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Join the OOA mission

By Staff | Mar 4, 2010

Dear fellow Americans,

I am writing this letter to introduce you to a wonderful not-for-profit organization, Operation Open Arms (OOA), that is working tirelessly everyday with a totally volunteer staff to help our active duty service personnel on leave from combat zones recover from the experiences and enjoy a few days of free carefree fun.

The primary mission of Operation Open Arms is to provide free vacations for the above service personnel. Our heroes who protect our freedom everyday and OOA need the Sanibel-Captiva community to continue its mission. OOA is desperately short of funds.

The challenges posed to our troops today are in certain ways even more severe than those required of to our servicemen and women during the Vietnam War. They include multiple deployments, record suicides, parents leaving children behind, and epidemic divorce rates.

The OOA Bridge is one that lifts the very pressure packed financial and psychological burden of a combat leave for servicemen and women and their families. As well, our vacations might be the last they ever have.

In addition, OOA refuses to allow our troops on combat leave to have weddings at the courthouse and instead enables them to have weddings in wonderful privates venues. OOA has assisted our heroes in many ways during extraordinary circumstances, some of which are described below.

The founder of OOA, Capt. John Bunch, wrote the legislation that benefitted pour heroes in Florida and presented it as proposed Law to the State Legislature. Governor Crist enthusiastically signed the new legislation into law seven months later.

You may ask why that this has become a passionate issue with me. There are several reasons. Firstly, I am a combat veteran of the Vietnam War. Secondly, if you remember the Tom Hanks character (Capt. John Miller) talking to Private Ryan in “Saving Private Ryan” and as Capt. Miller lays dying he tells Private Ryan “Earn rhis!” I want to earn the fact that I survived Vietnam when 762 members of my Regiment, the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, did not survive by giving back now that I am retired. Thirdly, I vividly remember my comrades that I had to put into body bags on that horrific day in March 1970 along the Cambodian Border. I see them everyday. Fourthly, I remember how I was treated when I returned from Vietnam and do not want current service personnel to be treated that way. Lastly, there is a serious disconnect between the very comfortable life that we enjoy on Sanibel-Captiva and the sacrifices that our heroes make everyday in Iraq and Afghanistan to make our wonderful life possible. It is like we are in a parallel universe. Nobody talks about the wars. We felt the same disconnect from the “world” while we were in Vietnam.

U.S. Senator Jim Webb, a Marine combat veteran of Vietnam, in his very realistic book “Fields Of Fire,” very well summarizes that feeling: “And who are the young men we are asking to go into action against such solid odds? You’ve met them. They are the best that we have. But they are it McNamara’s sons or Bundy’s. I doubt they’re yours. And they know that they’re at the end of the pipeline. That no one cares. They know.” That is the way I have felt for so long and why I did not even want anyone to know that I was a Vietnam veteran.

Some that did know asked some very hurtful questions. I do not want our current service personnel to feel this way. It has to stop.

One organization stepped up successfully in 2005 to correct this problem and help our active duty service personnel on leave from combat zones, Operation Open Arms. Capt. John Bunch founded OOA, a Marine Corps combat veteran of Vietnam and a friend of Senator Jim Webb. OOA’s mission is to provide tangible acts of kindness for active duty service personnel on leave from combat zones and other active duty personnel and their families in extraordinary circumstances.

Over 2,300 troops have been provided much needed vacations from combat since 2005 at an average cost of $4,000. OOA also provides much needed PTSD counseling. All services are free. OOA is staffed by all dedicated volunteers and has a wonderful network of generous contributors and service providers, such as restaurant owners and motel proprietors. However, OOA is now desperately short of funds and needs the Sanibel-Captiva Community to step up.

Please become a contributor to Operation Open Arms program. To learn more about this wonderful program please go to the OOA Web site, www.operationopenarms.org. You can donate online on the website or you can mail in a check. It is a great way to honor those who protect our freedom every day. If you have any questions about the program or donating please call me at 472-6017.

Among other things OOA provides free vacations for our servicemen and women returning home on leave from a combat zone protecting our freedom and their families. OOA also assists active duty service personnel and their families in extraordinary need, such as helping the young Marine in Lehigh whose house was vandalized. OOA also paid for a grief stricken Charlotte County mother to visit her Army son wounded in the shooting at Fort Hood so that she would not have to drive alone to Fort Hood. OOA helped the young serviceman’s, Danny Beougher, wife and family when a drunk driver in Lee County killed him on his way home here while on leave.

In order for our strictly volunteer organization to continue its sacred mission we need volunteer charitable persons, which I know from experience you are, to participate. Please visit our website to learn more about OOA. Please let me know what you think? Please join other generous patriots such as Al and Sally Hanser, Luc Century, Craig Albert, Jeff and Robin Shuff, Mr. and Mrs. Tony Lapi, Mr. and Mrs. Billy Kirkland (Vietnam Veteran), Mary Jo Bogdon and Matt Asen, John and Kim Nader, Norm and Libby Ziegler, and Roseanne Giordano who are contributors to this and/or other veterans and active duty service personnel issues. Our heroes need you. You will be glad that you did.

Thank you very much for reading this important letter.

Dennis Simon

Sanibel