(Vacation) Homes for (Purple) Hearts

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Dennis Cline, an Army veteran who lost his arm in Iraq, recently enjoyed a vacation in Breckenridge, Colorado with his wife and three children through Vacations For Veterans.

Class of ’88 | Had they their druthers, the men and women who stand to benefit from Vacations For Veterans might not have chosen to be on this particular list. It does, after all, have a very steep requirement: a Purple Heart, which these days bears witness to a wound suffered in Iraq or Afghanistan. But since there’s no way to turn back the clock on a war wound, it’s fair to say that these veterans are pretty grateful for the opportunity to spend a week in a vacation home belonging to a public-spirited owner.

Vacations For Veterans (www.vacationsforveterans.org) is the nonprofit brainchild of Margaret (Peggy) Carr C’88 and her husband, Chris Carr, both former Marine officers who live with their four children in Fairfax County, Virginia.

“The idea of a vacation is often unattainable and unaffordable to most of our wounded veterans,” says Peggy Carr. “Vacations For Veterans helps these wounded veterans and their families when they need it most, and can afford it least. A vacation can be such a restorative occasion, and can help our veterans feel appreciated and not forgotten.”

Though they only launched the service in October, the Carrs already have 125 homes available from across the United States, as well as Canada, Mexico, Argentina, Greece, and the Cayman islands. About a dozen veterans and their families have or will soon have taken advantage of the service.

Both the Carrs are veterans of the First Gulf War. Peggy, a legal officer who rose to captain, was stationed at Camp Pendleton, California from 1990 through 1993, then went on to earn her law degree from the University of San Diego. After that she stayed home to raise their children, and started a luxury home-exchange business called Exclusive Exchanges (www.exclusiveexchanges.com). Noticing that many of the vacation homes were sometimes vacant, she wondered if some people might consider donating a week to a wounded veteran. (To sweeten the pot, she offers free annual membership to anyone who donates.)

“We started Vacations For Veterans because, as veterans ourselves, we felt the need to contribute directly in some way,” says Carr. “We have many homeowners who are strongly for the current war in Iraq, and many homeowners—including former military—who are staunchly against the current war in Iraq. The common denominator of all of our home donors is that they really want to help our wounded veterans returning from campaigns.”

Those who want to help but don’t have a vacation home can still make a monetary contribution or donate frequent-flyer miles to help defray travel costs for the soldiers and their families, notes Carr. “We’ve found that many of these veterans have depleted their savings quite a bit due to the travel necessitated by their injuries,” since most of them end up at Walter Reed Army Medical Center or Bethesda Naval Hospital. Since Vacations For Veterans is an all-volunteer charity, all donations go directly to helping the veterans.


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