Friday, November 5, 2010

US Army Garrison Tells Us How we are Authorized to Help Each Other - The Household Goods Fire Follow-up

OK, I am probably going to stir up a bit of controversy with this post … so, let ‘er rip:

As readers of my blog know, a recent fire devastated an entire military community here in Germany.  As we Americans are a very generous people (in no doubt due to the LARGE Christian community here), there was a huge outpouring of desire to help in any way possible.  All good… now here is where I throw a massive rock into the pond.  And now for your standard disclaimer:  This opinion piece reflects the opinion of the author alone and in no way reflects the opinion of his unit, his organization, the US Army, or the US government, or even God (though he may be closer to that official opinion).
Of course, our greatest desire (collectively, not as a Christian), is to provide the maximum impact of our donations of time, money, and goods.  However, the incessant interference of nameless, faceless government bureaucracy has intervened again.  This time it’s our own garrison community.  Now please do not get me wrong.  I in no way infer that the Garrison has any mal-intent, any desire for self-aggrandizement, any pharisaical (blow a trumpet, look at me, look at how I give), anything other than the best of intentions.  With that as a disclaimer, I have excerpts below from a statement issued from the Public Relations officer (please note I have redacted bank information and community names:

DONATIONS. For individuals associated with the military community who wish to donate to assist the victims of this fire, I have authorized the following channels of relief:
a. FINANCIAL CONTRIBUTIONS. The Community Spouses Club (CSC) has established the “CSC Emergency Relief Fund” at the Community Bank. Monies contributed to this account will be specifically segregated for support of fire victims. The account will be managed by a community team. All other community volunteer organizations should use this account as a focal point for private donations.
b. CHAPEL OFFERINGS. Special collections will be taken at all chapel services during the weekend of 06-07 November. Those offerings will be transferred to the CSC Emergency Relief Fund on Tuesday, 09 and 16 November. Additional special collections may also occur at future dates to be determined.
c. MATERIAL DONATIONS. The Thrift Shop on Patch Barracks has set aside a designated room for donations specifically for the families affected by the fire. All individuals wishing to donate material items to the Thrift Shop should contact the ACS Volunteer Desk at DSN XXX-XXXX  or e-mail a list of items to be donated to redacted. (NOTE: After 15 January 2011 all donated items will be turned over to the Thrift Shop for general usage.)
d. VOLUNTEERS. Any individual interested in a volunteer opportunity to assist family members affected by the fire should contact the ACS Volunteer Desk at DSN XXX-XXXX.
FIRE VICTIM ASSISTANCE. Families affected by the fire who require immediate assistance of any kind (counseling, groceries, etc.,) can contact the garrison Religious Support Office (Chaplain at DSN XXX-XXXX or cell XXX-XXXX) or the ACS Volunteer Desk (DSN XXX-XXXX) for immediate assistance. To contact a Chaplain after duty hours or on weekends, please call the MP desk at DSN XXX-XXXX or civilian XXX-XXXX.

The USAG Command Team and the garrison tenant activities express their sincere condolences to our Stuttgart family members who have been affected by this fire. Please allow us to help you.

Additionally, the USAG Command Team would like to thank everyone in the community for their continuing support during this time and remind all community members that solicitation outside of the military community is not authorized.

I just want to make a few observations on this:

1.       Military customs and courtesies and the UCMJ aside, the Garrison Command has no right to tell me or my family what to do with money we wish to charitably give.  This tone is completely insulting.
2.       The underlying problem of our country’s welfare government is that it takes the responsibility, the duty, and the benefits of giving away from the citizen, and instead turns it over to an uninterested, government bureaucrat to dispense at their pleasure.  This unwise policy of consolidating all donations into one point to be run by a committee is exactly in the same vein as the aforementioned problem.  Once again, what is the road to hell paved with?  Giving one to another creates a sense of responsibility, creates an emotional bond between giver and receiver, causes feelings of gratitude and humility in both the giver and receiver, encourages reciprocation upon better times, and to the Christian, provides a venue with which to share his/her faith.  Giving from an organization to a person encourages fraud, waste, abuse, envy, entitlement, irresponsibility, provides for no feelings of specific gratitude, and encourages people to be beneficiaries of the all-powerful bureaucracy rather than the good graces of fellow citizens.  I’m sorry, the maximum benefit provided by individuals helping individuals, while it may waste a few more dollars, vastly outweighs the alternative mandated in this press release.
3.       Lastly, and this incensed me most of all.  If I read the last paragraph correctly, the USAG command is essentially telling my German, African, Russian, and other church brothers and sisters that they cannot help bear the burden or provide support to a specified church ministry.  It is fine if the military chapels do so, but verboten if the German churches participate.  If there are some SOFA or legal considerations for this mandate, fine, but specify so.  Otherwise you are sticking a finger in the eye of your host country religious community who prays for you, supports you, ministers to you, etc.
4.       Lastly, if one wishes to actually do something that makes a personal impact, I encourage them to seek to volunteer.  Thankfully, the garrison has made this method “authorized” for us.

Well, now that I got that off my chest, I hope the waves created by this rock don’t swamp the boat.

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