Debbie Lee is a Gold Star Mother, the mother of Marc Lee, the first Navy SEAL to be killed during the Iraq war. You may be familiar with Marc's story, as he was assigned to Task Unit Bruiser while serving in Ramadi, where his Task Unit Commander was Jocko Willink.
Since becoming a Gold Star Mother, Debbie founded America's Mighty Warriors, a non-profit, which honors the sacrifices of our troops, the fallen, and their families. Debbie and I live in the same town and we ran into each other a couple of times at a few events that were going on in town, and it was an honor to have her join me on the podcast.
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Scott DeLuzio: 00:00:00 Thanks for tuning into the Drive On Podcast where we're focused on giving hope and strength to the entire military community, whether you're a veteran, active duty, guard, reserve, or family member, on this podcast we'll share inspirational stories and resources that are useful to you. I'm your host, Scott DeLuzio and now let's get on with the show. Hi everybody and welcome back to the Drive On Podcast. Today my guest is Debbie Lee. Debbie is a Gold Star Mother, the mother of Marc Lee, the first Navy seal to be killed in Iraq. Some of you may be familiar with Marc’s story. Marc was assigned to Task Unit Bruiser while serving in Ramadi where his task unit commander was Jocko Willink. If anyone's listened to the Jocko podcast, you've probably heard something about Debbie's son Marc, and his story, and since becoming a Gold Star Mother, Debbie founded America's Mighty Warriors which is a nonprofit that honors the sacrifices of our troops, the fallen and their families. Debbie and I both live in the same town and we ran into each other at a couple of events that were going on here in town. And it's an honor and a pleasure to have Debbie come on and share her story and her son's story on the show today. So welcome to the show, Debbie,
Debbie Lee: 00:01:15 Thanks so much for having me; obviously it's great when you were able to meet. It was sad that the circumstances that we had an instant bond was the losses that we both had to deal with. For you, your brother and me and my son, but I think when you're a Gold Star Family member, it brings a lot of comfort when you know that someone knows exactly what you're going through and that there is someone else there that you're not alone because I think oftentimes that's something that we deal with. And I guess that could be anything you're going through. If you're fighting cancer, you feel like nobody else could, if you just lost your job, you feel like nobody else, that's an easy way for us to get discouraged. So hopefully that brought you a little encouragement and hopefully I can bring some encouragement today to many others. And let people know that no matter what your circumstances are, you don't have to let those circumstances overcome you. You may not have a choice to the circumstances that were given to you just as I had no choice on August 2nd, when I was notified that my son had been killed, but I did have a choice how I responded.
Scott DeLuzio: 00:02:22 Absolutely. I think that's beautifully said and because a lot of times people get that initial surge of support in the first few days and weeks and months after a loss of a loved one, like the ones that your family and mine experienced. And then that support starts to fade over time. And I think that's a natural thing. People tend to just move on with their lives and they move on, but it might leave the family, the grieving family feeling like they're all alone without that support. And I don't think anything could be further from the truth . There's definitely people out there who are ready, willing, able to support people like that and give them the support that they need, it's just a matter of feeling like they can reach out to get that kind of assistance when they feel they need it.
Scott DeLuzio: 00:03:21 You mentioned your son; we've talked a little bit about your son and my brother as well. My brother served in Ramadi actually during the earlier half of 2006. So he was there. I think he got there in late December and stayed through maybe June of 2006 and judging from his letters home, the pictures that he took and the stories that he told when he did get back home that was just not a place that you wanted to be in. That was a rough, rough place especially during that time period. He wasn't in Ramadi when your son was killed, but you know, given the situation that was going on there in 2006, it was a tough place to be.
Debbie Lee: 00:04:16 Teammates would say that it was the worst piece of real estate over there. They called it the hell hole of Iraq. The majority of our casualties back in 2006 were coming from Ramadi. And if it wasn't every day or multiples on every day, it was almost every day, it was a terrific place to be, but it's where we needed to be to be able to get to the enemy that did so much damage to us here as a country on 9/11. And Marc’s platoon was willing to go find the bad guys, even though they've been told over and over, don't go out there. That's a terrible place, you know? They knew that was their mission to capture and kill bad guys.
Scott DeLuzio: 00:05:03 Yeah, exactly. And that's the mission that we were over there for, we were looking to get those bad guys and flush them out and kill or capture as many of them as we could. And it's because of people like your son and the other people who are serving with him that we did do a lot of damage to that enemy that was over there. And more importantly, I think we kept them from coming back over here and conducting another 9/11 attack here. And so you know, when I've been asked several times over the last few years about my brother's death and especially with the withdrawal in Afghanistan a couple months ago, the way it went down you know, people ask me do you feel like it was all for nothing and I say absolutely not. You know I feel like everybody who went over there, everyone who served, including the people who didn't make it home, we went over there for a reason and that was to keep the enemy from coming back here and attacking us at home. And so yes, there were sacrifices that were made, but I don't feel at all that they were all for nothing.
Debbie Lee: 00:06:30 Yeah. And I think very much so. Our foundation, a lot of what we do is working with our veterans who from combat have post traumatic stress, traumatic brain injury, and are helping heroes heal. The program pays for hyperbaric oxygen therapy, hormone, and vitamin therapy, natural things that are healing their bodies. And I'm especially very connected to the spec ops community. Our foundation supports all branches of our military, but that core family, mine is that special ops community. And we give them the best equipment. They get the best training and they're given the best missions, which typically are the most dangerous ones. And then they come back home and they get out. And I just feel like we're okay, go away now. Don't bother me. Thanks, goodbye. And we talk often in the military community about leaving no man behind.
Debbie Lee: 00:07:23 And that's what I feel like is happening with our veterans who are coming back home, that they are not getting the help they need. They're not being taken care of. And we work with a lot of them. And I got lots of calls that week when we pulled out of Afghanistan in such a horrific way. And they were struggling. They were struggling. A lot of our Gold Star families were struggling. And I reminded them that what you did, you served, normally you serve honorably, you did the right thing and you made a difference. This is not on you. This was a lack of leadership in our senior military leaders and coming down from the White House. And I'm not by any means a person that wants to see us constantly at war or should always be the last resort, but we tried so many things.
Debbie Lee: 00:08:13 And when we were attacked here, I think it was justified. And Marc talks about that in his last letter home about the mission he saw, he was in Iraq, not in Afghanistan, and for those who are listening today, who did serve, please know that your sacrifice was not in vain. You did make a difference over there. Unfortunately we may end up going back again in that part of the world, because the ideology of the terrorists over there just continues to go from one country to another country. I call them the flavor of the month; they change, whether they're Al-Qaeda in Iraq or Taliban or whoever, it's that ideology that wants to destroy America and wants to do damage to us. But I'm so proud of all of our men and women who served and sacrificed, and I will never forget your brother or Marc or any of the others who've given their lives so that we can live free every day. And I'm a contributing author in several books and I autograph those books, “live your life worthy of their sacrifice.” And that's what our responsibility is as Americans to make sure that we are doing that. And we do recognize that price that is paid for the freedom to enjoy every day.
Scott DeLuzio: 00:09:29 Well said. I think that's incredibly well said, actually. For any of the listeners who maybe are not familiar with your son's story, I know we touched on it a little bit when he was in Ramadi and things like that. Could you tell us a little bit about him you know, what got him into the Navy and maybe whatever else that you'd like to share about him in his time in Ramadi?
Debbie Lee: 00:09:51 Sure. Marc was the youngest of my three children. He was born to me two weeks after I went through a divorce. Unfortunately their father was very violent and abusive and because of that abuse, the day that I filed for divorce, it was final. And then I found out two weeks later, I was pregnant with Marc and as a single mom with three little kids, 3, 18 months and another baby on the way, no child support, no help. It didn't look like there was any light at the end of the tunnel, but God knew just what I needed in that young man. Because from the time he was little, he was such a joyful kid and he brought so much joy and humor into our lives. And you know, what a blessing, all three of my children are the gift that they are.
Debbie Lee: 00:10:40 But that young man and his humor, I mean, he'd tell knock-knock jokes that he thought were hilarious and he would be laughing so hard and they were so stupid but you're laughing hard at him because he's so excited. And so tickled that he thinks they're hilarious, but he ended up getting class clown two years in a row in high school. And I was always like, and this is going to get you to college now. But he watched a Navy seal movie as I'm sure all young men do when they're junior high age and they want to be a Navy seal and whether they follow through with determination? I don't know at that point that it was, I think it was, it just looked cool. They get to blow things up.
Debbie Lee: 00:11:22 They get the beautiful women in the stories, you know? And he didn't then delve into that too much more. He was going to seminary to become a pastor. And then he had a goal to be a professional soccer player. He came home his freshman year and declared that to me, of course, I always taught my kids. You put your mind to it, you can do whatever you believe you can do. And when he came home and told me that I was like, okay, we're pretty poor growing up. They didn't play little league sports or any club teams. And I'm like, Marc, you've never played soccer before. And I wanted to encourage him. I'm like, if you think you can do this, okay, we'll get you enrolled in playing soccer.
Debbie Lee: 00:12:09 And he was in fact, the youngest coach at his high school to be a soccer player. His freshman year, he got posted as an approved soccer player. Obviously having never played before he had a lot of room to improve. He was pretty bad when he started, but was in fact trying out for the Colorado rapids when he blew out his knee and had to have his ACL repaired and half as meniscus removed. And he came home for surgery. And that's when I really noticed him starting to read more about Navy Seals, biographies of them and started going to the local pool and swimming laps and training himself. And that's when he really made the decision. His oldest brother had joined the Marines in August of 2000. His brother-in-law joined the Army in October of 2000. In may of 2001,
Debbie Lee: 00:12:58 I think he wanted to one up everybody. I think there's a little competition there. And he went into the Navy recruiting office and had a contract to go to BUDS when he came out. Now that doesn't guarantee you'll be a Navy seal, but that says you're physically fit enough. You're smart enough; that yes, you could be a good candidate to go. An amazing young man who loved being a seal, loved the teams and actually was connected with his unit that was deploying at Charlie platoon. Last minute, they had another Navy seal that they had to fire and they said, we need the best seal you got on short notice to come in and acclimate with our team and deploy with them. And so we didn't get to do all the workups he did. And of course he was the new guy and they always give the new guys grief and make it hard on them.
Debbie Lee: 00:13:48 But they said after three days, Marc was just his character, his humor, his smile, the way he cared for people. It's just, they couldn't pick on him anymore. You know, he was definitely part of that team, even though he hadn't done the workups the previous year with them. And they deployed to Ramadi in April of 2006 and had one of the most kinetic deployments and missions that any of the units had seen over there. And they did. They made a huge difference. They worked a lot with the Marines and the Army over there which was very different. Typically the Seals will work at night. They don't work with anybody else and they were doing daytime missions and working with the Marines and the Army and an amazing group of very humble leaders on a task unit bruiser, which I'm blessed now that that's my family.
Debbie Lee: 00:14:43 But the day that Marc died, it was 115, 120 degrees. And there were four Seals that were on the rooftop. They'd been fighting for two hours. And in the movie, American Sniper, Marc is the third main character. So Chris and Terr are the two main characters portrayed in that. Marc is the seal, then who's in the movie next most that's actually killed in the combat scene. And that's supposed to be me reading part of his last letter home. And they give a glimpse into what it was like. But the guys that didn't even come close to showing how bad that firefight was, and they'd been fighting for two hours, Marc had the big gun. So he carried anywhere from 150 to 180 pounds. In addition to his own weight ,we live in Arizona. Sometimes we see 115, 120, but I guarantee we're not carrying 150, 180 pounds and we're not having bullets being fired at us or firing bullets back and forth and are running in that gear.
Debbie Lee: 00:15:32 So even though I've been to Iraq twice, I went on patrol with the first of the fourth Cav three different times. I wore body armor. I felt the weight of that, but it wasn't a battle. Nobody was firing on us when we were out there. So I get a glimpse, but I can't even completely understand how these guys do that. And his buddy Brian had been severely injured. The bullets hit the weapon. And so he had severe shrapnel injuries to the head and he fell to the ground. Two of the Seals quickly dropped to their knees to help Brian and Marc could have made that very same choice. But his choice that day was to stand up into the line of fire. He knew he had the big gun. He knew there was no medic there. And he could tell by looking at Ryan, it was serious and they needed a medic up there.
Debbie Lee: 00:16:13 He knew he could provide that cover, hopefully to get the medic up there. He knew there was a risk that he could be giving up his life, but he knew it was the right thing to do. And they did, the medic got up there, took one look at Brian. And so that said, we gotta get him out here immediately, or there was no chance for survival. So then not just once, but a second time by himself, Marc stood up in the line of fire again to provide that cover so they could get down off of the roof. And they sent Brian off for medical attention. And they went back to the base, which I'm proud to tell you was named Camp Barkley in his memory. And I got to visit Ramadi in 2007. When I went to Camp Barkley and brought back some of the soil by the base of the sign there.
Debbie Lee: 00:16:52 But when they got back, I know Chris Kyle told me later that they're pretty sure there's no way Brian could survive his injuries. And they were waiting for the hospital to call and inform him of that. Brian did in fact survive for three more years, actually lived here in Phoenix and then died from complications from surgery. And as they got back to the base we watched our Navy Seals do some things and they seem superhuman at times, but I can tell you, they're just as real as you or I are. And they got some water to refresh themselves and were taking their gear off. And the chief came in and said, we just found 30, the insurgence, who just attacked us. And without hesitation, Marc looked at his chief and he said, Roger that, let's go get them. So they put their gear back on and they went back into that godforsaken place.
Debbie Lee: 00:17:37 They cleared several houses. They went to the last house. Marc would be in and they cleared the bottom of the house and started up the steps. And they heard him yell on me. And he was saying, I got the lead on this. You guys follow me. And as they went up those stairs, they fired through a window. And for the last and final time, Marc made the choice again, to stand into the line of fire. He could have stayed below the wall. He could have waited for backup, probably half his platoon would have been killed, but he made the choice to give his life, to save his teammates. And I think of the words “on me” that's where we all need to be in our life. No matter what's given to us, what mission in life we're given that we have to do,
Debbie Lee: 00:18:27 If we say “on me” and March forward and not have a pity party, not feel sorry for ourselves, that we can make a difference. Whether we're facing a diagnosis of cancer for me, I had no choice. The news that was given to me on August 2nd, I could have curled up in a ball and felt sorry for myself. And I get it. You know, I've been a widow for 27 years. I lost a husband, but losing your child... And I've done lots of reading about grief. They say that is the worst, the instant death of a child. And so I get it when people can't pull themselves up out of it, but it would have physically made me sick. Stress does crazy things to our body. You know, that's not how I'm wired and you know, by God's strength and with his help, I started America's Mighty Warriors to continue to take care of our troops.
Debbie Lee: 00:19:17 And did that mean I ignored grief, denied it and acted like Marc didn’t die, no, you have to go through grief to get to the healthier side. You can't go under it or around it. You gotta go right through the middle of it. And people go through at different speeds. There is no right or wrong way to grieving other than just don't get stuck, continue to go through it. But as I said, we started America's Mighty Warriors and we have a house in Arizona called the Heroes Hope Home where other families of the fallen can stay for free. We have one in Florida, Serenity Hopeful. We do retreats in Texas for our Gold Star families who've lost a loved one in combat or in training. We, as I mentioned, the Helping Heroes program, or we're doing a lot for our veterans struggling with suicide and post traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury, or we're paying for hyperbaric oxygen therapy, hormone and vitamin therapy.
Debbie Lee: 00:20:11 These are just a few of the therapies that are providing healing. Most of what our veterans are doing is just masking the symptoms, the drugs that the VA's giving them, whether it's alcohol abuse, prescription drugs, illegal drugs. And I get it. I get why they want to take the pain away, whether it's emotional or physical, but when there's things like what we're doing that are actually healing their brains. So much of that is in the frontal lobe that controls your sleep, your emotions. So no emotions are the raging emotions. That's the memory issues. And so many of our veterans, that's the three main things they're struggling with. Marc’s last letter home talked about doing more random acts of kindness. He said, when's the last time you paid for a stranger's cup of coffee or meal or tank of gas. So that's one of our other programs.
Debbie Lee: 00:20:57 It does go up to a $5,000 grant. Now the veterans themselves can't come ask. Because unfortunately we have found veterans that are just going from charity to charity to see what they can take. And that's not who we want to support. So if you knew someone you could reach out and say, Hey, I've known this person for three years, five years, all my life. They'd be the last one to come ask for help. Their child's got cancer or their house just burnt to the ground and they didn't get their insurance yet. Or you know, those typically are a little more of a crisis situation, but usually within 24 hours, we can have a vote from our board and a check in the hands of the person that's struggling. And that's so different from many of the other foundations that help. The red tape
Debbie Lee: 00:21:37 that's out there takes forever and in most of these situations they need help immediately. And there's probably not anything I wouldn't do for our veterans. We've introduced tons of different legislation. If there's an injustice, we'll try to step in and make that right. Whether it's a corporation, our government, we can be the voice for our troops and our military families. And you know, for me, I get to see the impact that Marc is making in such a crazy way. You know, it's been 15 years since he left. And as I say, redeployed to heaven and that kid is still making a crazy difference around the world. And so until God calls me home, I think my marching orders and mission is marked out for me. And it's my honor to be able to do this for our military and our families.
Scott DeLuzio: 00:22:29 I like how you put that redeployed to heaven, but it's an interesting way to look at it. And I think it's a positive spin to it because he is still making an impact on the world here. And his mission isn't over and you're continuing on with his mission and you're doing the work to help out other veterans, help out the families and help out people who are in need. And it seems like that's the type of person who he was when you had someone wounded sitting there and he stood up and provided cover fire and everything like that, that's helping, you know? And I know that that is one of the things that they teach in the military when you're in a situation like that, where you have a wounded person who needs medical attention.
Scott DeLuzio: 00:23:31 But if you're still taking fire or if the medic can't get to you because of the fire that you might be taking, the number one priority is to establish security and I'm sure, I'm absolutely positive that that's what he had in his mind is we need to squash this attack and get the medic up here to give the medical attention that he needs. It might seem counterintuitive because in any everyday situation, if you see someone's hurt, you're naturally just going to go run over to them and try to help them if you can. But to almost feel like just turning your back on that, but that's not at all what he was doing, to an outsider looking at the situation, but it's not at all what he was doing.
Scott DeLuzio: 00:24:22 Because if he didn't start shooting back and providing that kind of cover fire that may have taken longer for the medical attention to get there, and it could have even caused the enemy to come and overrun their position, creating even more casualties, including potentially himself. And so you know, as much as you want to be there for someone else and help them physically as much as you can, sometimes the best thing that you can do is stand up and return that fire. And so it seems like from what you're saying, it seems like Marc did exactly what he was trained to do, exactly what he was meant to do, you know, especially carrying the big guns. So that's what they're there for is to lay down that fire as difficult as it may have been to stand there and return fire especially with protection of a wall or something nearby that's exactly what he needed to do.
Scott DeLuzio: 00:25:25 So I mean, you should definitely, I'm sure that you are, but you definitely should be proud of him for having that kind of courage to stand up and do what he needed to do.
Debbie Lee: Absolutely. Yeah.
Scott DeLuzio: And you should be; I think we all are if we hear his story enough and tell his story and you know, I think we all can be proud of the fact that there are people like him out there who are willing to do those difficult courageous things so that other people may be benefiting and getting the attention that they need. And in a way, the reason why I bring all that up, in a way, it seems like that's what you're doing too because like you said, you could have just curled up in a ball and stayed there for years and never gotten up and done anything, but you did, you stood up and you said, okay, there's still a fight that needs to be fought.
Scott DeLuzio: 00:26:29 And you know, you don't have bullets flying over your head, thank God. But you have people who are in serious need and in some cases, life and death, serious kind of needs where people are struggling with their grief; you know, if they're a Gold Star Family or with depression or PTSD or any number of other things, and you're standing up and you're taking that fight to the problem that they're having. And you're attacking it head on not in a physical fight kind of way, the way maybe that Marc was involved in, but it's definitely in a way that is attacking the root of the problem. And not just, like you said before, covering up the symptoms.
Debbie Lee: 00:27:16 Yeah. And I often tell people that my choice that day was to put on his boots and pick up his weapon and stay in the fight. And I always preface that with, I'm not firing bullets at anybody yet, but it is a fight to make sure that our men and women have the care that they need. When I'm up in the Halls of Congress, fighting to introduce legislation, to get them the help. It's a fight, it's a different kind of a fight. And I don't ever want to compare myself to what our men and women do in combat. Like I said, I had a glimpse when I went out on patrol, I got to see the lay of the land. I got to see the houses, I got to smell the smells, but we weren't being fired on when I was out there.
Debbie Lee: 00:27:57 I mean, we could have been, but we weren't. So I don't know what that feels like. Do you know, someone's trying to kill you, you know? And hear the bullets whizzing by you and be running, carrying the gear and doing that day after day after day. You know, that's not just a one time occurrence for Marc's team. Now, obviously it depends on where you're at what part of the country, what your MOS is in your military unit as to what you're doing there, but they weren't doing this over and over and over. And I think as Americans, the majority of civilians take for granted the freedoms that we do have, and the dear price that is paid. And that's why it is as painful as it is to tell Marc’s story every time; I've been telling a story for 15 years and not once have I told it where my heart doesn't hurt.
Debbie Lee: 00:28:49 I think people need to know, people need to understand this is not just a number. You know, we didn't lose over 6,000 troops. How does that affect us? Even for me to say that right now, I'm like, oh, 6,000, but when you personalize it, this was my son. This was your brother. Here's who they were. Here's how they lived their life and here's how they gave their life for you. I think that causes most civilians to stop and pause and say, oh my gosh, yes, I could understand that mom, I can't imagine losing my kid. I can understand that brother. I have siblings. I can't imagine, you know? And so it causes them to step back and think, and at least for that moment, you realize that there's a very dear cost that has been paid through the ages not just Iraq and Afghanistan, but that has been paid through the ages by a small percent of men and women who are willing to give their lives for us to have the freedoms we have here in America. And that's one of the things Marc talks about in his last letter home, he says, I realized over here, the great country we live in and the obligation we have to keep it that way.
Scott DeLuzio: 00:30:11 Absolutely. I think when people throw around big numbers, like you said, 6,000 and 9/11 was somewhere around 3000 people who were killed that day; when you have big numbers like that, it's hard for people to wrap their heads around. I'm just as guilty of that too, because after 9/11, when the final numbers were coming in of how many people were actually killed during the 9/11 attacks, that number was too big for me to really grasp. But then a few years later there was some documentary. I forget exactly what it was called, but where it highlighted individual stories of who some of these people were. And they went and they followed the families around and they talked about the people that the husbands, the fathers, the mothers, the daughters, that whatever they were to those people.
Scott DeLuzio: 00:31:15 And they followed them along their whole story. And I actually felt like I started to feel a piece of their pain that was not anywhere near what they were feeling obviously, but it made me feel like, wow, it was a tragedy before, but oh my gosh, it's so much worse now, it really makes you feel that. And so my hope is to allow you to share a piece of Marc's story. And you know, when I wrote my book about my time in Afghanistan and losing my brother, my hope was that we would be able to share a piece of who these people were, my brother, your son, and other people like that. And I really do encourage other Gold Star families and other people who have lost their loved ones to continue telling their story
Scott DeLuzio: 00:32:10 because I didn't want the last chapter of his book to close and that just be it. And no one picks up the book again and just lets it collect dust sitting in the corner. I keep telling his story and I want people to feel a little bit of that pain so that when we are asked as a country to go and buy in a war, we stop and think is this really the right move? I'm not anti war or anything like that. I obviously joined the military voluntarily, but I'm not into just jumping right into it, you know? I think by sharing these stories, we'll start to really feel like we know who some of these people are and know what the true cost is. And, hopefully some of these stories will stick with people. So for people who are out there who are looking for assistance, that America's Mighty Warriors might provide hope, how can they go about getting in touch with your organization?
Debbie Lee: 00:33:31 So they can reach out to us through the website, which is AmericasMightyWarriors.org, or the email is the same thing. [email protected]. You can reach us by phone at (623) 537-5322. And we are here, as I said before, it's our honor to be able to help our men and women who served to support our Gold Star families. And to be there in whatever way we can, for those who were willing to give their lives for the freedoms that we enjoy every day, that wasn't required of all of them. But obviously we know the cost of war. We know the price and you know, it's my honor, I love our country. And it's my honor that my two sons and son-in-law offered to defend us and it doesn't get any more noble and honorable than to give your life the way that Marc did selflessly for all of us in America. Yes, he did that to defend his teammates immediately, while he was there, but that trickles down to each one of us. And as I said before, we have a responsibility to live our lives worthy of that sacrifice.
Scott DeLuzio: 00:34:54 Absolutely. Yes, we do. And I know that there's going to be some people who want to help support America's Mighty Warriors in your mission, in what it is that you're doing. What are some ways that people can support you?
Debbie Lee: 00:35:09 Well, obviously we always need financial support to be able to pay for the programs that are helping heroes. The hero program on average costs $15 to $17,000 for the year-long program for each veteran. But we always need volunteers. We need people that can come in and provide a service, whether it's a CPA, a lawyer to do marketing, social media, any of those things. If you've got a skill or talent, and want to donate some time, please reach out to us. Everybody can help promote us. So make sure you're liking our pages on social media, share what we're doing, encourage others. If you were touched by this podcast and what we're doing, let other people know. 95% of what comes into our foundation goes back to our troops, veterans and Gold Star families. We work hard to make sure that percentage stays.
Debbie Lee: 00:36:00 I get so frustrated when I hear of a foundation and you find out 30% went to the cause and the rest went to exorbitant salaries and expenses or parties or events, and that's not who we are. I'd be more than glad to send anybody our 990s to verify that. And I always tell people, if you're going to support somebody, please check out where the money's going, because a lot of them you know, people say that I saw them on TV and this person was there, you know the spokesperson; I'm like, yeah. And that person gets paid $600,000 to be their spokesperson. That doesn't mean that they believe they got a paycheck or so just check out those charities. Like I said, 95% of what comes into ours, you can count on, is being spent wisely and making a huge difference in our military community. And those are some of the major things that people can do to support us.
Scott DeLuzio: 00:36:54 That's great. And yes, definitely you know, open up your wallets and you know, donate to America's Mighty Warriors. But you know, financially, if you can't support them in that way you can always go to Amazon Smile. That's a way where you go to Smile on amazon.com and you can link your Amazon account to a nonprofit organization. America's Mighty Warriors is listed there, and you can have a percentage of all of your purchases that Amazon will donate a portion of to the organization that you chose. It doesn't cost you any more. Your purchases costs exactly the same as they would if you didn't do this. So there's really no downside to it.
Debbie Lee: 00:37:47 You can also do that through Fry’s. I know here in Arizona, I don't know what your reach is here for those who listen, but you can go to Fry's. I can't remember what their parent company's name is, but they've got Kroger all over the United States, and you can go on Kroger and select America's Mighty Warriors. Also if you like pizza and you purchased your Papa John's and use the code AMW you get 20% off and they give 10% back to our foundation as well. If you fly and you put in, you still would get your miles, but there's a place where it says extra rewards. When you put our business extra rewards, if you put in 8, 8, 2, 5, 6, 5, then we get points for your flight as well. We can, in turn, use those to get our veterans to medical appointments, get our families to the retreats, that type of thing. So those are a couple of the things that are out there. Lots of times your employer will also have a match. So if you make a donation, your employer will match that and give back. So that's always a great way to see if that's something that's possible as well.
Scott DeLuzio: 00:38:59 Yeah, there are tons of options. I guess the point is keep America's Mighty Warriors in the back of your mind, so that when giving opportunities come around you know, through your employer or other places like your airline miles or things like that, you can help support them because Debbie and her team are doing incredible things for the veterans, for the Gold Star families, for the people who need the help and maybe just aren't getting the help that they really need.
Debbie Lee: 00:39:36 We also do have a lot of people that will host an event for us, and that could be anything from a bake sale or money from a garage sale up to a gala event. So we always need people to do that. We've got a gentleman running the Ironman in California this weekend that just reached out to his friends. And I got an email saying he's raised almost $5,000 just asking people to donate. So again, he didn't have to, obviously he's participating in the event, so there's been some preparation, but he would've done that anyway. And then just to send out some emails and encourage people that he knew to help support us.
Scott DeLuzio: 00:40:10 There you go. Exactly. So there's plenty of ways to help out. And I really do encourage people to help out America's Mighty Warriors as much as you can because I really do support their mission and what they're doing. I really think it's great work and you know, it's continuing Marc's legacy as well, and that's always a good cause. So Debbie, it's been a pleasure speaking with you today. It's been an honor again, the website America's Mighty Warriors.org and social media, I just want to make sure you have a chance to throw that in there. You're on Instagram, Facebook anywhere else,
Debbie Lee: 00:40:52 Twitter and under those we’re AmericasMighty because our name is too long. You can't get all that. So it's, AmericasMighty. On LinkedIn it is America's Mighty Warriors.
Scott DeLuzio: 00:41:06 Excellent. And I will have for the people listening, I will have links to all of this in the show notes, and we will definitely keep you updated with things going on, that America's Mighty Warriors are up to any events that they're having and ways that you can support them with us. Thank you again, Debbie.
Debbie Lee: 00:41:27 Thank you so much. Keep doing what you're doing.
Scott DeLuzio: 00:41:29 Thank you. Thanks for listening to the Drive On Podcast. If you want to check out more episodes or learn more about the show, you can visit our website Drive On Podcast.com. We're also on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube at Drive On Podcast.