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Military Order of the Purple Heart
200px
Logo of the Military Order of the Purple Heart
Motto Some Gave All, All Gave Some
Formation 1932
Headquarters Springfield, VA
Membership Approx. 45,300[1]
National Commander Bruce G. McKenty
Website purpleheart.org

The Military Order of the Purple Heart (MOPH) is a congressionally chartered (Title 36 USC Chapter 1405) United States war veterans organization. Headquartered just outside of Washington, D.C., it has a membership of approximately 45,300 veterans. It is unique in that its members are exclusively men and women who have received the Purple Heart award while serving as a member of the U.S. Military.[2]

Membership Requirements[edit | edit source]

To apply for membership into to MOPH, applicants must:

Mission[edit | edit source]

The MOPH's stated mission is "to foster an environment of goodwill and camaraderie among combat wounded veterans, promote patriotism, support necessary legislative initiatives, and most importantly, provide service to all veterans and their families."[4]

National Programs[edit | edit source]

Service Program[edit | edit source]

The MOPH Service Program exists to assist all U.S. Military veterans (to include members as well as nonmembers) in working with the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) and filing claims for benefits.[5]

Youth Activities Program[edit | edit source]

The MOPH's Youth Activities Program is designed to instill the values of patriotism and good citizenry among America's youth. This includes recognizing outstanding ROTC and JROTC leaders in the U.S. and Department of Defense dependent schools globally.[6]

Veterans Affairs Volunteer Service Program[edit | edit source]

The Military Order of the Purple Heart's Veterans Affairs Volunteer Service (VAVS) Program operates the largest volunteer system in the U.S. Federal Government. VAVS works with the VA to supplement resources for the care, treatment and welfare of veteran patients.[7]

Scholarship Program[edit | edit source]

The MOPH Scholarship Program is designed to provide monetary assistance for college to applicants who are either:

  • a current MOPH member,
  • an immediate relative of a current MOPH member, or
  • an immediate relative of a service member who died either in battle or from wounds sustained in battle.

In addition, the members must:

  • be a graduate or senior-year student of an accredited high school, or a full-time undergraduate student at a U.S. college, university, or trade school;
  • hold at least a 2.75 GPA on an unweighted 4.0 scale; and
  • be a U.S. citizen.[8]

Americanism Program[edit | edit source]

The Americanism Program of the MOPH works with schools and outside organizations to "promote U.S. history and the quest for freedom", and is administered by the MOPH National Americanism Officer.[9]

Purple Heart Trail[edit | edit source]

Purple Heart Trail marker on Interstate 35.

The Purple Heart Trail system, established by the MOPH in 1992, is purposed to "create a symbolic and honorary system of roads, highways, bridges, and other monuments that give tribute to the men and women who have been awarded the Purple Heart medal." The program places, where legislation is passed, signs designed to remind motorists of the freedom of their country, and of those who have paid to keep it that way. The program designates bridges, sections of highways, and other roads as part of the trail. It forms noncontinuous paths, and is present in 45 states and the territory of Guam.[10]

First Responder Program[edit | edit source]

The purpose of MOPH's First Responder Program is to honor police officers and fire fighters who are killed or wounded in the line of duty. These people are honored by the creation of a commemorative plaque.[11]

Purple Heart Family[edit | edit source]

The Ladies' Auxiliary[edit | edit source]

The Ladies Auxiliary of the Military Order of the Purple Heart (LAMOPH) is a sister organization of the MOPH. Its members include mothers, wives, sisters, widows, daughters, stepdaughters, granddaughters and legally adopted female lineal descendants of Purple Heart recipients, who may or may not be MOPH members themselves. It functions as a separate organization from the MOPH, but shares the same goals and mission.

Service Foundation[edit | edit source]

The Military Order of the Purple Heart Service Foundation is the fundraising engine of the MOPH. Its stated purpose and objectives are:

  • To raise funds for service, welfare, and rehabilitation work in connection with the members of the Military Order of the Purple Heart of the U.S.A. (a congressionally chartered veterans organization), those who are eligible for membership therein, or any wounded, disabled and/or handicapped veteran, his widow, orphan or survivors.
  • For the support and maintenance of liaison services in any or all offices of the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, soldier's homes or other administration of veteran's affairs wherever and whenever deemed necessary.
  • For the support and maintenance of legislative service to advise and confer with the executive offices or bureaus and departments of the United States Government and Congressional committees or their members on any matters of interest and importance to disabled ex servicemen and women and particularly such matters as may properly be the subject of legislation.
  • To contribute such funds to the Military Order of the Purple Heart of the U.S.A. or to independently assist in providing such services as outlined above.[12]

Controversy[edit | edit source]

In 2007, the MOPH Service Foundation was given a grade of "F" from the American Institute of Philanthropy (AIP) because only 32% of money raised for the organization went to charity programs.[13][14] More egregious money mismanagement instances were also found, including a black tie dinner for a retiring official with a cost of approximately $40,000 (who was later rehired at the same pay) while $250,000 in budget cuts were being implemented. In addition, the MOPH had signed a deal with a fundraising organization through 2011 in which the MOPH would receive only 16% of the money raised. The MOPH was also given access to a luxury suite for a Washington Redskins football game on Veterans Day, 2007. However, wounded veterans were not given access to the suite; instead, they were given two tickets for the stadium stands. Then-National Commander Henry Cook spoke out about these malpractices, saying, "I am outraged that money that was given in a sacred trust may have been spent in ways other than wisely for the service of veterans ... When they [the MOPH Service Foundation] discuss their finances, they go into a closed session, and I am excluded..."[15]

Later that year, executive director Richard Esau was fired from the Service Foundation after an audit from an independent organization revealed several hundred thousand dollars' worth of money allocated under Esau's conflict of interest. The Foundation donated $500,000 to the Intrepid Museum in New York City directly before the museum hired the daughter of a member of the Foundation's board of directors. The Foundation also gave $100,000 to the Marine Corps Reserve Officers Association, where Esau worked previously and where his wife currently worked. Esau also told Cook that half of that money was given to a personal friend who was contracted to teach anti-terrorism classes to National Guard troops. Finally, the Foundation's tax forms from the previous year revealed that $685,000 was spent on radio and television advertisements with the Washington Redskins. Cook told ABC News, "This investigation is ongoing and it's going to get bigger. It is outrageous and unfair to those who donate their hard earned money to help veterans. (...) I'm not sure that the guy who is living on an limited budget and sends his money to help wounded vets would want [his money] to go to that."[16]

In 2010, Cook filed suit against the MOPH, claiming he was wrongfully dismissed from his post as National Commander. In an affidavit submitted, Cook claims that his removal was "for my exposing of the mismanagement of funds and grants of "Purple Heart Dollars" on national television." In a public statement, the MOPH responded, "We absolutely disagree with Mr. Cook's allegations in the lawsuit, and we also disagree with Mr. Cook's effort to 'try' his case in the media. We will not otherwise comment on pending litigation, but rather will let this matter run its course through the court system."[17]

In 2008, the Foundation came under fire from yet another member of the Order for wasteful spending on programs outside the organization's core mission. At a 2008 National Convention speech, a graduate of the Foundation's flagship training initiative, the Veterans Business Training Center (VBTC) exposed the program as a "scam" and "a very expensive failure." The former student recounted a litany of questionable and unethical business practices under the leadership of then-program director Kenneth L. Smith. The VBTC and a related combat wounded call center were shuttered the following year; however, concerns raised about Smith's management practices and the VBTC's failure were ignored. Smith—who had a criminal history (including a federal mail fraud conviction) and was publicly exposed in 1995 by the Boston Globe for fabricating his war record and bankrupting a veteran's homeless shelter—was eventually promoted to Chief Technology Officer and placed in charge of the Foundation's car donation program after they terminated contractual services with long-time vendor, Charity Funding, Inc. (Charity Funding, Inc. subsequently sued the Foundation for breach of contract in June 2010.) And despite the failure of the VBTC, Smith was instructed to re-launch the VBTC training program under a new business alias, Veterans Vocational Technical Institute (VVTI, aka "VetTech"). On to its third incarnation, the VVTI training program, now dubbed "Veterans Virtual Training Institute,” is publically promoted online and is listed on the Foundation’s website. However, information on costs, revenues, graduates and placement statistics are not. Kenneth L. Smith is no longer listed as manager of the program or an employee of the Foundation. Details of his past history exploiting veteran causes for personal profit are chronicled in B.G. Burkett's 1998 book "Stolen Valor" (ISBN 9780966703603), that inspired legislation by the same name.

With virtually no executive management oversight (the Foundation has been without an Executive Director since 2009) and inadequate financial controls, the Foundation was ripe for exploitation—even from a well known con man like Smith. Remnants of bogus programs he bankrolled through the Foundation litter the internet like virtual abandoned houses (e.g., http://www.purplehearttechsupport.com/, http://www.purpleheartcallcenter.com/, http://www.purpleheartservices.com/, http://www.vvti.org/. The total outlay in wasted donor dollars is unkown. Mired in controversy and outcompeted by more business savvy veterans organizations like the Wounded Warriors Project, the Foundation finds itself in a hyper-competitive fundraising environment; and struggling for relevance with today’s younger, wounded veteran. Publically available IRS 990s show the financial toll of this changing landscape. In its 2012 returns, the Foundation reported a gap of $2.1 million between revenues and expenses. In 2011, the figure was a staggering $3.5 million. Paradoxically, the Foundation clings to archaic fundraising methods requiring costly cash conversion practices and third-party solicitors; habits that have consistently earned “F” ratings from Charity Watch in the years that have followed Henry Cook’s initial whistle-blowing revelations.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. "Military Order of the Purple Heart Factsheet" (PDF). August 2012. http://www.purpleheart.org/DownLoads/MOPHFactSheet.pdf. Retrieved 16 February 2013. 
  2. "Chartered by Act of Congress For Combat Wounded Veterans". http://www.purpleheart.org/Default.aspx. Retrieved 17 February 2013. 
  3. "Eligibility requirements to become a Member of the Military Order of the Purple Heart". http://www.purpleheart.org/MemberEligibility.aspx. Retrieved 17 February 2013. 
  4. "Our Mission". http://www.purpleheart.org/Mission.aspx. Retrieved 17 February 2013. 
  5. "The MOPH Service Program". http://www.purpleheart.org/ServiceProgram/Default.aspx. Retrieved 17 February 2013. 
  6. "MOPH's Youth Activities Program". http://www.purpleheart.org/ROTC/Default.aspx. Retrieved 17 February 2013. 
  7. "MOPH's Veterans Affairs Volunteer Service (VAVS) Program". http://www.purpleheart.org/VAVS/Default.aspx. Retrieved 17 February 2013. 
  8. "MOPH 2013–2014 Academic Year Scholarship Application Package" (PDF). http://www.purpleheart.org/Downloads/Forms/ScholarshipApplication.pdf. Retrieved 17 February 2013. 
  9. "MOPH's Americanism Program". http://www.purpleheart.org/Americanism/Default.aspx. Retrieved 17 February 2013. 
  10. "MOPH's Purple Heart Trail Program". http://www.purpleheart.org/PHTrail/Default.aspx. Retrieved 17 February 2013. 
  11. "MOPH's First Responder Program". http://www.purpleheart.org/FirstResponders/Default.aspx. Retrieved 17 February 2013. 
  12. "About Us". http://www.mophsf.org/about-us. Retrieved 17 February 2013. 
  13. "Veterans Charities Protest Their F's". American Institute of Philanthropy. May 2008. Archived from the original on 24 April 2013. http://archive.is/M5pi7. Retrieved 24 April 2013. 
  14. Schecter, Anna (9 November 2007). "Charities Respond to ABC News Report". ABC News. Archived from the original on 24 April 2013. http://archive.is/nvDzM. Retrieved 24 April 2013. 
  15. Ross, Brian (17 January 2008). "Luxury for Charity Officials, Budget Cuts for Wounded Vets". ABC News. Archived from the original on 24 April 2013. http://archive.is/NVmuh. Retrieved 24 April 2013. 
  16. Schecter, Anna (21 August 2008). "Wounded Vet Charity Accuses Own Executive of Fraud". ABC News. Archived from the original on 24 April 2013. http://archive.is/vaa7k. Retrieved 24 April 2013. 
  17. Chuchmach, Megan (9 October 2010). "Purple Heart Vet Sues for Retaliation After Blowing Whistle on Alleged Corruption, Money Mismanagement". ABC News. Archived from the original on 24 April 2013. http://archive.is/KwM8C. Retrieved 24 April 2013. 

External links[edit | edit source]

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