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Is It Political to Support Military Charities?

By Liz Brown

I never expected to get defensive of veterans on a wedding planning website.

I'm using TheKnot.com to organize my upcoming ceremony. Though Rob and I are civilly married, ours was a "military wedding" with just our parents and siblings on hand, and a lot of friends and family missed out. (I'll write more on this another day.) So we're having a church wedding this fall for a big, wonderful mess of people, and The Knot is keeping our budget, to-do list, and other important details straight.

And everything was great until today. Today, a gift registry feature on the site set me off.

"Choose a charity and we'll make a donation when someone buys a gift from your registry profile," the page proclaimed.

'Well that's cool,' I thought. Immediately, a mile-long list of military-related charities populated in my brain: Warrior Dog Foundation, LZ-Grace Veterans Retreat, the Navy SEAL Foundation, and many more. It would be tough to pick just one.

Well, The Knot made the choice easy for me. I hit the button to select a foundation, cruised the list, and found only surprise. Veterans did not make the grade.

In all, there are something like 128 charities listed. I poured over every single name, looking for the Wounded Warrior Project, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Soldiers' Angels — any of the great charities that support military personnel and their families — and found none of them.

"Trees for Life"? You bet. Scotland's leading conservation volunteering charity sits proudly among the pile. But the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) is nowhere to be found. It seems TAPS' support  of those grieving the death of a loved one serving in the Armed Forces was deemed an unworthy cause.

The reason is probably political.

To grossly simplify the way some people must: If a brand supports military charities it is seen to support the military, which means it supports war, which means it sides with the Right, which means it opposes the Left. And you can't pick sides, or even appear to your consumers pick sides, when you're trying to appeal to as many people as possible.

Maybe the reasoning is more complex and nuanced than I realize. But what I see is another example of people suffering because of politics.

There are children in this country who have lost mothers and fathers to combat, and they need help. There are service members who have lost legs, arms, or both, and they need help. I'm not going to say that one charity is more important than another because that argument is impossibly personal. (I'm sure if I say grieving children are more important than trees, someone will reply that children would die without trees' life-giving oxygen.)

I just wish there was a choice.

Put military charities on your list and let people choose if they want to support them or not. The spirit of giving is about helping those in need — period. The more charities there are on the list, the more help different groups will get. Sounds like a win to me.

One resource for finding military charities can be found right on this website: http://www.militaryconnection.com/charityconnect