By Pete Seitz, President, Greater Los Angeles Chapter (GLAC) Association of the United States Army (AUSA)
As the first month of this year ends, I wanted to share with you a look back on 2016 and look forward into 2017.
Despite all the news about the drawdown of troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, our Army continues to be engaged in the Global War on Terror, now in its 15th year. Our Soldiers and families are still experiencing the hardships of deployments, transitions from assignments and the incredible stress that those events place on their families. Many school age children have never known a period of not being at war.
Although current levels of deployments are down from the peak deployments from a few years ago, we still have 27,198 members of the Guard and Reserve on active duty.
For GLAC this means that taking care of Soldiers, Veterans and their Families continues to be the number one priority for the chapter. Our Military Assistance Fund provided more than $35,000 in assistance funds (no repayment required – these are not loans) to our service members, military families, Veterans and local units in 2016. This fund covers a vast array of needs: preventing vehicle repossessions (critical, because you have to have a vehicle to get to your job); stopping house foreclosures; buying groceries; making utility payments; air fare to get home for a funeral; and so much more.
Because of our ability to respond quickly to requests, GLAC is often the first choice for immediate assistance in the local area. We respond to requests for assistance within a day or two, not weeks or months, often providing assistance within 24 hours. Yet, every request is rigorously vetted – and we never give funds directly to the service member, family or Veteran.
We are extremely proud of the fact that we have kept our overhead costs to less than one percent. All of our work is done out of our homes, by volunteers.
In 2016, we worked with Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs for the first time. Through our golf tournament fundraiser, we were able to provide two California disabled veterans with service dogs that will change their lives. These highly trained and amazing dogs cost about $22,000 per dog. There is no profit in that cost – Guardian Angels spends at least two years training each dog, which includes feeding them, housing them and all veterinarian care. Imagine a dog that can go the refrigerator and retrieve medication… or can sense an oncoming PTSD episode before it happens, often stopping it with a simple paw placed tenderly on the hand of the Veteran. One Veteran paired with a dog was able to leave his home for the first time in nine years.
Our Skills and Training Development Program (STDP) is key to helping to solve the unemployment / underemployment that exists at high levels among our reservists and spouses. In November 2010, a pilot program for STDP was initiated for Reserve Soldiers and spouses (of both active and reserve) in need of training or specialized training to help them get jobs. That pilot program was a great success. In 2015, the GLAC STDP provided more than $22,000 in training and development funding. Helping them become more employable is essential to resolving many of the financial issues overwhelming our local military families.
Your chapter works hard to raise the money for all of this support – but we have a lot of fun, as well! Our fundraisers – like the bowling tournament, golf tournament and Veterans Honor Ride are all great events.
The 2016 Army Birthday Ball was another huge success. Our members who attended were joined by nearly 250 local Soldiers and their significant others – who came as our guests. They had a great time – five-star cuisine, entertainment and dancing… what’s not to love?
2017 is going to be a year of working hard to continue this level of care for our local Soldiers, Veterans and their families. It may take a village to raise a family… well it takes a whole AUSA chapter to care for our local military.
We are continuing to grow our Industrial Associate (IA) Membership Program. The IA program links local Defense-related businesses with Army leadership – providing an opportunity for meaningful dialog.
We are going to be growing our ROTC and JROTC programs in the coming year. We have a passion for helping our youth to learn the values of leadership, integrity and hard work – all traits that they encounter through the JROTC programs in their high schools. We will be looking at ways to make an even more meaningful difference to the Cadets in the ROTC battalions we support across the Greater Los Angeles area.
We are proud of the strong partnerships that we have with the California National Guard and our local Army Reserve units. They value the commitment that our chapter has to taking care of Soldiers, Veterans and their families.
I want to encourage each of you to find a way to become an active part of the chapter this year.
Thank you for your membership – I am looking forward to an exciting 2017.