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Soldiers' Angels Soldiers On

Below is a message from the Vice Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Soldiers' Angels. An organization that I also serve on the board of...Soldiers' Angels has been wronged by Michael Yon who deletes opposing views on FB and web sites so please share this message from Ricky John.  Send it far and wide.

Soldiers’ Angels Soldiers On

Once again, Michael Yon has launched an unprovoked, unwarranted attack on the integrity of Soldiers Angels’.  Given the nastiness and personal nature of the allegations a response to his recent allegations, which are sourced by rumors and innuendoes, is required.   However, prior to addressing the sensationalistic musings that he has flung upon the wall of his Facebook Page, a little background on Yon and his relationship with Soldiers’ Angels is necessary.

At one time, Yon and Soldiers’ Angels were friends.  Yon was near the front lines of the War on Terror, taking pictures and posting stories about the lives of our troops in the trenches.  At the time, many believed that he was operating in the noble tradition of notable correspondents such as Ernie Pyle.  Likewise, Soldiers’ Angels and its cadre of volunteers were supporting our deployed troops, helping their families survive tough deployments, and giving comfort to our returning wounded heroes.  Modern technology and the nature of the war allowed Soldiers’ Angels’ volunteers and donors to provide support to our troops at a previously unfathomable level.  During this time period Yon was appreciative of Soldiers’ Angels.  In fact he sought help from Soldiers’ Angels to allow him to continue taking his pictures and posting his stories. In exchange he provided Soldiers’ Angels with information on units that he came in contact with that needed support and even allowed Soldiers’ Angels to use his photographs for a calendar. 

One day, for reasons not truly understood by the Soldiers’ Angels Board of Trustees, Yon began attacking one of the most compassionate and active troop supporters on the planet, Mary Ann Phillips.  For those who do not know Mary Ann, she is an American Citizen who was living in Germany at the beginning of Operation Enduring Freedom and through much of Operation Iraqi Freedom.  Mary Ann decided that she could best support our troops by visiting the wounded when they were transported to Landstuhl Hospital in Germany.  More background information on Mary Ann can be found here ( ), but suffice it to say that she is a true Angel on earth to our wounded troops.  As a testament to the profound effect she has had upon the wellbeing and welfare of our wounded, Mary Ann was awarded the Presidential Citizens Award by President Obama.  Her citation for this award reads,

“Caring for America’s injured service members, MaryAnn Phillips embodies strength and grace. An American citizen living in Germany, Phillips volunteers with Soldiers’ Angels at Landstuhl Air Force Base. She spends countless hours at the bedsides of our wounded warriors and their families, caring for them, encouraging them, and grieving with them. Phillips receives the Citizens Medal for putting her patriotism into action on behalf of our troops and our nation.”

The phrase, “Never has so few done so much for so many”, is truly applicable to Mary Ann.  The chronology of Yon’s attacks on Mary Ann is described in detail here ( ).  Since the throwing of this tantrum, Yon continues to fling unsubstantiated poorly researched allegations against Soldiers’ Angels, its volunteers, its Board of Trustees and now even the honourable Veterans who have provided service to our country.

In his latest attack, “Soldiers’ Ducks”, Yon, with an air of precognition and omnipotence not often claimed by mortal men, threatens that he has “internal documents” and that he has “facts” proving that the Soldiers’ Angels Board of Trustees “are using and embarrassing the organization”.  However, his post is short on facts and long on personal attacks.

Yon has repeatedly stated that he is not a journalist.  Never has the truth of his assertion been more evident than in this most recent Facebook post.  The post falls short of exhibiting even a modicum of journalistic skill or integrity.  It closely resembles rantings loosely attached to reality by only the thinnest whispers of truth. 

Yon’s posting’s disjointed and poisonous nature makes it somewhat difficult to formulate an ordered response.  In an effort to insure that Yon’s allegations do not remain unchallenged, his specific allegations are simply addressed below in the order in which they were shovelled.

Charity Ratings

          Yon’s current and most consistent howl is to refer to Soldiers’ Angels as a 1 star rated charity by Charity Navigator.  As with his other assertions, this one is a purposeful distortion of the truth, which is intentionally warped in a failed attempt to make reality fit into his sensationalistic fabricated story line.  

As previously addressed in detail by Soldiers’ Angels (and wholly ignored by Yon), Charity Navigator is one of several nationally recognized charity watchdog groups.   The rankings on Charity Navigator are composed of two components:  one rating examines the transparency and accountability of a charity, and the other uses certain factors to analyse the financial position of the charity. The most recent rating by Charity Navigator gave Soldiers’ Angels an overall rating of 2 out of 4 stars.   Soldiers’ Angels earned a 4 star rating for Transparency and Accountability (in his calls for transparency Yon ignores this uncomfortable fact). 

In regard to the financial rating, Soldiers’ Angels made a decision several years ago to make the hiring of veterans a priority.   This veteran hiring preference became known as the S.A.V.E program.  This decision, while the right thing to do from a moral perspective and in keeping with Soldiers’ Angels mission, was not conducive standing in the ranking process used by Charity Navigator.  Rather than being thrown into a column under program expenses, the Charity Navigator analysis throws it into a column under administrative costs.   Even though the S.A.V.E. program results in a lower rating, Soldiers’ Angels stand by the viability and usefulness of the program.  Yon is wrong and no matter how many times he repeats his mantra he remains wrong, Soldiers’ Angels is currently a 2 star rated charity by Charity Navigator, and continually works to improve its financial status.

Yon, while gleefully distorting the Charity Navigator ranking to fit his fantasy, wholly ignored the evaluations of other nationally recognized charity watchdog groups. 

Soldiers’ Angels has received The Independent Charities Seal of Excellence and was awarded the distinction of being a  “Best in America” charity.  The Independent Charities Seal of Excellence is awarded to the members of Independent Charities of America that have, upon rigorous independent review, been able to certify, document, and demonstrate on an annual basis that they meet the highest standards of public accountability, program effectiveness, and cost effectiveness. These standards include those required by the United States Government for inclusion in the Combined Federal Campaign, probably the most exclusive fund drive in the world.  Of the 1,000,000 charities operating in the United States today, it is estimated that fewer than 50,000 or 5%, meet or exceed these standards, and of those, fewer than 2,500 have been awarded the Seal as a “Best In America”.  Soldiers Angels is one of the .25%  recognized by the The Independent Charities of America.

Soldiers’ Angels is also ranked by The BBB Wise Giving Alliance.  This branch of the Better Business Bureau uses qualitative and quantitative data to determine their ratings of various charities.  Soldiers’ Angels was awarded a ranking of a rating of 18 out of 20 by this nationally recognized watchdog group and is expected to achieve a ranking of 20 out of 20 at its next evaluation. The BBB Wise Giving Alliance analyses many of the very factors of which Yon complains: Board Oversight, Board Compensation; Program Expenses; Audit Report, Detailed Expense Breakdown; Accurate Expense Reporting; Budget Plan; Truthful Materials and many others.

Yon is not concerned with stating the truth and he is not concerned with writing to any standard resembling journalistic integrity.  The facts do not support Yon’s assertions, so he ignores the truth, throws mud, and then engages in personal attacks.

Soldiers’ Angels’ Hero Flights

Yon demands that Soldiers’ Angels provide a list of travel expenses and that “This list should be detailed, and it should include the names of everyone who traveled (sic) on Soldiers' Angels funds.  There is nothing secret: the names of leadership are on their website. The itemization should include a Who, What, When, Where, Why, and how much did the travel cost?”  Yet when asked about the travel expenses paid on his own behalf by Soldiers’ Angels, Yon stated:

“That would take research and I am not going to spend the time just to satisfy your curiosity or my own, although I am curious.  But it was off and on over years, and so is not easy to figure out.”

On several occasions Yon has accused Soldiers’ Angels of improperly spending $334,000.00 on airline flights.   Again, Yon has taken a true fact, the expenditure of $334,000.00 on airline flights, and distorted it to suggest that the flights were abused by the members of the Board of Trustees.   Again, most of these costs were the result of a very successful program called Hero Flights.  Through this program Soldiers’ Angels used the overwhelming majority of these funds to fly wounded service members back home or to fly family members to the wounded heroes’ medical facility.   All of the flights in this program were for travel not covered or reimbursed by government.  As example, a soldier returned to Washington State from a deployment to learn that his mother, on the East coast, was not expected to live through the next day.  Due to circumstances beyond his control he could not get approval or was not eligible for the expense of the trip.  Within hours of being informed of this need, Soldiers’ Angels had the soldier on a flight to see his mother.  She died two hours after he arrived at the hospital.  In another instance, a company donated a weekend at a resort to a severely wounded soldier.  The soldier could not afford the airfare for a weekend of normalcy, away from the daily grind of rehabilitation; Soldiers’ Angels provided the airfare.   These are only two examples of the hundreds of instances in which this program made a positive difference in the lives of our military members. 

In a few instances funds are used for flights for members of our Board of Trustees.  The majority of such costs are to attend the three required Board of Trustees meetings that are held every year. This is a criterion for rating the efficiency of charities used by The BBB Wise Giving Alliance.  Additionally, Soldiers’ Angels has a detailed policy, using the same criterion used by public corporations, to determine the appropriateness of travel expenses.  Soldiers’ Angels travel expenses are regularly reviewed by independent auditors and charity watchdog groups and have always been found to be appropriate.

Ad Hominem Personal Attacks by Michael Yon

Soldiers’ Angels has no fight with Yon.  As shown above and on many other occasions Yon’s attacks on Soldiers’ Angels credibility as an organization are distortions of the truth.  The reason for Yon’s attacks on Soldiers’ Angels derives from his dispute with people associated with Soldiers’ Angels.  The attack machinations by Yon are quizzical because many of his attacks are against people that have no relation to him and who have never attacked him.

In his latest fantastical post he attacks Toby Nunn, who recently resigned from his position as Executive Director of Soldiers’ Angels.  Yon, with a misconstrued sense of self-importance, asserts that Nunn left Soldiers’ Angels as a result of Yon’s nonsensical, unsupported, self-proclaimed expose` on Soldiers’ Angels.   The one notable consistency in Yon’s assertions is that he continues to quench his thirst of hatred from the same troughs of rumors and wells of lies.

In his lust for spewing blind hatred Yon, uses the public platform of his Facebook page to launch ad hominem attacks on the credibility of Nunn.  By doing this Yon is attacking the very persona of the American Warrior. 

Toby Nunn, whom Yon seems determined to drag through the proverbial mud of character assassination.   Nunn, a Canadian citizen, served in the United States Army not just honorably, but modestly.  Through his career he earned the loyalty of the men who served under him and the respect of officers for whom he served.  He served in Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan.  He was decorated with a "V" device for valor, Combat Infantryman's Badge, and was bestowed the honor of being admitted as a Sergeant Audie Murphy Member. 

Nunn was hired by Soldiers’ Angels, not for his non-profit experience, but to bridge the gap between civilian supporters of Soldiers’ Angels and the military demographic.  Nunn served Soldiers’ Angels with the same zeal and enthusiasm that he served our country.  As Executive Director his first mission was to take care of our troops and their families.  He helped guide Soldiers’ Angels through the bureaucratic morass that a vast military machine can be.  He used his position at Soldiers’ Angels to ensure that our military members not only received support from those on the home front, but that they received the support that they needed. Nunn successfully bridged the gap between the civilian Soldiers’ Angels world and that of the military culture.  Through his travels on behalf of Soldiers’ Angels he interacted with our troops, treating each one as if they were his personal responsibility.   The troops he met responded to him because he was one of their own and the civilians who worked with him were inspired by his continued desire to help our fighting men and women. 

As only a First Sergeant can do, he used his leadership skills to oversee programs that created jobs for veterans, helped veterans address issues with PTS and he made sure that every troop in need sought help regardless of personal struggles.  Nunn served our country with distinction; he served Soldiers’ Angels with distinction.  Yon should simply be ashamed to attack this American Soldier.

The Medevac Issue

The trail of Yon’s latest post starts with the false and distorted portrayal of Soldiers’ Angels rankings by a national charity watchdog group, slips into the ad hominem attacks on the character of an American Soldier who has done nothing to him, and then trails off into rumblings about imagined opposition to “MEDEVAC improvements”.  Contrary to the imagined slight to his military strategic and tactical wisdom, it should be made very clear that Soldiers’ Angels has absolutely no stance whatsoever as to any “MEDEVAC Improvements”.  Soldiers’ Angels does not support “MEDEVAC Improvements” nor does it oppose “MEDEVAC Improvements”, it very simply has no opinion whatsoever, nor has it ever had an opinion or stance in regard to this issue. 

Soldiers’ Angels Moves Forward

          Soldiers’ Angels is keeping its stride and is moving forward in its mission to support the men and women of our military.  It is positioning itself so that its volunteers and programs are structured to address the challenges of a nation that has so many returning heroes, but which remains at war.  Soldiers’ Angels continues to support the tens of thousands of troops who remain stationed around the world taking the fight to our country’s enemies.  The deployed must not be forgotten and as troop drawdowns in areas occur, the need for support actually rises.  Soldiers’ Angels continues to support these great heroes.

          Additionally, Soldiers’ Angels is working to implement programs that will address the logical, predicted needs of our transitioning military and veterans.  As our veterans transition from a fighting force into the civilian world they will face personal and social challenges unique to veterans.  Soldiers’ Angels and its cadre of volunteers will strive to provide the same level of support and appreciation for our returning veterans as we have for our deployed and wounded warriors.  Soldiers’ Angels will continue to improve its corporate infrastructure to allow it to maintain its solid reputation as good stewards of our donors’ money. 

As our veterans and their families adjust to a new life, Soldiers’ Angels will be there to offer its support, assistance and love.  Like our heroes, Soldiers’ Angels will keep Soldiering On.

Very Respectfully,

Ricky John
Soldiers’ Angels
Board of Trustees