Annual Battle of Midway and D-Day remembrances reminds us of the selfless sacrifice of our serving members and their families. The Navy Safe Harbor Program was specifically established by the Navy to assist Navy and Coast Guard Wounded Warriors. During my career both as an aviator and surface warrior, I sadly had people get severely injured. Several were medically retired and I mistakenly thought the Navy, Navy Relief, VA, and other Wounded Warrior-like programs fully supported those whose lives had been drastically altered but I was wrong.
My awareness of the Navy Safe Harbor Foundation began in 2015 when RADM Chris Cole asked me to help VADM Jim Amerault with a fundraising golf tournament in Jacksonville. At that time, Chris was the Executive Director of Navy Safe Harbor Foundation which supported Navy and Coast Guard Wounded Warriors. Until then, I will sadly confess that I was unaware of this program and the foundation itself but with leaders like Chris and Jim giving me the “gouge”, I jumped at the opportunity to help. Both were involved from the incubation and had shepherded the evolution of the foundation. They, along with other DC patriots, saw the need to assist not only Navy and Coast Guard Wounded Warriors but their families.
I had the distinct pleasure of meeting Navy Wounded Warriors at the golf tournament and heard their stories of how the Foundation had made a difference in their lives. I visited Bethesda and witnessed the impact of adaptive athletics and the encouragement of coaches and staff towards recovery from the wounds of war both physically and emotionally. Similarly, I attended a Safe Harbor sponsored Family Support/Care Giver symposium in Jacksonville. There, I met the Navy’s Southeast Regional coordinator and discovered the unique relationship between the Navy and Foundation and how these combined efforts best served enrolled Navy Safe Harbor members.
Unlike some larger, well-known Wounded Warrior Programs, Navy Safe Harbor works directly with the Navy and Coast Guard and steps up when they cannot provide financial support for adaptive athletics, CAREGIVER programs, and financial grants. The Foundation itself is a not-for-profit 501C3 operated by an all-volunteer board and I was honored to join them in 2020. I then became Treasurer in 2021. Under the leadership of VADM Lou Crenshaw, there are several geographically diverse fundraising events throughout the year. With the objective of being able to honor every Navy generated request, these events along with generous individual and philanthropic grants truly make a difference.
To steal a Rotary phrase, “Service Above Self”, is a call to action to those who sacrificed so much.