America Supports You: Group Remains ‘Always Faithful’ to Injured Warriors
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Mar. 16, 2007 A four-year-old servicemember support group has proved to be “Always Faithful” as it continues to assist Marines, sailors and other military members who have been injured during their service in the global war against terrorism.
The Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund’s genesis occurred at Camp Pendleton, Calif., in April 2003, when registered nurse and Marine spouse Karen Guenther and other volunteers organized activities for wounded Marines and sailors as they returned from Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Guenther’s husband was deployed overseas at the time, she recalled.
“My husband was in Iraq, and I knew he could be on one of those stretchers at any point of time,” Guenther said. “It became very personal, and I saw the needs.”
The Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund, a nonprofit organization, has provided more than $8 million in assistance to injured servicemembers and their families since the group was incorporated in May 2004, said Guenther, who now lives in Colorado with her Marine husband.
Guenther’s group is affiliated with America Supports You, a Defense Department-sponsored program highlighting the ways Americans are supporting the nation’s servicemembers.
“We’re thrilled to be a part of America Supports You. I think it is a wonderful campaign. It helps provide visibility and support and assists nonprofit organizations like ours to help those who serve our country,” Guenther said.
The Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund assists wounded Marines, sailors and other servicemembers who have been injured while supporting Marine units, Guenther explained. The group has about 95 volunteers, she said, who work at military and Veterans Affairs hospitals worldwide.
Most donations come from private individuals, Guenther said. Corporate donations, she said, also are accepted.
Donations are used for home renovations, to purchase special vans and wheelchairs, and for other needs of wounded servicemembers, Guenther said.
For example, the group just bought a $23,000 customized wheelchair for a Marine who’d been paralyzed from the waist down as the result of injuries suffered in Iraq, she said. The Marine, she noted, was honorably discharged and has dreams of becoming a chef.
That former Marine now works in one of the best restaurants in New Orleans and is studying at a culinary school there, Guenther said.
“It’s all because of this chair; without the chair he wouldn’t be able to do it,” she said. “He has his future back.”
The group provided $84,000 to help establish the Wounded Warrior Center at Camp Pendleton, a 26-bed facility that opened in August and provides accommodations for recovering wounded Marines and sailors.
Wendy Lethin, director of business operations at the Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund’s office at Camp Pendleton, has been with the group since its inception.
“I have the wonderful opportunity to work with our wounded heroes,” Lethin said. “I also get to talk to great Americans who want to support our troops.”
The Marine Corps’ motto, “Semper Fidelis” -- often shortened to “Semper Fi” -- is Latin for “Always Faithful,” Guenther said. The group, she noted, strives to live up to that motto as it assists wounded servicemembers and their families.
“We’re ‘Always Faithful’ to our Marines and other servicemembers who come back injured,” she declared. “We help from the moment they get to the hospital and we stay with the family through their recovery.”
Donations can be forwarded by accessing the group’s Web site at www.semperfifund.org, or they can be mailed to: Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund, 825 College Blvd., Suite 102, Personal Mailbox 609, Oceanside, CA, 92057.
The group’s Camp Pendleton office telephone number is 760-725-3680. It has another office at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., which can be reached at 703-640-0181.