In 2013 a friend in the SEAL Teams, Brett “Shady” Shadle, perished in a training accident, leaving behind a grieving widow, and 2 very young children. His death was one of a series of tragic losses, among the men whom I had the pleasure of knowing, from my professional dealings with the Special Operations Forces (SOF) units. Shady’s death ultimately was the catalyst to form The Special Operations Care Fund. The original founders, Cannon Reynolds, Dave Money, Griff Griffin, and myself, all had a desire to do something to help this community. They are a tribe of warriors from which none of us came from. However, we all understood that these men & women who volunteered to serve in the US military made our personal and professional lives possible as we raised families, grew companies, and planned for our futures.
With no set goals, other than to help those in the SOF Community, we began raising money via some very enjoyable gatherings, inviting business colleagues, peers, and friends. From our first event- a day of shooting sporting clays, eating steaks, and raising money, to becoming a sizable philanthropic organization, we grew organically at a pace that matched our external growth. From the beginning, our next steps were planned only as far as our headlights lit – and when we got “there”, we’d take stock of what the next move was. Each event we hosted often doubled the revenues of it’s predecessor. It’s staggering how big these event have become. We never could have predicted the explosion of support from so many Americans like you, that share the same passion and desire to help SOF families.
We planned these sporting clays events, special dinners, and other engagements in our spare time, running the organization out of our garages, basements, and spare bedrooms. “All-volunteer run,” was something we held close to our hearts. We all had families, careers, and hectic lives. It was extremely gratifying to connect our donors to the families they support, in an effort to raise the resources needed to help these families that gave so much, to protect the freedoms we enjoy. The time we spent away from our jobs and families seemed like the right price to pay for the life of security and prosperity, provided by the very people we help.
From the start, SOC-F had a practice of attraction rather than promotion- we never wanted to pressure people to give. We quickly understood that those who attended an event either felt the call to donate, deep within their soul, or they didn’t. Our ethos has always been to cultivate an environment where people aren’t guilted or shamed to donate. Rather, we value a heart that WANTS to give, because each person shares the same values and passion we do – help SOF families discreetley, respectfully, and in a way that reflects the same standard of excellence the SOF community adheres to, every day. As a result, many of you invited your friends, family, and colleagues to see and experience what had been created – a unique and incredible community; complete with like-hearted supporters, SOF Commandos, volunteers, and servant leaders.
Fast forward 9 years, and we have raised and granted over 10 Million dollars to support this tight-knit community. I can honestly tell you that no one in SOC-F could have forecasted this level of generosity or the fiduciary responsibility we have been entrusted with. Over time we matured and added to the Board to achieve new perspectives and a more balanced view, taking into considertion life experiences that the founders didn’t have. This process helped the organization to further develop and become significantly more effective. A few years ago, the Board started to wrestle with issues like leadership succession, strategic planning, research studies, and other large decisions. We found that two BIG questions needed answering:
#1) What do we want to be when we grow up?
#2) Is what we are doing today going to get us there?
The answer to question # 1 is: To be the Gold Standard of Veteran Service Organizations (VSO). The SOC-F Leadership wants to be the most professionally run, scalable, & quietest VSO, that excels at healing bodies & minds, saving marriages, and keeping familes together. We strive to make the kind of generational impact that will positively affect those to come.
The answer to question # 2, is: NO.
Running any organization that is going to raise and grant millions of dollars a year, can’t be operated on a part time basis by amateurs. I’ll own it; that’s what we currently are; amateurs with a huge heart to serve. We do have the wherewithal to know that we can’t achieve the future, doing what we’re doing today. We’re successful and very good at hosting events, creating an amazing culture, and developing deep & meaningful relationships. But we can improve in many areas where we are deficient- and this is what separates the amateurs from the professionals:
· Strategic planning and goal setting
· Quartely updates & communication
· Year-end re-caps & reporting
· Making sure that our supporter’s donated resources are being well utilized
· Updating the SOC-F website
· Connecting with the SOF community to socialize our programs & resources
· Finding new treatments & programs to support our long term goals
This will require us to change, and most importantly help us to reach thousands of SOF men and women and their families, who are suffering from 20+ years of war.
My family and work demands continue to escalate and take more of my time, focus, and energy. (And honestly, I love being a husband to my amazing wife, and Dad to my 3 awesome children). So, it’s with much prayer and thought, that I have decided to assume a new role in the organization and hand over the day-to-day operational duties and responsibilities to a professional that will take this amazing organization to the next level and beyond.
It is with tremendous pride that we report to you that we have hired our very first Executive Director, Mr. Jeremy Morton. If you have ever been to one of our Sporting Clays events, Jeremy is the auctioneer. He was a 1st Battallion US Army Ranger, then served at a US Army Special Mission Unit, from which he retired in 2016. Upon retiring from 21 years of military service, Jeremy joined Crye Precision, and ran their international military business. I have known Jeremy since 2008, and will tell you that SOC-F’s Gold Star and Marriage Programs would not exist without his heavy lifting during his active duty time. Jeremy and his wife, Alyssa, have been amazing friends and supporters of SOC-F since its inception. They have 2 wonderful children, that Alyssa raised while Jeremy deployed 10 times while stationed at Ft. Bragg. If ever there was a perspective this organization needs, it’s from a family who wrote Uncle Sam a blank check for 21 years.
A while back I asked Jeremy to consider running the organization. He has always had a heart to serve and knew his unique experience as a SOF Commando would allow him to reach his former mates in ways that others can’t. He and his wife prayed and wrestled with the decision, weighing their own plans and desires for a better life, and future for their children. During the process of interviewing Jeremy and several other candidates to fill the executive director position, a gracious and generous donor came forward and offered to pay the executive director’s salary for 5 years! This amazing donor understood the impact his generous investment will have on SOC-F’s ability to grow internally and externally in scale and effectiveness, while moving seamlessly from a basement-run organization to a Tier 1 Veteran Service Organization that excels at helping SOF families with respect and discretion.
Always amazed and never surprised by the generosity and graciousness of our supporters, we are incredibly excited for what the future holds for SOC-F. We thank you for the support, trust, and confidence.
As for me? I will remain on the Board, and my role, as by what an executive coach articulated, will be “Protector of the Soul.” I love that title.