Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Charity Begins at Home. Apparently It Should End There Too 

Can't they get their stories straight? A mere two weeks ago, just as Honest Don Rumsfeld was explaining why the Grim Reaper laughs at vehicular armor, the President said we should all be taking part in volunteer efforts to support the troops; specifically, he urged "every American to find some way to thank our military and to help out the military family down the street." But when a teenaged reservist tries to do just that, what happens? You guessed it -- he gets slapped around by the brass:
An Army reservist's plan to sell some of his 49ers memorabilia to raise money for equipment to take to Iraq took an unexpected turn Tuesday when the soldier's reserve unit announced that its soldiers in Iraq have all the equipment they need.

The flap over what the Army Reserve provides, and what enlisted individuals may raise funds for, began when 18-year-old Sean Flynn of Morgan Hill took some valued pieces of San Francisco 49ers memorabilia to a sports shop -- the Fan Club in San Jose.

Flynn hoped to raise money to buy extra equipment for himself and two close friends, all facing deployment to Iraq, according to Mike Herkenrath, who co-owns the Fan Club with his father, Ken . . . .

[W]hen co-workers and customers in the shop heard of the plan, they wanted to get involved, and what began as a generous impulse on Herkenrath's part turned into an auction and fund-raiser that was intended to benefit not just the three young soldiers, but their entire unit . . . .

But when the fund-raiser hit the news, officials with Flynn's unit, the 445th Civil Affairs Battalion, based in Mountain View, were bothered by reporters' on-air assertions that the funds would be used to purchase items that the Reserve says it is not short of.

"All of our soldiers get body armor," said Maj. Barbara Kuhn, spokeswoman for the battalion. "It's a bulletproof vest, a very extravagant version, that goes around the neck and has ceramic plates in it. It's the gee-whiz, high- tech gear" . . . .

Flynn and fellow reservists Ivan Waggoner and Zane Metin, all former classmates at Live Oak High School in Morgan Hill, were called in Tuesday to explain the situation to officials at the Mountain View headquarters of the 445th, accompanied by Mike Herkenrath and Flynn's mother, Edie-Marie Mata . . . .

"You can't put on a uniform and solicit money -- the Army is not a fund-raising business," Kuhn said. "And there was concern that the money raised was going to be used for their personal benefit."

"This is absolutely not about personal gain," [Flynn's mother] Mata said. "What is in this for him? He's going to sell his stuff, make lots of money and go off on vacation in this wonderful country?"
We suspect Maj. Kuhn's attention was drawn by the large amount of cash changing hands. Let's face it -- Niners memorabilia has never been hotter.

(And just so you'll know: officials at Walter Reed Hospital say they are well-fixed for phone cards. But there's still time to give a gift to the troops, and Stars & Stripes has a page's worth of suggestions here.)

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