Meet the woman who is giving wounded warriors a second chance

Matt Saintsing
June 21, 2018 - 4:44 pm

Photo Courtesy of Operation Second Chance

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Cindy McGrew was working in finance when her friend, Maryland police officer Sgt. Russo, who's also a soldier, deployed to Iraq in June of 2004. More often than not, she found herself perusing the internet hoping to find any information about Russo’s unit, and what they were doing.

When she learned about the extensive injuries some soldiers return with, she decided to travel to nearby Walter Reed Army hospital, and was shocked to see the financial burden service members and their families were facing.

One woman in particular left a lasting impression on McGrew, a mother of a double-amputee. During one visit, she had asked McGrew to look after her son as she tended to her two teenage children at home.

“I took it very seriously, and still do,” says McGrew.

McGrew decided to leverage her business knowledge to provide some much needed financial relief to the families of American service members injured in combat.

For the past 14 years, the nonprofit organization that she started, Operation Second Chance, has provided financial assistance and cold hard cash for everything from rent, to groceries, to childcare, to mortgage payments, and even fishing trips.

Photo Courtesy of Operation Second Chance

“I thought I was only going visit Walter Reed that for a year while my friend was deployed,” says McGrew. “Some of those very guys were from his unit.”

Founded for military families, Operation Second Chance provides direct financial support to those in crisis, due to combat injury or illness.

“The families are very appreciative,” she says. “Just seeing the relief on their faces is quite something.”

By alleviating some of the financial stressors that can strike during a service member’s transition from stable, predictive military pay, to civilian life and the beginning of VA benefits, the aid can literally be lifesaving.

McGrew says many of the veterans and wounded troops come to them with eviction notices and can have as little as three days to pay a bill. That’s why they have a policy to get that crucial bill paid in the first 48-hours. It's surprising to many to find that injured troops are at risk for poverty, but considering the massive cost of living in areas surrounding Washington, D.C., it doesn't take much. 

But they don’t just serve injured troops, veterans, and their families in the greater D.C. area. They are truly a national organization with chapters in Montana, Colorado, Texas, New York, and Florida, just to name a few.

Perhaps just as important as providing immediate financial relief, they cultivate an encouraging community by coordinating fishing and hunting retreats, sporting events, cross-country hospital visits, and other morale-boosting endeavors.

By the end of the summer, Operation Second Chance will have provided six million dollars in cold hard cash.

They enjoy a four-star rating on Charity Navigator, the highest possible score, and even hire caregivers and family members of injured veterans as paid interns.

McGrew wants the country to know that when these service members are injured, they’re injured for life. “We have one percent of the population serving the 99 percent of us,” McGrew says.

“People may think that the wars are winding down, but we still have troops deployed to very dangerous places and if anyone is looking for a good charity to donate to, we’re their charity.”

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