Clay Shooters Take Aim to Help Troops

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 22, 2006 - Two military relief agencies were the beneficiaries when amateur and professional clay shooters took aim in July during the Pawling Mountain Invitational, at the Pawling Mountain Club in New York.

The Pawling Mountain Club sponsored the fundraising event benefiting the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society and the Army Emergency Relief fund. John O'Connor, president of the club, presented representatives of the two agencies with donations totaling about $30,000 during a ceremony at the Pentagon yesterday.

Both agencies are members of the Defense Department's America Supports You program, which highlights grassroots and corporate support for U.S. military members.

"I left it up to donors to pick their (charities), and about two-thirds went to the Navy, and about one-third went to the Army," O'Connor said. "If you think about it, Navy and Marine is two (organizations), so it's kind of a third, a third, a third."

O'Connor is an alumnus of the Joint Civilian Orientation Conference, a secretary of defense-sponsored program for America's civic and business leaders interested in expanding their knowledge of the military and national defense. Having taken place more than 70 times since its introduced in 1948, the conference is the oldest existing Pentagon outreach program. It also had an influence on O'Connor's initiation of the fund-raiser.

"There's a huge reservoir of goodwill toward people in the services, but it's frustrated because there's such a separation today," he said, explaining that, by percentage of the population, fewer people are serving in the armed forces than ever before. This translates into less incidental contact with servicemembers and, consequently, less knowledge of opportunities to support the troops, he said.

Acting on those good intentions can be as simple as writing a check to a support organization, O'Connor said. "There are great institutions and organizations, like Navy-Marine (Corps) Relief Society, like Army Emergency Relief, who are members of America Supports You, who can operationalize your good will," he said. "They know how to make it happen. They need funding. They need resources. They need help, and (the public) can directly help."

His goal in organizing this fundraiser, the first of a series, was to step up and offer those unsure of how to support the troops a way to do so. He and his wife are offering that venue through a foundation they have established.

"We underwrite 100 percent of the expenses associated with all these events so that 100 percent of the proceeds go directly to the organizations," O'Connor said. "There's no overhead allocation; there's no friction. It's just 100 percent of the proceeds on the problem."

The Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society and Army Emergency Relief share the same mission of providing financial and other assistance to active-duty and retired servicemembers and their families. Representatives of both agencies currently benefiting from the O'Connors' efforts said donations are always needed.

"I think all the aid societies can use it," retired Army Sgt. Maj. Steve Broadway, who represents Army Emergency Relief, said. "As the money goes out, you've got to replenish it. If we don't get the unsolicited donations like this, ... then we won't exist for long."

John Alexander, representing the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society, agreed, adding that donations to these groups benefit all servicemembers.

"All four of the military aid societies have reciprocity agreements," Alexander said. "Any member of the armed forces can get help from any of the ... military aid societies."

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