2016-03-30 / Opinion

Exploiting The Wounded

Other Editors Say...

The men and women who have served in the U.S. military deserve the gratitude of all Americans.

Those wounded in the line of duty deserve every form of assistance, first from the government that deployed them but also from charities organized to supplement their needs.

They deserve far better than what the Wounded Warrior Project became in their name– a self-perpetuating fundraiser that delivered a scant and scandalous 60 percent of its resources to veterans.

Last week, the nonprofit’s CEO, Steve Nardizzi, and its chief operating officer, Al Giordano, were fired after stories from CBS News and the New York Times detailed excessive spending on executive perks, travel, and company gatherings.

What a disgrace.

How unnecessary and disrespectful.

John Melia, injured as a Marine while serving in Somalia in 1992, founded WWP in 2003 with a modest goal– providing backpacks full of necessities to veterans recovering in U.S. hospitals.

As the effort grew, he brought in Mr. Nardizzi, a lawyer who never served in the military but had nonprofit experience, to expand the Florida-based nonprofit.

It went on to become the nation’s largest veterans charity.

Its aggressive fundraising efforts tallied more than $372 million last year.

“An entrepreneurial spirit led to WWP’s success,” Mr. Nardizzi said in January, just before reports of lavish $1 million company meetings at five-star resorts and other wasteful spending unseated him.

Low administrative costs are not necessarily the highest virtue for a charitable organization. Cultivating a professional staff that distributes grants in the most effective way can be just as important.

But under Mr. Nardizzi, WWP grew too fast too soon.

Its noble vision gave way to hucksterism and undisciplined spending.

Mr. Melia, who was eased out in 2009, has indicated he’s willing to return to the helm temporarily.

But the Wounded Warrior Project needs fresh blood. It certainly needs leadership with a sense of service and shame.–Toledo Blade

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