Jennifer Byrd: My name is Jennifer Caldwell Byrd and I’m here today with Tom Claxton to talk to you about the Semper Fi fund and America’s fund. These funds provide direct financial assistance and vital programming for combat wounded, critically ill, and catastrophically injured service members and their families during hospitalization and recovery. But first, let me let Tom introduce himself. So go ahead.
Tom Claxton: I’m Tom Claxton. I’m a US Marine. I served during the early part of the years when Marines was still green before we had the camouflage. So from 1956 through 1962 I was in between the Korean war and the Vietnam war, but I was in the Marine Corps during the Vietnam era. Actually, I will receive a medal on Veteran’s Day for … a commemorative medal from the Vietnam era. So it’s a pleasure to be able to do that and continue to be a Marine serving this country. I love it and I would go back again but they don’t take old folks. So you know how that goes. But another thing is that I currently do some radio shows in the Mobile area and have for over 37 years. I do a show called a the Car Doctor that is on. We take call in calls about the car problems and things of that nature.
Tom Claxton: And then also do a show that … what we’re really here to talk about today and promoting, that’s the Scuttlebutt Network, voice of veterans for veterans. And then we have this show that we are able to promote veterans events and veterans benefits and things of that nature. And we’re blessed to have Gardberg & Kemmerly to be one of our find sponsors and help us do that and promote that. And these ladies and Mr. [Kemmerly] bring out a lot of the new innovations that they have pertaining to vets and changes in the laws. And also we’re just blessed to be able to participate.
Jennifer Byrd: Now I wanted to point out something that you are a representative with the PL Wilson detachment Marine Corps League.
Tom Claxton: Yes. I am and actually being nominated for Commandant this year, so that’d be good. I’d like to get to that podium and a [inaudible] a few people. So you know how that goes.
Jennifer Byrd: Well, and I know that you’re not going to say this, but for our viewers should probably know that he was also the Marine of the Year. Which I think is a pretty wonderful thing
Tom Claxton: Well they didn’t have nobody else to give it too.
Jennifer Byrd: Is that what it was? Now we’re here to talk today, especially about the Semper Fi fund and America’s fund and it’s really important. But tell us what got you interested in the Semper Fi fund?
Tom Claxton: I have some friends that are here in the Mobile area and the gentleman young son had gone into the Marine Corps and had gotten out of boot camp and while he was home on leave, we got into a serious car wreck. Somebody run him off the road. And they just about lost Michael. It was just really unbelievable how devastated he was. And the TBI, being traumatic brain injury that he had. And in turn they had to get him back into the hospitals and the Marine Corps and the veterans association took over his medical assistance and his hospitalization and took him to Tampa, Florida. Well, his parents were here in Mobile and he was in a hospital there for two years. Guys, can you believe that? That your kid’s way from you for two years in the hospital and you think he’s going to die. So in turn they had to shut down their business and moved down to Tampa.
Tom Claxton: And in turn the financial situation became very dire. And that’s where they ran into the Semper Fi Fund. And the Semper Fi Fund stepped up and helped a lot with a grant for them to be able to be there and participate with their son through his medical charges and all that. But he’s back home now and he’s doing a great job and we’re just blessed to have him.
Jennifer Byrd: And a large part of that is because of the help the Semper Fi Fund gave them. Let’s talk about a little bit. So my understanding is that the Semper Fi Fund was started by some military spouses when the Marines and sailors started coming back from Operation Iraqi Freedom in the spring of 2003. And that was really that first wave of, of wounded Marines and Sailors. So how did they get involved? What was the whole …
Tom Claxton: Well it happened to be that the wives of the Marines and actually a lot of the Navy personnel, we have a lot of Navy that was assigned to FMF, fleet Marine force in Marine Corps. So therefore they were considered Marines. But these events were coming back home with all these injuries and TBI, PTSD and all of the other damages and body parts damaged and things. It was unbelievable. And they weren’t financially able as a family to support these vets. Now our services took over the care of the vet themselves, but then all of the people, the families and the kids and all, they’re getting secondary PTSD from all of this. And it’s a catastrophe. So the ladies all got together and formed this corporation, which being a nonprofit, 501C3. And I think the first year they were able to collect about $5 million and help with all the financial situations that incur due to these injuries.
Jennifer Byrd: $5 million in one year.
Tom Claxton: Well, hey, if you want something done, get the women involved.
Jennifer Byrd: That’s right. That’s right. Thank you Mr. Tom. I appreciate that. Now so originally it was for the Marines and the sailors that were attached to the Marines, but it’s morphed a little bit now they have the America’s fund. So what is that and how did it come about?
Tom Claxton: Well the America’s Fund, everybody saw what these ladies were doing with this organization and the Semper Fi Fund. So in turn they just kept different veterans, Army and Coast Guard and the Navy and all the other branches of services were looking for an outlet for the same care that we were getting for our Marines. So in turn, the ladies there said, “Well, okay, we think we can do this. We have enough volunteers.” So they just initiated the new addition to the Semper Fi Fund and made it the America’s Fund. They have done an unbelievable job. Now they’re helping all veterans and veterans families and kids. That’s one of the most important parts we need to talk about.
Jennifer Byrd: And so it’s all service members that they help now.
Tom Claxton: All service members now through this fund.
Jennifer Byrd: So my understanding is that as of August of 2019 they provide about $205 million in assistance.
Tom Claxton: Oh, yes. Can you believe that?
Jennifer Byrd: That’s a lot of money.
Tom Claxton: Hey, here you go again. The ladies know how to do it. Okay.
Jennifer Byrd: Now tell me about … We’ve talked a little bit about the percentage of that 205 million. They’re able to do it because they have a lot of volunteers and there’s a low percentage that goes to administration.
Tom Claxton: Right, they have very few … Here you go again, the ladies have got it organized. They’re not heavy on the management side and up on the upper echelon side. So we’re actually seeing only about six to 7% coming out of that figure to support all of the people that are pushing this Semper Fi Fund and handling it on a day to day basis. So it’s going to be very rare if you research this to see that any organizations or any charity will pull off less than 10%. This is unbelievable what they’re doing. But it’s mostly volunteers. Everybody’s just stepping up more to be a part.
Jennifer Byrd: And because they’re doing that, they helped so many people. Right?
Tom Claxton: Sure.
Jennifer Byrd: How are some of the ways to help, what are some of their programs?
Tom Claxton: Well, some of the things that they do is they realize that the veterans are going to be taken care of in the hospital, but at the same time, the communications between the veterans and their families is really lax in that they don’t have a lot you can do. I mean you can only stand around a bed or be in a room for so long a time. So what they like to do is get the families out and get them out of the hospital and they’ll take them out into a surrounding. That’s important to the vets too so that they can get back into the system. They get used to being around people. Because you stay in that hospital for a year, a year and a half or two years, then you’re scared to go back out into public and be confronted with the public because you don’t want them looking at you and you don’t want to have to answer a lot of questions.
Tom Claxton: So they in turn get them out and do family orientated programs so that they can get the veterans and the wives and the kids. And some occasions are these are lady veterans and then their husbands and kids are involved though.
Jennifer Byrd: Okay. So that’s that caregiver support and stuff they do.
Tom Claxton: Also. It’s just awesome.
Jennifer Byrd: Now, one of the things that I really love is their kids camp that they do.
Tom Claxton: That’s awesome.
Jennifer Byrd: Now the kids camp, my understanding, they help, let’s say two million or so American children that have parents that are deployed, right?
Tom Claxton: About two million. Two million American children. They’ve had parents that have been deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan and hundreds of thousands of them had a parent wounded in action. So there you go again. And when you got that veteran wounded in action and they come home, so then the family becomes wounded. And it’s not physically as far as an arm or leg or something like that, but mentally. And that’s the more challenging factor there.
Jennifer Byrd: Well, and something that I learned when I was learning about the Semper Fi Fund, is that so many of these children suffer from secondary PTSD, which has symptoms like hypervigilance and irritability, behavioral outbursts. Semper Fi Fund doesn’t think that these children should have to face these things on their own. So they actually have a kids camp set up and they will sponsor it and send the children to these kids’ camp so that they can be around other kids just like them and help to forage some bonds and help to increase their skills of being able to deal with these not just as a child, but even as a future.
Tom Claxton: Well that’s very important to these kids too that they get back out in the stream publicity and being able to be around all the other people. They get so consumed with all of the injuries and the deaths that they are confronted with. Now we need to get that out of their head and get them back into civilization as well.
Jennifer Byrd: So we have the financial support, which you talked about with your friend and then the caregiver support and retreats. They help with some housing and transportation and some adaptive equipment too.
Tom Claxton: It’s necessary sometimes with the adaptive equipment. The service will give them maybe a wheelchair or electric wheelchair or something of that nature. But their home might not be a adaptable to that. Their home might have to have some rebuilding or some remodeling or something. Maybe a ramp even put in and things of this nature. Maybe some electrical fittings or electrical sockets on the wall. Bathrooms and how they would have to be adapted so that they can get in there with their wheelchairs and also. And most times the only places they can go to get help with this and get a grant for the monies to do this with is the Semper Fi Fun or America’s fund.
Jennifer Byrd: Well one more program that I know that you and I talked about because you’ve had some dealings with some of this, is their visiting nurse program that they do.
Tom Claxton: Unbelievable. It is just unbelievable. But the Semper Fi Fund … it’s got the nursing program that they provide support through the service members and their veterans and all five service branches and that are deemed eligible by these Fund guidelines in which nationally they have to have guidelines. They just can’t donate to everything. But the nurse program provides emotional support and assistance in the development of coping skills. They identify as health and wellness needs, gaps in care and barriers, using self care management model. They’re just there. They’re just there to help and do whatever’s necessary. And by having these funds they are able to help.
Jennifer Byrd: So overall you and I both agree the Semper Fi Fund, America’s Fund’s a fantastic organization for the veterans.
Tom Claxton: Yes.
Jennifer Byrd: And we encourage anyone that if you’re looking for an organization that’s going to help veterans, that you definitely take a look at Semper Fi Fund, America’s Fund. Donate your money. More importantly donate your time to these veterans because this is the thing that makes Semper Fi so great is there’s so many volunteers that give of their time and it makes the whole organization work even better.
Tom Claxton: Oorah.
Jennifer Byrd: All right. We want to thank you again for being here Mr. Claxton. I appreciate all this information about Semper Fi Fund.
Tom Claxton: Thank you. Enjoy.
Jennifer Byrd: It’s definitely one that I’m going to be supporting and I hope that you will too.
Tom Claxton: Sure, always have since I found out about it. But that’s the thing a lot of these organizations, they don’t spend a lot of money on publications and media blasts. Like a lot of the things companies do or the corporations that supposed to be helping our vets and suck off 40 to 50% off of the top. I’m not for that.
Jennifer Byrd: Now tell everyone how they can hear you on the Scuttlebutt radio if they want to hear about some more veterans issues.
Tom Claxton: Oh my goodness. Scuttlebutt Network a voice of veterans for veterans. It’s on 106.5 FM in Mobile, Alabama. We’re also on the internet and we have a podcast, it’s FM talk 106.5 and you can hear us all the time. I have about 200 tirades and as you can tell from my voice and my attitude, I can do a tirade about something that I feel real serious about. And you can go to castbox.com and then search for Scuttlebutt Network and Tom’s tirades. You’ll have a blast.
Jennifer Byrd: You will. They’re very fun. And once again, I’m Jennifer Caldwell Byrd with Gardberg and Kemmerly and I appreciate you spending your time with us today. And as always, if you have any questions, please feel free to give a call to our office. It’s (251) 343-1111 or you can also reach us at our 1-800 number, which is 1(800) 332-1529 you can always look on the internet at www.GardbergLaw.com. Thank you.
Tom Claxton: If you need help. These people can help you.