Category Archives: General OOA Articles

Local company repairs roof at Operation Open Arms

March 12, 2014
By ED FRANKS (efranks@breezenewspapers.com) , Pine Island Eagle

David Crowther, owner of CFS Roofing services, heard about John Bunch’s leaking roof from former Lee County Commissioner Tami Hall.

“Tami introduced me to John Bunch,” Crowther said. “I looked into his organization, Operation Open Arms of Southwest Florida, and was impressed with the work he was doing. Several months later he called me about a leaking roof and I offered to make the repairs free of charge as a thank you for the work that John does.”

Operation Open Arms of Southwest Florida is dedicated to the care and treatment of post rheumatic stress disorder. On April 19, 2005, Operation Open Arms was founded. Since this date OOA has provided free one-week R&R vacations for 2,848 U.S. servicemen and women returning from Afghanistan and Iraq plus other foreign duty stations such as South Korea; Guantanamo, Cuba; and Kuwait. Besides providing free R&R’s, OOA and a network of 245 businesses/Individuals have provided 99 free weddings for E-5’s and below. OOA’s 100th and last wedding is scheduled for the fall of 2014.
– See more at: http://www.pineisland-eagle.com/page/content.detail/id/526492/Local-company-repairs-roof-at-Operation-Open-Arms.html?nav=5047#sthash.g0cdh1rm.dpuf

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Back from heart attack to serve Our Troops

January 23, 2014

By JIM LINETTE (jlinette@breezenewspapers.com) , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

Operation Open Arms founder Capt. John Bunch of Pine Island likes telling stories about the U.S. servicemen and women and their families that he has taken on fishing trips over the years.

When one of his OOA charter captains, who he has never met in person, recently suffered a heart attack he couldn’t keep from telling yet another story, this time about one of his own.

Captain Roy Bennett of Cape Coral has been one of OOA’s trusted and reliable charter guides for about six years. Retired from the New York Police Department, Bennett was in the middle of taking a coronary stress test when he had his heart attack. He is now recuperating at home and resuming his charters aboard Hot One II.

“I’ve heard nothing but praise and good things from servicemen and sponsors about Captain Roy,” said Bunch. “He has received many tokens of appreciation from soldiers he has helped serving in Afghanistan and other combat zones.”

Bennett received an American Flag from a soldier in Afghanistan that flew on a Blackhawk helicopter flying medivac missions. The flag came accompanied by a certificate of authenticity photograph of the unit and Army Sgt. Gaston Garcia’s letter of appreciation.

“I took him on a tarpon charter in April,” said Bennett. “He caught a 100-pound tarpon. He was thrilled just as much as I was.”

The certificate of authenticity states the flag flew on 15 missions and more than 30 hours of medivac operations.

“I went out and got a frame for the certificate and for the flag and it is in my living room now,” Bennett said. “I got all choked up and had goosepimples when I read it. It makes me feel good every time I look at it.”

Bennett has taken 26 military OOA charter trips and many resulted in tokens of appreciation, such as shoulder patches, unit photographs, T-shirts, Iraq and Afghanistan money, as well as rare service medallions.

“Bennett never served in the military and I think that is the reason he contributes to OOA,” said Bunch. “I think he realized that the next best thing to serving is by giving back to the troops through OOA.”

Operation Open Arms provides fishing trip vacations and even weddings to U.S. military personnel home on leave from foreign combat zones and military outposts. A network of more than 60 charter captains in Florida and Maryland are backed financially by a stable of sponsors, donors and contributors eager to support our troops whether they have served themselves or not.

“I am extremely grateful that (Bennett) made it through and can return to taking Operation Open Arms chartersagain,” said Bunch. “He has been a real asset to us and plays an important and generous part in taking troops on fishing trips.”

– See more at: http://www.cape-coral-daily-breeze.com/page/content.detail/id/538218/Operation-Open-Arms-captain-receives-combat-flag.html#sthash.NDEoyLux.dpuf

Suicides of young vets top those of active-duty troops

Gregg Zoroya, USA TODAY 11:17 a.m. EST January 10, 2014

Whatever torment has driven troops to commit suicide in historically high numbers is following them as they leave the service, according to data released by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Young veterans just out of the service and receiving health care from the government committed suicide at nearly three times the rate of active-duty troops in recent years, according to data released Thursday by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

VA officials say the data show that severe personal issues driving self-destructive tendencies for those in uniform follow them when they leave the military. The figures were released through a USA TODAY public records request.

“The rates … are honestly alarming. This group of young veterans appears to be in some trouble,” says Janet Kemp, head of the department’s suicide prevention program.

The Army has struggled with suicide among active-duty troops more than other service branches during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the risk persists after soldiers return to civilian life.

Veterans ages 18-24 enrolled in the VA’s health program killed themselves at a rate of 46 per 100,000 in 2009 and nearly 80 per 100,000 in 2011, the latest year of data available, according to the figures.

Non-veterans of the same age had a suicide rate during 2009 and 2010, the most recent data available, of about 20 per 100,000, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Thirty-six young veterans receiving some form of VA health care committed suicide in 2009 and 65 died by their own hand two years later. Among those in the broader age group 18-29, the suicide numbers rose from 88 in 2009 to 152 in 2011.

The overall suicide rate for active-duty personnel in the Army hovered at 22 per 100,000 during 2009-11, according to military figures.

The number of soldier suicides peaked at 185 in 2012 and a record rate for the Army that year of 30 per 100,000. Numbers for 2013 are not yet available.

Kemp says a preliminary analysis shows that most of them were not receiving mental health therapy but had been treated for other health issues by the VA.

“They’re young. They’ve just gotten out of the service,” she says. “They’re more concentrated on going home, getting jobs, for the most part. They’re not coming in for mental health care.”

VA epidemiologist Robert Bossarte says a similar pattern was found among veterans in the past.

“There were were several studies after Vietnam that showed increases in suicide and other forms of injury/mortality for about the first five years following return from service,” Bossarte says. “Those rates (eventually) came down to be about the same as the rest of the population.”

A positive sign in the new data, Kemp says, is that suicide rates for male veterans of all ages who are diagnosed and treated for mental health problems by the VA have fallen steadily from 2001-2011, in contrast to suicide patterns among non-veteran males.

The same is not true for female veterans, whose suicide rates have not improved and remain higher than women who are not veterans, according to the VA data.

Kemp says recent success in reaching veterans through social media offers hope that more young people can be brought into therapy.

Online chat connections with veterans through the VA’s suicide prevention office (hotline number is 1-800-273-8255) have increased from several hundred in 2009 to nearly 55,000 last year, VA data show.

“If we can get them engaged in (mental health) services, we can make a huge difference, and that’s encouraging,” she says.

Group looks to bring soldiers home for holidays

December 11, 2013
By CHUCK?BALLARO (news@breezenewspapers.com) , North Fort Myers Neighbor

A local charitable organization that works to give aid to members of the military and their families is hoping it can bring three local service personnel home for the holidays.

Operation Open Arms has formulated a unique strategy in making that goal a reality by applying for a credit card that gives reward points that can be used toward items such as free flights.

Joel Grant Black, an army specialist from North Fort Myers who is stationed at Fort Lewis in Seattle, will be coming home this Christmas, thanks to the hard work of the charitable organization.

According to Diane Miller, Joel’s mother, the family lacks the financial means to get him home.

“He was supposed to make those plans in August, but he was on alert. They gave them their release on Oct. 15. The normal round-trip was $349, but by the time he got clearance there were no more military discounts and it was $1,200,” Miller said. “He doesn’t make that in a month.”

Miller said Black was willing to come home on leave in February, but Miller hadn’t seen him home on Christmas in three years and said she wanted him home for the holiday.

Fact Box

To make a tax-deductible donation on-line visit https://operationopenarms.org/donate/

Checks may be mailed to either the Pine Island Chamber of Commerce, att: Operation Operation Open Arms, PO Box 101, St. James City, FL 33956 or Operation Open Arms, PO Box 1, Easton, MD 21601

That’s when a friend, Michael Braun, alerted her to Captain John “Giddy-up” Bunch, founder of Operation Open Arms, a small shoestring operation that has helped hundreds of service men and women and their families.

Bunch came up with a plan to bring Black home.

“We found out about this credit card that was being promoted and I gave them the information about OOA. Because we don’t have employees or a payroll, and because I used my financial information as well, we got it,” Bunch said, adding it will probably be a one-time use.

It was enough to get Black home for the holidays.

“I’ve never met him. He’s like an angel. He called me and said he knew my situation and would do what he could to bring my son home for Christmas,” Miller said.

Bunch, who was out of town, hoped to return home Tuesday to St. James City to find enough donations in the charity’s P.O. Box to cover the ticket.

He also hopes to have enough money to cover two other local service personnel seeking to have Christmas home, one a Navy Seal stationed in California and another a Marine sniper stationed in Kuwait.

“We hope to surpass Joe Black’s requirement because there are two more,” Bunch said. “My hope is that we’ll be able to pay for Black’s ticket with the OOA donations via publicity. Then we’ll be able to bring another home. That’s $1,000 and another free ticket.”

Because of the sensitive nature of their service, their names could not be released.

On March 24, Black made news when he came home after a 14-month deployment in Afghanistan to a hero’s welcome, put together by Miller and the local television stations, at Southwest Florida International Airport. Cape Coral Mayor John Sullivan even declared it Joel Grant Black Day.

There will be no pomp and circumstance this time, Miller said.

“He said ‘everyone in my unit needed this, not me. I didn’t die for my country,'” Miller said. “The true heroes were the 10 people we lost while we were there.”

Since 2005, OOA has performed deeds for service people in tough situations. It has picked up more than 2,700 servicemen coming home from the airport in a limousine.

“A great charity is defined by doing whatever it takes to make something happen as opposed to making excuses to not make it happen,” Bunch said. “We compete against the bigger charities so we have to think of any way possible.”

To make a tax-deductible donation on-line visit operationopenarms.org/donate/

Checks may be mailed to either the Pine Island Chamber of Commerce, att: Operation Operation Open Arms, PO Box 101, St. James City, FL 33956 or Operation Open Arms, PO Box 1, Easton, MD 21601

– See more at: http://www.northfortmyersneighbor.com/page/content.detail/id/520145/Group-looks-to-bring-soldiers#sthash.hPhru0LV.dpuf

Group looks to bring soldiers home for holidays

December 11, 2013
By CHUCK?BALLARO (news@breezenewspapers.com) , North Fort Myers Neighbor

A local charitable organization that works to give aid to members of the military and their families is hoping it can bring three local service personnel home for the holidays.

Operation Open Arms has formulated a unique strategy in making that goal a reality by applying for a credit card that gives reward points that can be used toward items such as free flights.

Joel Grant Black, an army specialist from North Fort Myers who is stationed at Fort Lewis in Seattle, will be coming home this Christmas, thanks to the hard work of the charitable organization.

According to Diane Miller, Joel’s mother, the family lacks the financial means to get him home.

“He was supposed to make those plans in August, but he was on alert. They gave them their release on Oct. 15. The normal round-trip was $349, but by the time he got clearance there were no more military discounts and it was $1,200,” Miller said. “He doesn’t make that in a month.”

Miller said Black was willing to come home on leave in February, but Miller hadn’t seen him home on Christmas in three years and said she wanted him home for the holiday.

Fact Box

To make a tax-deductible donation on-line visit https://operationopenarms.org/donate/

Checks may be mailed to either the Pine Island Chamber of Commerce, att: Operation Operation Open Arms, PO Box 101, St. James City, FL 33956 or Operation Open Arms, PO Box 1, Easton, MD 21601

That’s when a friend, Michael Braun, alerted her to Captain John “Giddy-up” Bunch, founder of Operation Open Arms, a small shoestring operation that has helped hundreds of service men and women and their families.

Bunch came up with a plan to bring Black home.

“We found out about this credit card that was being promoted and I gave them the information about OOA. Because we don’t have employees or a payroll, and because I used my financial information as well, we got it,” Bunch said, adding it will probably be a one-time use.

It was enough to get Black home for the holidays.

“I’ve never met him. He’s like an angel. He called me and said he knew my situation and would do what he could to bring my son home for Christmas,” Miller said.

Bunch, who was out of town, hoped to return home Tuesday to St. James City to find enough donations in the charity’s P.O. Box to cover the ticket.

He also hopes to have enough money to cover two other local service personnel seeking to have Christmas home, one a Navy Seal stationed in California and another a Marine sniper stationed in Kuwait.

“We hope to surpass Joe Black’s requirement because there are two more,” Bunch said. “My hope is that we’ll be able to pay for Black’s ticket with the OOA donations via publicity. Then we’ll be able to bring another home. That’s $1,000 and another free ticket.”

Because of the sensitive nature of their service, their names could not be released.

On March 24, Black made news when he came home after a 14-month deployment in Afghanistan to a hero’s welcome, put together by Miller and the local television stations, at Southwest Florida International Airport. Cape Coral Mayor John Sullivan even declared it Joel Grant Black Day.

There will be no pomp and circumstance this time, Miller said.

“He said ‘everyone in my unit needed this, not me. I didn’t die for my country,'” Miller said. “The true heroes were the 10 people we lost while we were there.”

Since 2005, OOA has performed deeds for service people in tough situations. It has picked up more than 2,700 servicemen coming home from the airport in a limousine.

“A great charity is defined by doing whatever it takes to make something happen as opposed to making excuses to not make it happen,” Bunch said. “We compete against the bigger charities so we have to think of any way possible.”

To make a tax-deductible donation on-line visit operationopenarms.org/donate/

Checks may be mailed to either the Pine Island Chamber of Commerce, att: Operation Operation Open Arms, PO Box 101, St. James City, FL 33956 or Operation Open Arms, PO Box 1, Easton, MD 21601

– See more at: http://www.northfortmyersneighbor.com/page/content.detail/id/520145/Group-looks-to-bring-soldiers#sthash.hPhru0LV.dpuf

Good news: ‘Open Arms’ on a mission for the military

Local organization flourishing despite limited resources.

Operation Open Arms, a nonprofit charity that has helped hundreds of Southwest Florida veterans, soldiers and their families, is again looking to lend a hand to a local soldier.

Marine John “GiddyUp” Bunch of St. James City runs the charity — on a shoestring.

Recently, Bunch, a retired Marine and a fishing charter captain, got wind of another local serviceman who needed help getting home for the holidays.

In March, U.S. Army Spec. Joel Black returned home from a year-long first tour of duty in Afghanistan to a hero’s welcome at Southwest Florida International Airport.

Coordinated by his mother Diane Miller of Cape Coral, the young soldier was stunned by the welcome. After about a month at home, he was sent to his new assignment, Fort Lewis, Wash., where he’s been since.

Black wanted to be home for Christmas but could not get clearance to come until it was too late to get an inexpensive ticket. Booking one when he finally got the go-ahead meant a ticket in excess of $1,200, his mom said.

For Black, living off base on a private’s salary, that was out-of-reach. Checking with airlines most said they no longer offered military discounts or would provide only a $40 or $50 savings.

“He has to pay for his apartment, his car, and some of his uniforms,” his mother said. “On his salary he can’t afford that. The special vest he needed for Afghanistan cost him $350. As a combat soldier he needed special shoes, which he had to buy himself, about $200.”

Black would like to spend the first Christmas home in three years. Last year he was deployed as a tanker in Afghanistan and before that he was in training.

“I’m tired. I just want to come home and be with my family,” Black said.

Bunch helps soldiers like Black with a bare-bones type operation.

“OOA has no payroll and pays no salaries to anyone,” Bunch said. “In other words, everyone serves our charity because they love our troops.”

Bunch said that cash donations have been tough to come by. “Since 2005, we have received less than $95,000,” he said.

Despite that, the charity obtained services such as wedding photos, fishing charters and limousine transport for servicemen and women in need. The group has also provided 2,689 servicemen and women with free one-week vacations upon returning from combat or a foreign duty such as Gitmo, South Korea, or Germany.

Most of the services OOA provides are in-kind, offered by area resorts and other service providers.

Judi Durant, director of visitor services for the Lee County Visitors & Convention Bureau, said Bunch is tenacious, focused and relentless when helping military personnel.

“He’s a machine. He just does what is right to help people,” she said. “He pulls out all the stops to do whatever he can for the soldier.”

Furthermore, she said, those who provide the services he requests are glad to do so knowing that their offerings are going to a worthwhile cause.

“People appreciate his candor,” she said.

Bunch started the charity in 2005 after he gave a free fishing charter trip to a U.S. soldier on leave from Iraq. The organization has since become a registered public charity.

Bunch began checking around and obtained a standby ticket for Black. But he would like to do better for the young Cape Coral Army private.

“OOA has already secured a ‘Buddy Pass’ from Southwest Airlines but the chances of flying from Seattle to RSW on Dec 23rd are very remote,” Bunch said. “Donations would pay for a full round-trip ticket.”

How to help

How to help

Donations may be made at the OOA website. Those who wish to help go to operationopenarms.org or send Tax Deductible Donations to:

Operation Open Arms, P.O. Box 101, St. James City, Fl., 33956

Others helped

Others helped

• Army Private Justin Johnson of Punta Gorda was wounded in the 2009 Fort Hood shooting spree. OOA flew his mother, Roxanne Johnson, to Fort Hood and back so that she could be with her son because her car was not mechanically sound enough for the trip.

• When Spc. Danny Beougher of Cape Coral was killed in a 2007 crash on Hancock Boulevard in Cape Coral and his wife, Lauren, severely injured, OOA arranged for a new RV to transport the injured woman to her parents home in Delaware when the military could not provide her with transportation.

• In 2010, helped fund repairs to the burglarized and ransacked home of Marine Lance Cpl. Steven S. Von Soosten in Lehigh Acres, on duty in Iraq. OOA offered $500 for info leading to the arrest/conviction of those responsible. The names of those involved were given to the Lee County Sheriff’s Office, and they were arrested.

• Helped Sgt. Gabby Lopez of Cape Coral and Caitlin Holloway of Pine Island get married in 2011. Lopez was returning home from Afghanistan, and Caitlin was working at Publix and talked to Bunch, who was checking out at her register, telling him of the couple’s plans, not knowing about the charity. The charity arranged to pick up Lopez at RSW and provided the couple a free wedding at Pink Shell resort.

What OAA has done

What OAA has done

Since 2005: 2,698 free one-week vacations, 99 full-service weddings, 19 funerals and more than 1,311 fishing trips.

 

Honoring and Supporting Vets Beyond Veteran’s Day: One Marine’s Journey

Interview with Operation Open Arms Founder, Captain John ‘Giddy-up’ Bunch

Background: Raised by a Marine, I have been acutely aware of the meaning of service my entire life. Engrained from day one was the notion that tradition, honor, duty, and patriotism matter and that as an American citizen, I should find ways to honor and support those who serve our country. These principles were further reinforced by my Dad’s best friend in the Corps, Captain John ‘Giddy-Up’ Bunch. Years ago Captain Bunch started a small non-profit in Southwest Florida called Operation Open Arms (OOA), initially to provide free fishing charters to vets on leave from active duty. The effort has since expanded ten-fold, received national media attention, and found unique ways of engaging entire communities to support vets and their families from full service vacations and weddings to PTSD treatment all free of charge. Operation Open Arms is entirely volunteer and speaks to the power of the American community….when we come together for a cause, as the Marines would say ‘We get-er done’. With this one tireless Marine leading the charge and now shifting the focus of the effort to addressing the alarming rise in PTSD, this Veteran’s Day I wanted to sit down with Captain Bunch and ask him to reflect on the lessons learned and where OOA goes from here.

2013-11-09-Bunch_headshot.JPG
It’s been nine years since you founded Operation Open Arms — the initial effort focused on providing free services, from fishing charters to weddings, for active duty service men and women on leave. By all accounts the effort has been an incredible success, impacting over 2,628 lives since its inception, with recognition in national news media and support from a growing number of senior leadership in the US government and private sector. What has been the greatest takeaway from your work on this effort?

Captain Bunch: Excellent question and believe or not one which has never been asked. My best answer would be follows. Operation Open Arms has afforded me and 227 “Sponsors” who love our country the opportunity to serve again or serve for the first time. Operation Open Arms is beautifully unique as a fishing guide can be a “Sponsor.” A golf professional can be a “Sponsor.” And the owner of a hotel can be a “Sponsor.” We, the “Sponsors” of Our Troops, collectively lift the financial burden associated with combat leave vacations, weddings, and PTSD Mental Health Care needs.

What has been the greatest challenge in continuing this work over the years?

Thank you for the greatest belly laugh ever. The greatest challenge has been in…Not quitting. Life is a series of great tests or so it seems to me. On countless occasions, especially Operation Open Arms weddings, I prayed when it was not my nature to do so. How do you communicate the difficulty of planning 79 weddings for total strangers. And becoming an Ordained Minister as to wear all possible hats? My real job is a professional fishing guide and outdoor writer. The greatest challenge has to be juggling all the balls and not making any errors. This might be weird but an Angel has been sitting on my shoulder since April 19, 2005. Everything just gets done.

The focus in the past year of OOA has shifted from service provision to addressing PTSD. Why did this shift occur and what is OOA doing differently to help address this growing problem among vets?

In 2009, the Department of Defense identified PTSD as a bigger adversary than Al Qaeda or The Taliban. Our Troops were taking their own lives in far more numbers than our enemy. In other words, our worst enemy had become ourselves. This was a wake-up call for me to go out into our community and recruit the best mental health care specialists in Southwest Florida. They had to work for free even though billing Tri-Care was available to them. They would often say “So, tell me again why there will be no insurance reimbursement and why we must see Our Troops on the same day even if it means staying after work?” Let’s just say my sales skills are considerable post IBM and they bought off on it hook, line, and sinker. Our PTSD Mental Health Experts are licensed in the states where they practice.

What has been the greatest takeaway from your work on this effort?

The difference that one community and each American can make when we come together to give back and support those who are defending our freedoms abroad. Within OOA, no one is paid a salary. We are 100 percent volunteer. That we’ve been able to continue and expand our work over these many years is incredible.

As a former US Marine who lives by the Code of the Corps to this day, what would you want every American to think about on this coming Veteran’s Day and how can each of us make a difference in thanking and supporting those who protect our values and freedoms abroad?

As you know, there are no former or ex-Marines! “Once a Marine, always a Marine.” With this said, if a magic wand were made available to me by the Angel who sits on my shoulder it would be this. Find a way to serve your country in some meaningful way. If you do this the following promise is guaranteed by my Angel. Your life will have true meaning and you will forever understand the difference you made. Oh, and one last thing. A silly smile will come over your face which will be impossible in this life and probably the next to wipe off. Helping/serving is the secret to a life of happiness. Life is not about a pronoun with one letter.

To Learn More About Operation Open Arms Please visit operationopenarms.org.

 

Follow Cari E. Guittard on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@CorpDiplomat

Letter Speaks to the Character of Operation Open Arms

Posted in The Star Democrat (stardem.com) – Easton, MD

I recently flew from Fort Myers to Baltimore and upon landing and leaving the plane realized that I had left a valuable pack of electronics in the seat pocket in front of me. I thought for sure my belongings were lost forever until I received a phone call from the founder of Operation Open Arms America, Captain John “Giddyup” Bunch. He not only found my packet of electronics, but assured me he would take the time to out of his busy speaking schedule to mail them to me on Long Island, N.Y.

Out of curiosity, and because I am a retired fundraiser, I visited the OOA website and was amazed at what I read regarding what OOA does for our troops. The personal testimonials posted on the site expressing what a difference Captain Bunch and OOA had made on the lives of military men and women motivated me to not only make a donation to this most worthy organization, but I have also offered Captain Bunch my services to increase much needed funding to keep this program moving forward. The Eastern Shore is truly blessed to have OOA serving troops in your area. I would encourage your readers to visit its website and read firsthand what Captain Bunch has accomplished in Florida. This could happen in your community too. For questions regarding Operation Open Arms and to ask how you may help, please contact Captain Bunch directly at http://operationopenarms.org.

CANDACE MAGUIRE,

Venice, Fla

Operation Open Arms needs our help

Guest opinion: Operation Open Arms needs our help

August 2, 2013
Cape Coral Daily Breeze

As Commander of the Lexington Veterans Association, I have worked with a unique, very impressive local charity supporting combat troops nationwide: Operation Open Arms(OOA). This 501(c)3 organization was founded eight years ago by Captain John Bunch of Pine Island who is a Marine veteran of Vietnam and a local fishing captain. He has led OOA charities with no paid staff out of his home while working full time. OOA has provided more than 2500 active duty service members home on leave from Iraq and Afghanistan a range of free services including: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) counseling, lodging at resorts, fishing charters, restaurant meals, golf outings, Disney World weekends with their children, even 99 weddings and honeymoons.

Their contributions to these warriors have been recognized by two US presidents, The Today Show, CNN, the US Congress, Florida state officials, Lee county Commissioners, and The Department of Defense. Many local businesses have offered generous gifts and services but cash donations, which are tax deductible, have been sparse, especially lately.

OOA has provided more than a $10.8M value in gifts and services to soldiers on less than $96,000 in donations!

In the past two years, OOA has taken on the difficult challenge of providing PTSD counseling to returning veterans which is both expensive and long term. Soldiers who suffer PTSD, and there are at least 200,000 nationwide, have to wait sometimes months for treatment because the VA is so overwhelmed.

These veterans need immediate local help with continuing followup.OOA has recruited local mental health professionals, who are most helpful. Much more needs to be done as hundreds of southwest Florida veterans are at risk. In the Army and Marine Corps more troops have committed suicide many months than have died in combat. Captain Bunch also provides assistance at Walter Reed and Navy Bethesda hospitals for these patients.The need for funding is massive and growing for PTSD patients everywhere.

OOA has offered truly heroic assistance to local troops, ie. rebuilding a vandalized home of a Lehigh Acres marine who was serving in Afghanistan, and sending a local marine’s mother to Fort Hood after her son was wounded in a terror attack. Many other acts of kindness and good deeds could be cited. The problem is financing!

OOA needs operating funds for staff because they have none and have continuing expenses.They have done so much with so little that it is most unfortunate that OOA may soon become extinct. All southwest Florida veterans groups, representing the largest concentration of veterans in the state, join in this appeal to continue OOA’s valuable services to our area heroes. They have sacrificed so much for our freedoms and deserve our continuing support. Lastly, in 2012 Captain Bunch received the prestigious Junonia Award from Lee County. OOA has remained void of political and/or religious affiliation, payroll, salaries and special interests. Most charities are big businesses these days. Not OOA which is 100 percent volunteer.

Please send what you can to this irreplaceable and very deserving charity. Send checks to:

Operation Open Arms

Post Office Box 101

St. James City, FL 33956

Visit their website at operationopenarms.org

Ken Taylor

CDR., US Navy (ret)

Fort Myers, FL

– See more at: http://www.cape-coral-daily-breeze.com/page/content.detail/id/535956/Guest-opinion–Operation-Open-Arms-needs-our-help.html#sthash.REX33IZx.dpuf

Marine writes stirring appeal for OOA

Operation Open Arms needs to be a national program

August 21, 2013
North Fort Myers Neighbor

To the editor:

I would like this to be seen by everyone that can read. It has taken many years for PTSD to make the headlines as much as it has today. Our veterans from earlier wars, campaigns, and many other ruthless engagements never had much of a homecoming or the support that should have been given. No one ever really thought to prepare them to come home, which is a war in itself.

Operation Open Arms is an organization that provides that homecoming and comfort that so many veterans past and present long for. My wife and I have had the pleasure to experience the hospitality and extreme selflessness Operation Open Arms has shown us since coming back from Afghanistan just recently. I personally would like to thank Captain John “GiddyUp” Bunch, the founder of Operation Open Arms, for making this homecoming such a pleasant experience for my family and me. I felt as if I came home to a much bigger family than what I left with. One of the most pleasant experiences I’ve ever had was coming home and being taken care of by other veterans and patriotic people I’ve never met in my life. Because of them and their actions, it reminded me that no matter where I deploy to and how many times I have to leave my family, my back will always be covered.

The contributors to Operations Open Arms are what makes the heart beat. Most of these are veterans that never received the kind of treatment that they have shown me. So I would like to personally thank them as well. They all showed the true meaning of camaraderie; something that few people understand except those who have it.

Many young service men and women that come home today have some form of PTSD or an undeniable large amount of stress adjusting back to normal everyday life. Many veterans have sadly taken their own lives, alienated themselves from their own families, and traveled down the wrong path in life looking for something to replace the lost time from a deployment or deal with the experiences they brought back with them. It is our responsibility as citizens, a community, and as fellow veterans to ensure we take care of our men and women coming home. It’s the actions of Operation Open Arms and its founder that represents the foundations of what this country was built on.

So I’m hoping and praying that support for this type of charity and organization be spread out as far as media can take it. Our veterans past and present deserve it. Thank you Operation Open Arms for everything you’ve done.

operationopenarms.org/

Sgt. Sean E. Adair / U.S. Marine Corps

Cape Coral

– See more at: http://www.northfortmyersneighbor.com/page/content.detail/id/519529/Operation-Open-Arms-needs-to-be-a-national-program.html?nav=5127#sthash.GF6xMEJB.dpuf

April 19th Happy 8th Birthday to OOA

Open Arms To Host Veterans On Captiva

On Friday, April 19, Operation Open Arms – a locally founded, nationally acclaimed military outreach program – will officially be eight years old. The brainchild of Captain John “Giddy-up” Bunch, Operation Open Arms is a not-for-profit organization that has a calling and reputation for providing much deserved vacations and R&R benefits to active duty U.S. military service people and their families.
To cite an example of OOA’s works, on Thursday. April 18 representatives from the Lee County Sheriff’s Office will provide an honor escort for Lance Corporal Christian Brown, Lance Corporal Jonathan Carnes and Brown’s mother, Lyn Braden-Reed, as they travel from Southwest Florida International Airport to Jensen’s Twin Palm Resort on Captiva. The combat-wounded USMC’s veterans will be on Captiva for five nights and currently have plans for fishing with local guides and a wild hog hunting trip, coordinated by Lieutenant Tim Barrett of the Sanibel Fire Department.
In December 2011, while in Kajaki, Afghanistan, conducting combat operations during Operation Enduring Freedom, Brown was leading his squad on foot patrol when he stepped on an improvised explosive device (IED) and was seriously injured. In November 2011, while on his first active-duty deployment in Sangin, Afghanistan, Carnes was also seriously injured by an IED. The two Marines met during an extensive period of recovery at Walter Reed Medical Center. Operation Open Arms believes these honorable young men are more than ready for some good, old-fashioned, Southwest Florida R&R.
Along with contributions by Southwest Airlines, Jensen’s Twin Palm Resort & Marina, YOLO Watersports, RC Otters
and The Green Flash restaurants, to name just a few, Operation Open Arms will participate in a sunset parade with
Captiva’s Marching Mullet Band on Friday, April 19 in recognizing the service of Christian Brown and Jonathan Carnes.
The parade will start at Jensen’s Twin Palm Resort and Marina at 7:35 p.m. All are welcome to participate in this event
and applaud these fine young men.
To learn more about Christian Brown, you can go to the informative Facebook page which is hosted by Lyn Braden-
Reed and updated frequently about her son’s progress. On Facebook, search for “Support LCPL Christian Brown, USMC,
Combat Wounded.”
For more information, contact www. operationopenarms.org, call Dave Jensen at Jensen’s Twin Palm Resort at 472-
5800 or visit http://www.marchingmullet.com.