“A nation that continues, year after year, to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.”
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. uttered these words one year before his tragic assassination, prophetically calling attention to the massive imbalance displayed by our government’s choices on where to invest our national resources. Today, or budget is still tragically reflective of distorted priorities; the Friends Committee on National Legislation estimates that 41 percent of every dollar is spent on war and its effects (the 3.2 billion spent annually on recruitment could pay for 150,000 four year college scholarships). Caught in the middle of this fiscal irresponsibility are victims of an economic draft. Statistics have proven that recruitment levels verifiably increase exponentially in our most impoverished neighborhoods. The “All Volunteer Military” is not quite, as it is the lack of proper social programs in place that force the least of those among us into a service too many of our own leaders have ambivalently shrugged off.
Dr. King prophesied that a “revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth,” and its warriors will say “this is not just.”
For a few months now, a small group of friends have been considering the question of how to serve fellow service members who struggle, as we did and do, with our relationship to the military and how to live conscientiously with one another and ourselves. Some of us are objectors, others remain in service and are prepared to deploy to the ongoing conflicts in the Middle East. Some have never served in the Armed Forces but have felt the reverberations of friends and family who have. We are united in our desire to serve others who similarly struggle to live as peacemakers in a world of conflict. We hope to redistribute our wealth to help others in need who would otherwise see peace as the means and the end, but who may be tempted to settle for less.
Today we are near completion of an initiative we call Centurion’s Purse, a program designed to create an alternative to the significant financial incentives offered to enter the military. With the appeal of $20,000 signing bonuses, many unwary citizens recklessly sign eight years of their life away, not taking into account what truly is being asked of them. We aim to do what we can to offer financial support to those who may join the Armed Forces out of financial distress and who may regret their decision in hindsight. Soon, we will begin accepting applications for need-based financial gifts (we hope to have online capability, as well as PDF files you can download and mail in) to support those who have incurred or are facing debt as a result of their interaction with the Armed Forces. We hope to receive applications from people of varying backgrounds, including (but certainly not limited to):
– GI’s about to be discharged involuntarily and have poor job skills (combatant soldier, for example…)
– ROTC cadets who decide to file as a conscientious objectors, and face repayment of school loans
– DEP soldiers who have second thoughts, are told they are obligated to enter service and go to college later
– Family members or dependents of deployed service member lack adequate financial training, or faces significant debt
– Vets without adequate community to help keep them off the streets after abrupt discharge
– Youth in poverty who see the military as their only alternatives to going to jail or joining a gang
We also welcome applications from individuals or family and friends who wish to nominate their loved one for a gift. Details on application criteria and eligibility will be made available online soon. Until then, we encourage you to contact us at centurion[dot]purse[at]gmail[dot]com.
Many friends and fellow conspirators have asked how they can help make this a reality. There are so many answers; we have tried to nail it down to three categories:
1. Donation – We have been blessed to be sponsored by an established nonprofit called “The Simple Way” while we organize ourselves and create our own legal entity. If you would like to contribute financially as a one time contribution, a recurring tithe, or an in-kind donation, we are able to offer full tax deductibility under our friend’s 501(c)3 status. You may send a form of payment made out to “Centurion’s Purse” to PO Box 14751, Philadelphia, PA 19134. However, monetary support is not our only need. If you would like to donate materials or time, we can use anything we can get! As far as material support, we are seeking any kind of office supplies people are able to offer (phones, computer, filing cabinets, etc.). Additionally, your gift could be deducted as an in-kind donation to a charitable nonprofit. If you would like to explore how we might be able to utilize your time (receiving/processing applications, participating in the steering process somehow…), please feel free to email us at centurion[dot]purse[at]gmail[dot]com and we can think through what that would look like (I don’t think time is tax deductible unfortunately … though it should be).
2. Replication – It is our ultimate goal with Centurion’s Purse to inspire other organizations (churches, peace groups, local communities) to create their own alternative resources to help their younger folks (…congregants, members, neighbors) succeed in life with out having to tap into the Armed Forces financial umbilical cord. Based on our experience, we will be compiling a toolkit to help other community-based groups duplicate our work. We have a lot of mistakes to learn from in the next several months, so hopefully there will be one heck-of-a toolkit that comes out of this first cycle. Be thinking about how we can help others build similar financial support structures, we are happy to take suggestions!
3. Adoption – Centurion’s Purse aims to increase the network of support that service members can rely on in their times of need. As we receive applications, part of our vision means walking alongside them for awhile to see if we can assist them more holistically, through other than monetary means. One possibility we are exploring is the idea of local communities and congregations ‘adopting’ Centurion applicants they feel especially gifted to accompany. For instance, a church might aid a religious objector in their spiritual journey, an educational institution might help train GIs in filing for FAFSA or their GI Bill, a counseling center might offer pro-bono therapy for PTSD and related services, or a local community might offer help in replying to and getting to know applicants. Options are endless, and imagination is in no short demand, so please let us know if you have any ideas on how to Adopt-a-Centurion.
Finally, it is my pleasure to tell you that the Purse is only the beginning. With the care and support of friends, collaborators, and co-conspirators, we hope to grow this small group of dreamers into a dynamic network of energetic interactions and kindred spirits. As Centurion’s Purse grows and matures, the possibilities expand as well. We have high hopes and lofty dreams, but we know that it is the small things we do with great love that will touch the least of us in every corner of society.
To reach us
PO Box 14751
Philadelphia, PA 19134
Humbly and hopefully,
– Logan Laituri
“Military personnel must reject participation in organizations that …advocate the use of force
or violence” – DOD Directive 1325.6, Paragraph 3, line 5.8
“I am a [centurion] of Christ, it is not permissible for me to fight” – Saints Maximilian of Tebessa and Martin of Tours