By Mike DiCicco/Quantico Sentry | InsideNova | insidenova.com | July 9, 2012
Stafford, VA – When Jersey Mike's Subs opened a sandwich shop in Stafford, franchise owner Pat Foley had a choice of charitable causes to donate to by giving away sandwiches.
"Ninety percent of my employees have a relation to the Corps," whether they are family members or retired Marines themselves, he said, noting that this also reflected the Stafford-area demographic.
So he chose the Quantico-based Semper Fi Fund, which raises money to do for injured Marines and their families what the government cannot, especially in the way of paying for family members to travel and stay with wounded Marines while they are hospitalized.
On July 3, Foley presented Master Gunnery Sgt. Jonathan White with a check for $2,250, which the shop raised by giving away sandwiches in return for donations.
"We gave away about 1,200 to 1,300 sandwiches in a five-day period," Foley said.
White, who lives in Stafford and recently transferred from Quantico Marine Corps base to the Pentagon as a communications chief, is the husband of Peg White, one of Foley's employees. He is the creator of a running team called For Those Who Can't, which raises money for the Semper Fi Fund in the run-up to the Marine Corps Marathon each year.
The concept is simple, he said: "We run for those who can't." White was once one of those who couldn't.
The Semper Fi Fund was born at Naval Medical Center San Diego, more commonly known as Balboa Hospital, in 2003, shortly after the start of the war in Iraq. White and his wife were there because he had been paralyzed – and nearly killed – in a parachuting accident.
"There were so many people injured, they couldn't take care of the families," he said, recalling family members who couldn't afford hotels sleeping in chairs throughout the facility. It was the family members, such as Peg White, who came up with the idea for a fund to fill in the cracks that Veterans Affairs couldn’t.
It was a way to help for people who felt helpless.
Peg White was first told that her husband probably wouldn't make it through the night. The couple was then told that he would never walk again.
"I told them, I'll let you know my time when I run my first marathon," he said. This year's Marine Corps Marathon will be the fifth he has run with the team he created.
Marines come from all over the country to run with the group, he said. Last year, an engineer from Minnesota with no military ties whatsoever joined and will run again this year. Donations have also been forthcoming.
"This guy, I didn't even know him," he said of Foley. Indicating the display full of Semper Fi Fund brochures on the restaurant's counter, he said, "Not too many businesses will go that far."
The Semper Fi Fund, an all-volunteer organization, has raised millions of dollars to help countless wounded warriors and their families, not just with hospital visits but also with prosthetics, handcycles, therapy and other needs related to their injuries, White said. It is open to all services.
"We've come a long way since World War I, when a guy was just forgotten about once he went home," he said. "We owe the wounded. We're going to make sure we take care of them."