Spirit of America's Blog
Different Location, Same Mission
It is a normal day in Afghanistan... the mountains are just visible through a dusty haze, a pair of A-10s are taxiing for take-off, and the sun is baking the tarmac as I walk toward the plane with my carry-on. The only thing different about today is that this flight is possibly the last flight I will ever take out of Afghanistan. I will continue to work closely with Soldiers, Marines, and Diplomats in Afghanistan, but I will be doing it remotely since my time has come to return to the States.
Chris Clary, Spirit of America Project Manager, preparing to return to the US after completing 9 months in Afghanistan for Spirit of America
Not Political and Not Neutral, SoA at DC Event Tomorrow, Watch Online
Spirit of America is not political. We don't take any position on US policy or politics and we never will.
Our position is simple: whenever our country sends our men and women to serve abroad, we will provide assistance that makes them safer and more successful and we will help them be the best possible representatives of the American people. We have stayed true to that position.
As I mentioned last week, Spirit of America's approach has broken ground in the humanitarian assistance world. Many organizations that provide assistance overseas have a policy of being "neutral" – meaning they don't take sides in any conflict or controversy.
Spirit of America is "not neutral" because we do take a side. We take the side of US troops and diplomats and the local people and partners they seek to help. That is the only kind of assistance and support we provide.
SoA at event in Washington tomorrow, Sept 18, noon Eastern time
Neutral or not neutral is an important issue and I am speaking on the topic at an event tomorrow, September 18, at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, DC. The event goes from noon to 1pm Eastern.
I hope you can come or watch online. Click here for more details.
Being not neutral and taking a side is serious, especially in the places Spirit of America provides assistance, but a member of our team had some fun with the idea and came up this poster that hangs on a wall in our Los Angeles office.
9/11, Spirit of America, thirteen years
Thirteen years ago, after the terrorist attacks of 9/11, I committed myself to doing something to help. That motivation led me to start Spirit of America.
I had always appreciated America's freedoms but, I had also taken them for granted. 9/11 was a wake up call. Ignorance was no longer bliss.
My dear, old dad – who served as a SeaBee in World War II - and many, many others had done their part. With two young boys, I knew I wouldn't forgive myself if I didn't do my part.
In retrospect, it was a fairly naïve idea that regular citizens like me – with no government or military background – could help our troops and diplomats advance America's freedoms and ideals.
Empowering Women Through Economic Development
At a critical time, when the government and citizens of Afghanistan are determining the future of the country, the questions have to be asked: Why do Afghan women still face the barriers they do? Why is it that women are still part of the worldwide struggle for economic empowerment? And, how can their economic situation be altered to allow them to help shape the future of their country? Instead of just asking the questions, Spirit of America is actively working to empower women at the village level through economic development.
Women gather in the village's District Center to receive seamstress training and sew garments that they can sell in the nearby market.
Anticipating the Cold Winter Ahead
The American people are some of the most generous people in the world. Freely giving, without expecting anything in return, Americans have consistently helped meet the needs of those they will likely never meet in person. Operation "Share the Warmth" is an organization that embodies that generosity. Founded by an Airman deployed to Afghanistan, the organization's intent is to provide warm clothing to Afghan men, women and children in need. Private American citizens, some with ties to the military, others without, send gloves, scarves, hats and coats to the deployed Airmen. They, in turn, make sure the clothing goes where it will make the most significant impact. The Wesley United Methodist Church in Georgia, Southeast Denver Rotary Club, Afghan American community in Denver and Greenwood Community Church also of Colorado are some of the other groups Spirit of America has partnered with to share the goodwill of the American people.
I had the opportunity to organize and participate in a recent distribution of clothing and stuffed animals donated by these groups. Spirit of America, along with US military service members, was able to help the hospital staff provide warm clothing to their patients ahead of the harsh winter, as well as brighten the lives of the children who were there for treatment.
Fighting on the Front Lines in a War that is Still Raging
Every day Afghan forces are taking on more and more responsibility for the security of their country. There are close to 27,000 Afghan Local Police (ALP) battling insurgents in the most violent areas. They, along with the other 335,000 Afghan National Security Forces, like the National Police and Army, have the responsibility of securing the vulnerable populations. The Local Police, often comprised of under-equipped and under-funded units, continue to engage the enemy in daily gun battles, effectively pushing back the insurgency in their respective districts and villages.
Afghan Local Police patrol rural Afghanistan with US Special Operations soldiers. Radios provided by Spirit of America allow the police to communicate while on patrol increasing the survivability of both the Afghans and the US soldiers.
Bringing Relief to Bosnian Flood Victims
Bosnia was recently hit with the worst flooding the region has seen in over a hundred years. Compounded by steep mountains and narrow valleys, the country has been crippled by a serious of subsequent disasters. Bridges in the central and eastern interior areas of the country were washed away, along with the livestock and many small businesses, putting the already fragile economy in serious jeopardy. Experts estimate unemployment in Bosnia to rise as high as 60 percent in the coming months. Additionally, there have been over 1,900 reported landslides, and as the summer months begin many fear the spread of disease. While many displaced persons have been able to return home, hundreds still remain under the care of the government.
An AFBiH soldier saves a child from the flood waters in the hard-hit town of Maglaj (photo courtesy of AP)
Supporting an Orphanage, Building Skills for Peace
We recently told you about a training event in Kenya, where a US Army team gave its local military partners the civil affairs skills they need to help build peace and stability, both at home and throughout the region. With regional crises such as the conflict in neighboring Somalia, as well as threats from violent extremism within Kenya itself, the ability to create good relationships with vulnerable populations and develop stronger linkages between those communities and the government has never been more critical. This is at the core of civil affairs work.
The Kenyan soldiers, while highly motivated to learn, had never properly cemented their training through practical exercises. This type of real-world engagement would solidify the project assessment, planning, and implementation process in a way that classroom training, no matter how good, just could not. The students identified a place to put into practice what they had just learned – a local orphanage – but they did not have the resources to complete any projects. With your support, Spirit of America was able to fill this gap.
As the trainees went through their assessment, they determined that the orphanage – a center that serves as home and school to 100 local children who have been victimized by violence and poverty – was in need of upgrades to its educational facilities. Specifically, they decided to construct bookshelves to help create an organized, comfortable space in which the children can study.
Trainees lay out the SoA-purchased building materials