The millions of men and women who have worn a U.S. military uniform with honor are a special group of citizens whose ranks cut across all the other distinctions that divide our society. Whatever our political leanings, most of us can agree that our military veterans are owed a debt that we can never quite repay.
They deserve honor and respect, far beyond what we remember to muster at occasional holiday ceremonies and parades.
So, whenever there is an opportunity to help a veteran in need, it’s no surprise that lots of people step up to lend a helping hand or offer a donation.
Which brings me to this past Sunday.
I had stopped by Tractor Supply Co. on Bobby Jones Expressway to pick up dog food. Outside were two gentlemen, adorned with patriotic colors and soliciting donations to assist “homeless veterans.” A sign revealed their organization: www.usmilitaryhomelessvets.org.
“So you are a non-profit group?” I asked. “Oh, yes,” replied the man, who opened up a three-ring binder to show their “state license” to collect donations. A quick examination of this “license” revealed it to be a copy of the corporation’s registration with the Georgia Secretary of State.
I pointed out the contradictory information before me. “It says here you are a for-profit company.”
“Well, we are for-profit,” he replied, seemingly untroubled by the shifting facts. “But we do give 86 percent to veterans.”
By this point I was already walking away, having seen and heard enough, but I wasn’t finished.
Naturally, I did what I could the next day to check this group out.
First, I went to the Web site, which told me the “U.S. Military Homeless Veterans Associate Group is part of a 7 year initiative, to eradicate the disease of Homelessness in Georgia.”
There is also information about the group’s noble mission to help veterans and naturally, a link to donate money, but curiously there was nothing specific about what they have done or are doing. More troubling, there also doesn’t seem to be a way to refer a veteran in need to their services.
More inquiries only led to more questions.
I checked with the Secretary of State, who confirmed this company was not a public charity. A spokesman for the Veterans Administration said he had never heard of them.
Also, the company address seems to be a mailbox at a UPS Store.
I called the number listed on the Web site and left a message.
A man called back immediately, saying his name was “Mr. Otis.”
Presumably this was Otis Louden III, of Lawrenceville, who is listed as the corporation’s registered agent.
As soon as Mr. Otis discovered I worked for a newspaper and wanted more details on his business, however, he quickly made his excuses and promised to call me back with answers.
I’m still waiting.