war by going shopping,” he told LN yesterday, “SoA enables Americans to get personally involved, to make those people-to-people connections that are so important.”

Businessman John Stettler would be the first to agree with Mattis. The CEO of J&M Plastics Inc (www.jandmplastics.com) has long been a supporter of Spirit of America. “I was too young for Vietnam,” he said, so perhaps I’m doing my part now. Working with SoA lets me support the troops in a manner I know is worthwhile; and that we’re giving them the tools they need to succeed. I have confidence that Spirit of America is doing this right.”

See the upcoming December Leatherneck Magazine for a larger article on Spirit of America!!

Comments

not something you see in MSM

Thank you, Andrew! You don't see this in the regular MSM ...

 

Bradley

civilian support

Hey Andrew - some excellent work here, both by Spirit of America with Marines and you to get the word out.

Marine mom

Very Cool!

LOVE, love, love, that they are using Afghan vendors when they can - best way to encourage growth in the local economy, increase employment and therefore prosperity in a sustainable way. 

Great story, as usual Andrew! :)  Thanks!

Wynona

GREAT NEWS!!

Keep putting the word out! Everyone who wants to end the war, everyone who wants to support our Marines and soldiers, everyone who wants to promote equality, everyone who wants to promote peace should be supporting this organization. I know that I will be sending support.

Thanks for the education!

Laurie Walsh

makes me want to know more!

This whole concept of transition  --helping the Afghani people -- is something we don't hear enough about, especially in context of our military.  Great teamwork!

 

more great work!

Great writing on an important topic. 88% of funds get into the field? Very impressive; I need to check them out.

Rory

Terrific piece

Great job Andrew.

FYI, General Mattis spoke last night at the Marines Memorial in SF. Great insights.

Keep up the great work.
Jim

4 Days Flash to Bang

What struck me is getting 1000 shovels and 1000 pairs of boots from flash to bang in 4 days.  NOTHING happens that fast in DoD.  Impressive!

Great Work!

My husband's with 2/1 and told me about Spirit of America; thank you for getting the good word out.

Proud Marine Wife

I think it's great that

I think it's great that Spirit of America is working to help both the local people AND our troops at the same time. This is definitely the way to move forward in situations like this. Very impressive.

Rachael

The way to finish with a Win!

Andrew,

I applaude the work of SoA.  We will only win the war against terrorism when we build the strong lasting relationships with the Afghans.  Soldiers, Airmen, and Marines are doing tremendously tough work, but they need the rest of America to get behind them and help with the hearts and minds effort.

Ross Paterson

 

Good Advice

Well said Andy. Need more like this till "They" get it. Keep up the good work.

D H Brown

Great article!

Loved reading this. Thanks for a great piece on what our Marines are doing to turn the tide against the insurgents and to empower the Afghan people.

Keep up the good work!

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