Bob Carlone knew families of troops are community's responsibility

By: The Gazette editorial
July 9, 2013 Updated: July 9, 2013 at 11:00 am
photo - Bob and Mary Carlone in their Colorado Springs home Thursday, March 7, 2013. Photo by Mark Reis, The Gazette
Bob and Mary Carlone in their Colorado Springs home Thursday, March 7, 2013. Photo by Mark Reis, The Gazette 

The baby won't stop screaming, the car broke down again, the drains are backing up, the roof leaks, the check did not arrive and the landlord wants her rent - now.

Meanwhile, dad is fighting a war in the Middle East while mom worries herself senseless each day.

The moment it seemed hopeless, Bob Carlone's organization would step in to make life a just bit more tolerable for the spouses and children of men and women serving abroad. Carlone, the 84-year-old founder of Home Front Cares in Colorado Springs, died last week and was remembered by friends and family at a service Monday at St. Paul's Catholic Church.

Home Front Cares is a textbook example of how communities provide the most efficient aspects of the society's greater social services network. As stories emerge about big-government neglect and mistreatment of service personnel returning from war, Home Front Cares stands in stark contrast.

Carlone, a combat veteran of Vietnam, knew that military spouses and children didn't need a lot of red tape and waiting when trouble came their way. They needed help and needed it fast. Ideally, they would receive help before problems had time to burden the spouse who was working abroad.

"We'll have their backs while they're gone, so they can concentrate on their jobs over there," Carlone would tell people as he explained the organization's mission.

The message was clear, concise and sensible. That's because it was real and born of genuine experience.

During the Vietnam War's battle of Khe Sanh, Carlone's C-123 transport plane took 130 hits by enemy fire. When he and other's returned from the war, they found a bitterly divided society in which few had the time, inclination or energy to help troops or their families with the myriad problems that can develop as one member of a family fights overseas or returns with injuries and/or psychological trauma.

In 2003, as the Pikes Peak region saw thousands of Fort Carson soldiers head to the Middle East, Carlone wanted to do his part to support this generation of troops. He quickly organized a nonprofit and began living his passion, talking up Home Front Cares wherever he went and raising money from whomever would give. A friend told of Carlone giving his Home Front Cares elevator speech during a dental appointment and walking out with a $1,000 check for the cause. Over the past decade, Carlone raised $4 million for local families of troops serving abroad.

"It wasn't a commitment to the Home Front Cares," said the charity's president, Ed Anderson. Rather, he explained, Carlone had a commitment to the troops and their families. Governments, nonprofits and businesses should take notice. The cause outweighs the entity that promotes it. The customer, the recipient and the taxpayer matter more than the businesses, bureaucracies or governments that serve them.

Carlone's commitment, and the $4 million he raised, helped far more than the spouses and children of troops. His work benefited the entire community by easing or eliminating suffering that only results in more problems when unaddressed. Families with financial problems and broken-down cars can become families with emotionally distressed children who cannot excel in school, often turning to the phony solace of alcohol and drugs.

When Americans travel abroad to risk their lives in defense of our interests, we all expect to reap the benefits. Likewise, the costs and burden belong to us all, whether we agreed with our government's foreign policy.

We don't all have to suffer like the families who have loved ones fighting abroad, but we can all do a little to help share the sacrifice. When a soldier's family is in crisis, the problem belongs to us all. Bob Carlone understood that and helped remind us. As he rests in peace, we hope Home Front Cares lives on until the day our country no longer sends people to war.

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