2009 Archive of Blog posts
Wall St. Journal - Spirit of America & Afghanistan
I have an article in the opinion/editorial pages of the Wall Street Journal today. The point is this: the tangible support of the American people can make the difference between success and failure in Afghanistan.
Like our book "101 Ways to Help the Cause in Afghanistan" our goal is to engage more Americans in support our troops and the people of Afghanistan. We're working on other ways to accomplish that task. If you're interested in being involved, please let me know. The op/ed follows …
Spirit of America in Afghanistan
Ordinary citizens can contribute to our victory.
By Jim Hake
In 2003, Sgt. First Class Jay Smith and his Army Special Forces team were based in Orgun-e, Afghanistan and were taking regular rocket fire from al Qaeda fighters. But Sgt. Smith and his men were armed with an effective counterweapon — gifts of school supplies and sports gear for children, and clothing, shoes and blankets for nearby families, all provided by American donors.
After receiving these items, the grateful villagers reciprocated by forming a night-watch patrol to protect our soldiers. Good relations with locals helped save American lives. I've witnessed this success on the front lines, aided by support from home, repeated many times since Sgt. Smith.
Accordingly, when President Barack Obama presented his plan for Afghanistan earlier this month he left out one critical element: the American people. Our initiative, resourcefulness and goodwill are incredibly powerful. In fact, the tangible support of the American people can make the difference between success and failure in Afghanistan.
Our troops in Afghanistan are engaged in counterinsurgency, a type of war that depends on winning over the local people. Marine Gen. James Mattis, commander of U.S. Joint Forces Command has said that, "One way we create the necessary credibility among the people and dissuade them from supporting our enemies is to show them hope of a better future." This is where the American people can play an indispensable role.
Our troops in Afghanistan are engaged in counterinsurgency, a type of war that depends on winning over the local people. Marine Gen. James Mattis, commander of U.S. Joint Forces Command (which supports ongoing military operations and helps shape military forces for future conflicts), has said that, "One way we create the necessary credibility among the people and dissuade them from supporting our enemies is to show them hope of a better future." This is where the American people can play an indispensable role.
Continued, read the whole thing here:
At the bottom of the page you can email the article to your friends. Please do it if you can. The "most emailed" articles become the most widely read - a virtuous circle.
Fyi, the Journal chose the title and subtitle of the op/ed. I don't think there is such a thing as an "ordinary American" but I'm delighted the Journal is getting the word out about the Americans people, Afghanistan and Spirit of America.
Our best wishes for a very happy New Year.
Jim Hake the Spirit of America team
ps: for year-end giving:
"Run to the Fire"- the Marines and us
The Marines in Nawa have made great progress in the last 6 months. LtCol McCollough is presenting the Marines ceremonial sword - the Mameluke - to local Afghan leaders who have been working cooperatively with the Marines. This is one of the ways relationships are reinforced on the front lines. Because of your support, Spirit of America was able to provide the swords when they were needed.
The photo above shows LtCol Billy McCollough, Battalion Commander of the 1/5 Marines in Nawa, Afghanistan.
A few days ago I received an email from a Marine Captain asking if we could provide 20 treadle-powered sewing machines. They'll be used to help women in Nawa, Afghanistan and build upon the gains of the 1/5 Marines.
You may recall that years ago we provided swords and sewing machines to help the Marines in Anbar Province, Iraq. That was before and during the "Anbar Awakening" and the surge - when the situation in Iraq was difficult and challenging, as Afghanistan is today.
"RUN TO THE FIRE"
Speaking of the Marines in Anbar Province ... In 2004, the 1st Marine Division invited me to visit them in Iraq to explore how Spirit of America could increase our support. Before going I was required to participate in a one-day training session at Camp Pendleton. That's me, below, before gas mask training.
At the end of the day, I was briefed by a young Lieutenant. He asked if I knew what to do if anyone started shooting at us. Figuring that the Marines would know where to take cover, I said, "I'll do what the Marines do." The Lieutenant gave me a strange look and said, "No. The Marines are going to run TO the fire. YOU are going to run away."
I've never forgotten what the Lieutenant said.
The Marines run to the fire - meaning they don't shrink from the tough or unwanted situation. They do what needs to be done no matter how hard it is. They "run to the fire." I've come to understand this is an ethos that applies broadly - not only to Marines in combat.
Afghanistan is a tough situation, even for those not serving. Here at home there is ample pessimism and disagreement. Many prefer to avoid the subject entirely. And, there is no easy solution.
The situation is difficult but we are not powerless. We can help our troops succeed and come home sooner and safer. This is our time to "run to the fire" and do what needs to be done.
Please consider a year-end donation to help our men and women in Afghanistan. You can give here, call 800-819-7875 or mail to 12021 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 507, Los Angeles, CA 90025. Thank you.
Our best wishes for joyful holidays and a very happy New Year for you and your loved ones.
Jim Hake and the Spirit of America team
Classroom Items Received by Project Afghan Literacy
Army medic William Seo's Project Afghan Literacy has received its first packages from Spirit of America! We sent dry erase marker kits to help in the classroom where Afghan men are taught to read and write. This class is part of a very successful effort to combat the illiteracy rate in Afghanistan. To find out more about this cause and to donate to provide classroom supplies, you can visit the project page here.
101 Ways to Help the Cause in Afghanistan
We just published a book that is now available for sale on Amazon: 101 Ways to Help the Cause in Afghanistan. Dan Henninger of The Wall Street Journal says, "The American people can play an extraordinary role in achieving a positive outcome in Afghanistan. Help the Cause shows how we can do it."
Help the Cause describes 101 ways to help the Afghan people and to increase the safety, well-being and success of our troops. It features the work of 65 organizations, including Spirit of America. All proceeds go to the organizations/projects featured in the book.
The book is $19.95. Please consider buying a copy for yourself and your friends. You can order at 1-800-431-1579 (fastest delivery) or at Amazon (delivery should be quicker than Amazon estimates). More on the book by Senator McCain, Marcus Luttrell and others is below.
Why the Book?
The support of the American people can make the difference between success and failure in Afghanistan. I wrote the book because I know many Americans want to help but either don't know what to do or don't think they can make a difference. The book describes meaningful ways for every American to help, no matter what their political views. I promise that's true. Our goal is to have many more Americans supporting our men and women in Afghanistan (including those who have served) and helping the Afghan people.
Thank you for helping with the book. Please email with any questions, comments or ideas. We'll be back in a few days with updates on Spirit of America projects and Afghanistan.
Jim Hake and the Spirit of America team
WHAT PEOPLE SAY ABOUT HELP THE CAUSE
1st Lieutenant Mike Kuiper, US Marine Corps
"The support of the American people means everything to us on the front lines in Afghanistan. Many family and friends ask what they can do. Help the Cause describes specific ways you can both help us and the Afghan people we are working with."
Senator John McCain
"The war in Afghanistan can be won. Success can be achieved. Americans who want to support our troops and their Afghan partners should read Help the Cause. This book is filled with important, concrete ways that all Americans can contribute to the mission and strengthen our fighting men and women who are leading it. Help the Cause is an invaluable guide to giving the necessary support that makes all the difference."
Marcus Luttrell, former Navy SEAL; Author, Lone Survivor
"The greatest weapon in our arsenal on the battlefield is the support of the local people and their military. I personally learned that when a Pashtun tribe kept me safe and harbored me from the enemy, as well as aiding the US military in bringing me to safety. Americans can support those serving and our Afghan counterparts through the projects and organizations highlighted in Help the Cause. These projects are essential to building relationships that help local populations and those serving in harm's way."
Peter Ackerman, Chairman Emeritus, Freedom House; Chairman, The Fletcher School, Tufts University
"We all seek an Afghanistan that is peaceful, tolerant and free. This book shows how you can help achieve that goal."
Ambassador Mark Palmer, Co-Founder, National Endowment for Democracy
"Help the Cause is about people, not politics. The stories are hopeful and extraordinary. You'll find yourself wanting to support dozens of these efforts."
Wheelchairs Made it to Afghanistan!
Spirit of America is happy to say MAJ Eric Ruthman in Afghanistan hasreceived 10 wheelchairs we recently sent to him. These wheelchairs are to benefit Afghan children injured by landmines. Once a distributionhas taken place, MAJ Ruthman will send us photos and an update to sharehere on our site! The children at the Egyptian hospital are still inneed of blankets, clothing, and shoes.
Supplies for Marines of 4th LAR
The first wave of supplies requested by the 4th Light Armored Reconnaissance (LAR) Marines in Southern Afghanistan are on the way. Captain Lamar Breshears. CO Charlie Company, compiled a list of needed items with Spirit of America, and we are pleased to report that over $7,500 worth of goods should arrive to the 4th LAR within the next few weeks. These goods include 100 analog watches, 50 solar-powered radios, 100 Leatherman tool kits, 100 prayer rugs and 100 copies of the Quran.
We expect to post photos and updates on these items being distributed to the local citizens so please check back. In the meantime, please consider donating to the mission of Captain Breshears and the 4th LAR via their project page, Marines Are Fighting Insurgents by Helping Afghan Villagers in Helmand Province.
LA Times: Marines in Afghanistan Hear a Plea
Story in LA Times on Marines in Nawa, the 1/5 Marines, to whom Spirit of America hasprovided school supplies, solar-powered radios, sporting goods and more.
Says 1st Lt. Mike Kuiper, "they'll remember this interaction the restof their lives, that the Americans loved us and taught us and tried tomake this country better."
Read about Spirit of America and the 1/5 Marines here.
Supplies on the Way for Project Afghan Literacy
Spirit of America has purchased dry erase markers, pencils, erasers, and notebooks to send to medic William Seo for Project Afghan Literacy. We hope to be able to provide more items in the future to benefit this worthwhile program.