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Why a grateful father helped raise $1.1 million to help veterans

Phillip Green did not have to send his children to Iraq or Afghanistan, so he wanted to thank the troops that did go. He's part of a group trying to convince some rich families to pledge 1 percent of their net worth to helping vets.

By Anna MulrineStaff writer / July 18, 2012

Cheryl Wolf peers out from behind an 11-by16-foot American flag that her husband displays every Veterans Day, Memorial Day, Flag Day, and Independence Day at their home in North Scranton, Pa., on July 5.

Butch Comegys/The Scranton Times-Tribune/AP

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Washington

Phillip Green does not come from a military family. He pulled a high draft number for the Vietnam War and had a medical exemption, too. 

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During the decade of US fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, Mr. Green, who was not born into wealth, was particularly grateful that his business prospered through the economic downturn.

For this he feels a debt, certain that the success he enjoys today is in large part a direct result of the way of life that US troops have been fighting to defend, often through multiple tours of duty, year after year.  

Green, president of PDG Consulting, a health-care consultancy, decided it was not enough to buy a soldier in uniform dinner at the airport or put a yellow ribbon sticker on his car. 

Since he was not forced to send his children to war, he believes it is his responsibility to donate part of his wealth to the rehabilitation and care of veterans. “I think all of us are blessed by the fact that we have wonderful children who are doing very good and socially active things and we’re very proud of them, but the fact is that none of them have served in the military, nor have their fathers.”

He spoke to his close circle of friends – who had the same feelings of unease about the sacrifice of US troops compared to their own – about what to do. “I think we all felt that it’s not enough to make token contributions in support of those who have served. We really felt like we had a special obligation to do more.” 

And so Green, his wife, and two other couples got together to pledge $1.1 million to veterans’ causes. They hope, ultimately, to raise $30 million and convince some moneyed families like themselves to pledge 1 percent of their net worth to the cause.

The urge to give was driven in no small part to the feelings that Green knew he would have if his children were at war. “I get anxious very easily – if my children were overseas fighting I would have had three or six years of sleepless nights,” he says. “I know what it would have done to me. I was spared that kind of anxiety and pain and discomfort, and I am desperately appreciative of those people who did not have the luxury that my family did.”

Through the work of his wife, Dr. Elizabeth Cobbs, head of geriatrics at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Washington, Green had seen the immense need within the veterans community – a need that with research he realized that tax dollars would not cover. “I pay taxes like everybody else – but that feels like a relatively small contribution.”

Green and Dr. Cobbs were repeatedly struck by veterans and their families “who bear an unbelievable burden when they return from war – physically, mentally, and socioeconomically.”

While the Department of Veterans Affairs “does fantastic work, the gaps in the ability to take care of people is enormous and increasing –and that gap is going to get bigger and bigger, no matter how great the VA is," Green says.  "The fact is that the tax revenue will not be enough to support the need among today’s veterans generated by the wars of the past decade.”

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