Sunday, December 06, 2009

Soldier Defense Fund

I watched "It's a Wonderful Life" this weekend. It's become one of my favorite movies. Most people don't get a chance in life to see the impact they've had laid out before them.

There's a guy I know who is going through a rough time. To the best of my knowledge, he has not jumped into a river to save an angel's life (yet), but either way, he's in a spot where he had to reluctantly ask for help:
In September, my kids brought home a note from their school stating that the school would transition to uniforms beginning in January — midway through the school year. Naturally, this concerned me as the cost for each kid (I have two who would be affected) would be at least $400. A note home to parents assured us that the principal would entertain concerns during the upcoming “uniform fashion show.” However, the principal ended that meeting without answering a question, even though numerous hands were up. After that meeting, I organized parents with concerns and began a letter-writing and phone-calling campaign to members of the school board and media. We succeeded in getting the uniform issue tabled until next year. But parents still weren’t given a voice about whether we even wanted uniforms.

Instead of deal with me and other parents who disagreed with her new policy, the school’s principal began contacting the Army with fictitious complaints that I had threatened her. She pointed to posts on my personal blog about her behavior at the meeting as proof. However, after being referred to military investigators, they concluded that I had never issued any threats through email, blog or otherwise. I collected letters from other parents attesting to my behavior at the meeting.

Unfortunately, the Army took what the principal was saying at face value and formally counseled me. Suddenly, I was a trouble maker after 15 years of honorable service. The Army practically forced me to shut down my blog, though the decision was mine alone and no orders were given to do it.

At a PTA meeting a few weeks later, I again tried to present a motion to discuss the school uniform issue with the members of the association. It was shot down by the principal and the PTA president. I was harassed the entire evening by school security officials. Thankfully, I decided it would be prudent to record that meeting. When school officials again began contacting the Army about my supposedly threatening and disrespectful behavior at the meeting, I published the video on my blog to clear my name. This didn’t sit well with school officials and only emboldened them to step up their claims and use the military to force me to take down the videos — the only piece of evidence I had to prove my innocence.

The principal even used my PTSD to try and bolster her claims that I was a dangerous menace to her and her goals.

Because of these actions, I am pursuing a lawsuit to clear my name and force the school system to admit they overstepped their bounds by denying my right to participate in my children’s education and attempt to ruin my career. Unfortunately, I can’t afford to tackle this sort of lawsuit on my own. Because of this situation, my wife and I felt the need to relocate our kids after being singled out on more than one occasion by teachers and school staff. We took our kids to live with their grandparents until my orders allowed me to relocate in December. That trip cost us over $1,400, plus another $1,500 in maintenance on our elderly van, which completely wiped out our savings.

So, I’m asking if you’ll help me. I need to raise $7,000 just to pay for the retainer and initial filing of the lawsuit.

I am reaching out through various avenues to help raise the money. I’ve enlisted the help of local media, talk shows and blogs to help me raise the money. Fellow milbloggers are reaching into their pockets and tapping their readers as well. My neighbors and local Huntsville citizens are donating to a local fund at a bank where I’m stationed.

In one week, I move to Fort Hood for the next stage of my military service. I need to at least have the retainer and initial fees raised before I leave. Anything you can do is much appreciated no matter how small.

There are a few ways you can help. On my blog, there is a Paypal link that can used to send money instantly through a debit or credit card. All money sent through that link will go into this fund. You can also mail checks or money orders to:

Grisham Legal Fund
c/o Redstone Federal Credit Union
220 Wynn Drive
Huntsville, AL 35893

Please write “Grisham Legal Fund” in the memo line if you use this option.
CJ has always been there to send Girl Scout cookies to deployed or wounded troops. He's helped raise funds for Fisher House and Soldiers Angels’ Valour-IT. He's remembered the fallen at They Have Names.  As long as I've been reading wherever he's been writing, I don't recall him ever asking for anything for himself.

I don't know if I've ever told CJ the impact he's had on my life. I didn't know jack about the military before a friend of mine deployed in 2005. When I went out looking for information about sending care packages, I found milblogs. I remember when CJ was still on blogspot. I remember Parking Lot Pennies and The Jerky Wars. Between him, Blackfive, The Mudville Gazette, Chuck and Sarah, I got a clue. I now had images of people who were living the life and writing about it. I learned a lot about integrity, not backing down from a fight, and how real friends have your back when you need it. Eventually, I actually met all of them in person. If I look at the people I call my friends now, a lot more of them wear or have worn a uniform, whether that's military or police.

I know it's Christmas time. I know it's hard times with the economy and all. Look around, maybe you have a coin jar that needs emptying. Or maybe you file this away as something you think about next month. It sounds like it will be a long battle. If you can't hit the Paypal link, get the word out if you can. Send it to the civilian bloggers you know. Send emails to people who may not read blogs.

And most of all, if anything that CJ's done in the past has affected your life, consider a few words of support in the comments at that post. When times are tough, it's nice to know who has your back.

~~Code Monkey

UPDATE: If you haven't yet, read this: Decorated soldier’s blog attracts loyal following, but he says his bosses are muzzling him. There is a lot more of the story in that article. Also, the PayPal link at ASP is AWOL, but it is in the link in this update or you can go to PayPal, select “Send Money” and use the email address dj_chcknhawk-AT-yahoo-DOT-com, of course using real @'s and .'s or use the snail mail address above, if you are so inclined.

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