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Showing posts from March, 2014

The New Greatest Generation: Helping Veterans Return Home

by Don Cooke, Senior VP of Philanthropy Our nation is at a critical crossroads with our veterans. We can follow the post-Vietnam approach and turn our backs on those who fought an unpopular war, yet who were forever affected by that conflict and by their homecoming. The Vietnam approach led to soldiers’ shame, disaffection with society, and to the startling and unacceptable fact that some 25% of those homeless in America today are Vietnam veterans. Or we can take a different road – we can welcome our military people back to our communities with gratitude and with essential help re-integrating into their communities where they can be invaluable assets. I have been asked many times where the responsibility of the government (which sent young men and women into harm’s way) ends and our collective community responsibility begins. This is a very good question, but veterans are not different from others in our communities we help with jobs, education, healthcare, and housing. Communities al…

In Memoriam: Staff Sergeant Walter D. Ehlers

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On Saturday, March 8, 2014, Staff Sergeant Walter D. Ehlers, an honorable man, soldier, mentor and Medal of Honor recipient, was laid to rest at Riverside National Cemetery near Los Angeles, CA. Among the many dignitaries who came to pay their respects were about a dozen Medal of Honor recipients. Staff Sergeant Ehlers received his Medal of Honor for conspicuous service above and beyond the call of duty on June 9 and 10, 1944, in Normandy, France, just past deadly Omaha beach, which he had crossed on D-Day, June 6. Walt was a devoted veteran of the 1st Infantry Division and a friend of our First Division Museum at Cantigny Park in Wheaton, Illinois. We owed him this final farewell. The weather was beautiful, the setting sublime, the eulogies touching, the 1st Division honor guard perfect.
The day was not about the Medal but the man. Walt fought in many campaigns besides Normandy, and was wounded and decorated many times. Walt was proudest of getting his squad over Omaha beach witho…

Giving at Home: Local Philanthropy is Key to Recovery

by Don Cooke, Vice President of Philanthropy Over the past few years, we have witnessed some of the darkest times in our nation’s history. We have heard a relentless stream of stories about layoffs, fraudulent investment schemes, broke and broken governments, and corporate bailouts and unfathomable excess.Yet one important sector that is in dire straits and is too often overlooked is the nonprofit sector—the one part of our community with the principal purpose of helping transform communities by providing access to programs and resources that improve lives. The sector is struggling, not because of greed or mismanagement, but because each nonprofit organization depends upon a uniquely American culture of generosity and of helping others. Unfortunately, charitable giving is often the first thing to be scaled back in households, foundations, and corporations that must tighten their belts in tough times, and it is often the last thing to rebound as the economy improves. As our economy str…