Operation Helmet - Help Protect Our Heroes

 It has been an interesting couple of weeks for the Meaders family. Some of you may have seen recent articles and television features about Operation Helmet, a non-partisan charity set up to send helmet upgrade kits to troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. You might have assumed it was something that Cher set up or that it is part of a MoveOn.org master plan to attack conservatives.

You couldn’t be further from the truth. My dad started Operation Helmet early in 2004 when his grandson Justin called home asking about a special kind of helmet upgrade kit that his gunnery sergeant had recommended. Dad couldn’t afford to provide all of the 100 kits needed for Justin’s Marine Corps combat engineering company, so he started looking for donations, and got them. That should have been the end of that. And it was ... until other Marines and Navy corpsmen saw how stable, protective, and comfortable the upgrades made their helmets.

"Where’d you get ‘em?" and "How do we get ‘em?" they asked. Thus started a two-plus year odyssey of joy, sadness, frustration, compassion, and admiration. An odyssey of the human spirit.

We have been supported equally from the left and the right. Between my wife and me, we have over 50 years of military service. Add my dad and it’s nearly 75. When I found that Cher had adopted us and that we were going meet her, I pulled out the duct tape to wrap around my head. I was sure she was going to say things that would make my head explode.

Then we met, and I put away the duct tape. She really cares. Look in the dictionary under "puts her money where her mouth is," and there’s her picture. I may not agree with her on the war, the administration, or politics, but I violently agree with her support of the troops.

Like her, I applaud the US Army's efforts to buy shock resistant helmets for all deploying troops. Like her, I shake my head in wonder at the Marine Corps' adamant position that the threat is from bullets, not blasts. I don't understand.

"Ours is not to ask why, ours is to do," may be the soldiers’ motto, but it is not ours. We are asking why and we are doing something about it, too.

I’ve heard several comments about Representative Curt Weldon (PA-R) joining up with Operation Helmet after Cher got involved. Weldon is Chairman of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Tactical Air and Land Forces.

Let me set the record straight: In early May I asked for 15 minutes of Curt's time. When we met on May 18th, it wasn't what I expected. Curt and I were in his office alone for about ten minutes. I demonstrated the helmet upgrade kits using real helmets. One of his senior staffers, Michael, then joined us. Curt took the helmets and proceeded to give Michael the same briefing I had just given him. Then Curt asked one of the professional staffers from the House Armed Services Committee to join us. Again he explained the premise behind Operation Helmet.

Our meeting lasted nearly 2 1/2 hours. Before I left, Curt directed a number of tasks, one of which was calling for a hearing on the helmet upgrade kits before his Subcommittee. Within the same 24 hours, Cher called my dad in Houston to ask how much money it would take to zero out our backlog. The simultaneous occurrence of these two events is just another example of people working independently towards the same goal.

We have worked with some wonderful people who truly care about the brave young men and women who are serving us, not only in Iraq and Afghanistan, but around the world. These people might bicker and fight about the policies of the administration, about abortion, school prayer, and taxes. They probably could not agree on where or what to eat. They are Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, independents, and apolitical. They are Jews, Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, agnostics, and atheists. Black, white, Hispanic, Asian, born here and born abroad, they are Americans all. They support our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen with all their hearts.

We at Operation-Helmet.org are both proud and humbled by the force of spirit and love that our fellow Americans have displayed towards our troops.

Semper Fidelis, Mark Meaders

About Operation Helmet

Operation Helmet is a Montgomery, Texas-based, nonpartisan, 501(c)3 charitable grassroots effort that provides helmet upgrade kits free of charge to U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. These helmet upgrade kits consist of shock-absorbing pads and a new strap system. Operation Helmet depends on tax-deductible donations and is a team member of AmericaSupportsYou.mil. For $75-$100, depending on the manufacturer, added safety and comfort can be provided for a trooper. But donations of any amount are welcome. The donation can be designated for a specific branch of the military, a particular unit or an individual trooper. 99% of donations go toward helmet kits. There are no salaries or payroll costs deducted and the Operation’s books are available for inspection by anyone who wants to see them. To date, Operation Helmet has sent upgrade kits to over 20,000 troops.