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Wounded Marine recovers from injuries with support of Family, Friends, and the Semper Fi Fund!

February 9, 2012

Cpl Colin Faust

While serving in Afghanistan, Marine Cpl Colin Faust suffered an IED blast which changed his life forever.  Colin’s injuries were severe.  His left leg was amputated above the knee.  His right leg was severely damaged as was his left lower arm.  After countless surgeries, skin grafts, and months of grueling rehabilitation, Colin is still in the fight for recovery!

We recently asked Colin’s Mom, Sonja, to bring us up to date on his progress.  Here’s what Sonja Faust had to say about this determined and focused young man:
1. How is Colin’s recovery progressing? 
“Rehabilitation is rigorous and Colin diligently and patiently works about 4 1/2 hours each day with the physical and occupational therapists and the prosthetists.  In just the past couple of weeks, he has begun walking again! His salvaged and very damaged, right leg is gaining strength and he has also been “casted” for a new brace that will hopefully help him achieve his goals.”

Colin working hard at rehab!

2.What has been the most difficult thing about the recovery process and how have you overcome it?
       For Colin?  “Colin has a deep faith, an indomitable will and quiet strength that I have never seen before.  He never complained once, but was worried about his brothers still in the fight in Sangin, Afghanistan even while he continued his fight from his hospital bed. Even with his strength, of course, reality does become reality.  Each and every day, he got up and faced the challenges ahead of him, some were honestly pretty tough. Although he has no regrets, accepting that his life will no longer be what he thought it would be was a process that brought on some pretty tough days. To overcome this, he is finding his inner strength and through his faith, the days become brighter and is learning to accept the limitations from the injuries.  He is continuing to learn what those limitations will be and has set challenging goals, and has recently been promoted to Sgt.   Colin knows that he will be able to enjoy activities that he used to, only in a modified way. He has a very bright future!”     
     For you as a Caregiver?  Honestly, we have been given a gift of all the strength we have needed each and every day.  When one of us felt weak, someone was ALWAYS there to hold us up.  We worried about the financial aspect and how to manage our business since we are self- employed being so far from home. We also worried about our other two children and how this would affect them and how we could be together as much as possible to work through it all. Colin’s injuries were very severe and continued to be life threatening even after transferring to National Naval Medical Center.  All we could think about was each day – one at a time – and what medical issues there were that day and Colin’s pain and suffering.  Looking too far forward was just overwhelming.  To overcome this, we had the blessing of the support of all those who cared and simply helped us out in a multitude of ways…It is a truth that one needs to learn how to be a gracious receiver and this is not easy to learn.  We quickly realized that we did need help and that we could not do this alone.  Accepting help, with the promise to pay it forward, from the Semper Fi Fund and others was a God Send.”

Our Family Christmas Card!

3. While at the hospital, did you receive any services or assistance that you were not expecting? “Oh absolutely YES!!!  We are grateful for the assistance that Semper Fi Fund provides as our injured son continues to rehabilitate.  It is clear that great thought is put into knowing what our Marines need as they continue through their individual journeys.  Our son was at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda , MD for 3 months.  He spent about 50% of his days in the ICU. After 3 months, he was transferred to the Minneapolis VA Hospital in Minnesota for another 3 months of in-patient care. Being from Minnesota, we were in a whole new world at Bethesda and before we even knew what we needed, Janine Canty, a Semper Fi Fund case worker, was there assisting us in a very respectful, genuinely caring and positive manner. 
From the first days of our journey, they made sure we knew the Semper Fi Fund  was there for us.  They provided a “welcome package” of t-shirts and fleece jackets; assistance with travel so that we could be at his bedside and assistance to maintain our self-employed business.  Once we were home in Minnesota, Janine kept in contact and assisted Colin and our family.  Colin is beyond appreciative of the automobile grant he received which allows him INDEPENDENCE again! Today, it is difficult having him so far away from us after caring for him on a daily basis for over a year, but the Semper Fi Fund has come through again and assists us with travel expenses so that we can continue to be part of our son and brother’s rehabilitation process.”

Colin - Thumbs Up!

4. What would you like other families of our injured veterans to know about the process of recovery?  “Have great patience and great hope, and trust your faith.  It truly is an absolute blessing to have our Colin. Every day when we wake,  we are thankful for his life and all the blessings that have resulted from his injury. It is a very long process, but one cannot look too far ahead.  A very wise and loving ICU nurse had wonderful advice for us one day…always hope for a “managed” day. That is, a day that can be “managed” no matter what the circumstances or events may hold.  Days may be long and gut wrenching at times, but when you experience wonderful news or see your Marine walk again for the first time, the joy is immeasurable.  Again, trust your faith and have great patience and great hope-each day is a blessing!”
5. What would you like the public or our supporters to know about the process of recovery?  Support in all forms is absolutely invaluable…not only financial, but notes & cards, kind gestures and a simple “I care”.  There are so many ways to show support… we had a neighbor come by with steaks for a Memorial Day weekend BBQ and another neighbor understood how our empty nest felt and dropped by with a bottle of wine. Both so very thoughtful! When Colin was transferred to the Minneapolis VA in January of 2011, it was another adjustment to be able to be with him at the hospital, live at our home again, and to have the ability to get through our “tax season” (we are self- employed and have an accounting and tax practice).  Friends and church members fed us all tax season and brought us meals several times a week!  It may seem like providing a meal may not be doing “much” to the person giving the meal, but to us it was very much appreciated gift. Lastly and most importantly, the process is not a short one – it is a very long journey.  Being healthy, one takes for granted the ability to walk and move around in most any terrains or environment or the ability to maneuver one’s own home.  Not so for our injured. Going out in public takes planning…Parking? Elevators? Crowds? Weather? Steps? Wheel chair friendly? Restrooms?  Our injured now have new skills to learn in order to manage daily living and this takes time.  Please remember our injured and thank them for their service.  Most will be very humble, but know that it does mean a lot to them to be remembered.  Without their service, we would not have the privilege of our freedoms and safe American soil.”

Colin at the 3/5 Marine Corp Ball

6. What was the most inspiring thing you saw or experienced during Colin’s recovery?  “Oh wow…so many come to mind…  Good deeds…genuine, true, heartfelt KINDNESS in so many ways…But this is beyond inspiring…Shortly before Christmas, a complete and wonderful stranger appeared at our door step.  A young man, 30ish?, greeted me and confirmed that he was at the home of Sgt. Colin Faust. I told him yes, that I was Colin’s mom and asked who he was. He then handed me a plastic grocery bag and proceeded to quickly walk away as I was attempting to say thank you and again ask who he was.  He turned and responded, “No…THANK YOU…and Merry Christmas!” Inside the bag, we found live lobster, Porterhouse steak, a 6 pack of Budweiser, a financial gift and a thank you note topped with a red bow.  The note said “Semper Fidelis, Sum Custodias Mei Fratris, Merry Christmas” which is Latin for “Always Faithful, I am my brother’s keeper.” Who this Christmas Angel was, we will never know and his kindness and thoughtfulness filled our hearts over and over again.  Was he a Marine? Again, we will never know but that is not what is important.  We shared this story on Colin’s Caring Bridge website and in our local paper, and the reaction was unbelievable.  It will never be known how many other acts of genuine kindness were shared and hearts filled because of his inspiring kind deed.  If I may add, this caring and support he provided seems to be in the same sense that the SemperFi Fund provides to our wounded Marines and their families and we could not possibly be more appreciative.  We have a lifetime of good deeds to pay forward!”


We want to thank Sonja Faust for sharing her story.  Colin and his family continue to be an inspiration for many!
Perhaps you have your own inspirational recovery story.  
We invite you to “Share your Love” by telling us your own story of courage, compassion and hope!
You may have an inspiring personal story, or you may want to share your experience with the Semper Fi Fund.   Whatever the case, please share…your story will give hope to others facing similar challenges!


Good Morning America awards Semper Fi Fund supporters, Derek and Courtney Whitis, in holiday light display contest!

December 16, 2011

Inspiring holiday light display wins Good Morning America contest!

Congratulations to the Whitis Family!  Good Morning America announced  today that Derek and Courtney won the “My lights are better than your lights” contest!   We appreciate all that they have done to honor our veterans and share our critical mission so that we may continue to serve those who preserve our freedom!

Click on the GMA link above to see the live announcement which aired this morning.  Also, see our recent blog post  about the Whitis Family to view the music video and see what inspired them to undertake such a labor intensive and inspiring project!

Check out our website to learn more about the Semper Fi Fund and how we are improving the lives of injured and critically ill heroes!

Semper Fi Fund supporters create holiday light display to honor military and inspire others to thank our veterans.

December 6, 2011

One month, some heavy machinery, 7 laborers, and 170,ooo  lights later, it’s ready for prime time!  Derek and Courtney Whitis light their SouthWood, Florida home every holiday season.  This year, they’ve outdone themselves!

The whole thing took months of planning and about four weeks of installation with heavy equipment. While the display will likely send the Whitis family’s electric bill sky high, Courtney Whitis says that the cost of the display is “nothing in comparison to what the troops do every day for our freedom.”   Derek shares that the end goal is to say thanks to the troops for all that they do and hope that everyone who sees the video takes a second to say ‘thank you’ to all those that have served, are serving, and will serve.    Freedom truly is free, as long as we have American troops paying that debt.  Our troops make it possible for us to live our lives and enjoy our liberties – we can’t thank them enough!”

What do their neighbors think of their efforts?   The display has heightened the patriotic spirit on the street.  The neighbors love it, and some have even been inspired to light their own homes as well.  The Whitis’ hope to inspire others to express their own appreciation to our troops for the sacrifices they have made in an effort to preserve our freedom.

Derek says that this effort was inspired by the sacrifices made among his own family and friends who have served in the military:    “My Dad quit high school to go to Vietnam when he was 17, my father in law is a Ranger who served in Vietnam, our cousin Bryce White is a Seebee serving in Afghanistan right now, and my brother in law is USMC LtCol Tim Anderson, CO of HMH 366- the Hammerheads. He and our sister in law, Stephanie Anderson, do an amazing  job serving our country and Marines.”

 Derek’s Grand Am road racing team, Freedom Autosport, has been working with the Semper Fi Fund for the last few years with car graphics, on air coverage with SPEED TV, and fundraising.   Of the Semper Fi Fund , Derek says “We’ve been very impressed with the amazing services provided by the Semper Fi Fund and how well it’s managed. You don’t find charities with this kind of commitment and staff very often.”

In the video above, Derek and Courtney suggest taking a look at the Semper Fi Fund website to discover ways to honor and support our veterans.   For ideas on how to say “thank you” to those who have sacrificed  so much to  preserve our freedom please see “31 Ways to Give”.    You may read more about the Whitis’ inspiring Light Display on the Semper Fi Fund website as well.

Thanks, Derek and Courtney, for allowing us to showcase your labor of love!  Inspiring!

Eighteen Marines, One Mission: Hike 1,000 miles to support injured veterans through the Semper Fi Fund

November 18, 2011

Eighteen Marines, One Mission:   Hike the 1,000 mile “Mountains -to-Sea Trail” in North Carolina to support injured Marines through the Semper Fi Fund.

The 42-day journey began October 2nd at Clingman’s Dome in the Great Smokey Mountains and ended at Jockey’s Ridge on the Outer Banks of North Carolina.

This hike has developed for the Fortunate Sons  into a way to remember wounded brothers in arms, honor fallen comrades and show gratitude for those who have sacrificed so much in the name of freedom.   Seeing the teamwork of these Marines has inspired others to show their support and host their own local events.  Many pledged to walk 1,000 miles, some sold bracelets, and others held fundraisers in their own communities as a way to honor and support our injured heroes.

What follows is an excerpt from a letter, written by Captain Mark Greenlief, with an update on this incredible experience:

Overall, the hike has been an amazing experience for all of us.  We have been given the opportunity to meet a lot of generous and kind people along the trail.  The support from communities along the way was amazing and it never ceases to amaze us all of the support North Carolinians have for the Marines.  From our initial event at the Nantahala Outdoor Center, the events with the Marine Corps League, the amazing hospitality at the Hilton and Brioso Restaurant in Biltmore Park, the much needed sandwich at the Black Mountain Campground, the welcome events sponsored by ROADS in Stokesdale, the barbeque in Raleigh, the dinner in New Bern, Barbara Darden and the Swansboro Rotarians, and overwhelming support from the amazing people throughout the journey have really made this experience one we will all remember.

We have not only seen support in North Carolina but throughout the country.  Specifically in communities like Monmouth and Prospect Heights, IL.  In the town of Monmouth, Deborah Greenlief has organized the community in support of Fortunate Sons and the Semper Fi Fund.  They have sold Fortunate Sons/Semper Fi Fund bracelets, pledged to walk hundreds of miles, made multiple announcements at the local high school football games, and donated their time and heart to the cause.  In Prospect Heights, IL young Emily Gramer has donated her time and raising awareness for Fortunate Sons and the Semper Fi Fund though her school involvement, selling bracelets and organizing support.  It has been amazing to see the outpouring of support for the Semper Fi Fund and Fortunate Sons.  We are reminded daily of the support for the Marine Corps throughout the nation.

It has been a tough journey, the toughest physical event that I have personally ever done.  When we initially thought of the idea, we all thought that the ‘trail’ was a wide open path winding though the forest.  What we found were goat paths, switch-backing up and down, winding through the mountains.  This challenge we all accepted and thoroughly enjoyed; giving us all the opportunity to learn a little about ourselves.

It has been a testament to the Marines and their dedication to themselves and the Semper Fi Fund that they completed their mission.  Despite the injuries, weather, time, aches and pains, they succeeded in accomplishing what we set out to do, finish the trail in 42 days, raise awareness for the Injured Marines Semper Fi Fund, and meet amazing people in the communities on the trail.

This has been an experience that we all will forever remember.  A time when we all came together to help our fellow Marines.   It has been an honor to be part of the Semper Fi Fund and Fortunate Sons.  We all look forward to continuing this relationship with endurance events in the future.

Thanks again,  Mark

Semper Fi Community Athlete runs Marine Corps Marathon to honor Grandfather, assist injured heroes

October 25, 2011
“Papa was some kind of a Superhero that disguised himself and went out to save the world when we grandchildren were not around.”  
        Colin Norgaard discovered this as a boy while  rummaging through his grandfather’s things. “I remember opening up that old steamer chest” he says, “to see medals, patches, an American Flag, and old photos of my “young” grandfather in his military uniform. It was truly a sight for my young eyes to discover that Papa was more than just a grumpy old man who told me what needed to be done for the ways of the world.”
       PVT Wesley G. Norgaard served in the 4th Marine Division, 24th Regiment, 3rd Battalion, Company I in the central Pacific at the Battle of Iwo Jima.  He put his life on the line to help his platoon survive one of the greatest victories this country ever accomplished.
       What follows is an excerpt from a letter Colin wrote, sharing with us why his grandfather is his inspiration for running the Marine Corps Marathon:   “For God and Country” I’d hear him say as he told me tear struck stories about the “Old Glory Days.”   My grandfather told me these stories with passion in his eyes and a limp to his walk; reliving a piece of history.   I felt the compassion in his eyes as he said “promise you will try and remember all the things I’ve said, because we must’nt forget that your future depended on what we did that day.  I was there to see my buddies fall and I held their hand until the last breath so that our country, our fellow man, could live in freedom.”   My grandfather was wounded in action on March 3rd, 1945 when a bomb shell fell next to him, killing his best friend. That blast left his right leg full of shrapnel and put him into a coma for over four months.  He was honorably discharged from the Marine Corps on June 15th, 1945.   Honors included the Purple Heart, rifle sharp shooter, and anti-tank gun crewman. My grandfather passed away February 24th, 2010.

       My name is Colin Norgaard and I grew up in a small wheat field town known as Clay Center in the heart of Kansas.  I have the greatest respect for the wounded veterans of our country and am raising funds and running the Marine Corp Marathon to help them.  I also run  to honor the memory of my grandfather and all who have fallen, in honor of those who are currently serving, and for the future of all who will stand to fight for the freedom of this great nation.

My grandfather tried to get to the Iwo Jima reunion last year, but his battle with cancer would not allow him to travel.  One of his last requests before he passed away was to try and get into contact with someone from his battalion if any were left alive. I’m hoping to reach out at the Marine Corps Marathon in hopes of fulfilling my grandfather’s request.

“They all raised the flag and barred the fight. Called to the task for what was right!  Full of Promise, Pride, and Semper Fi.”  

~dedicated to Wesley G. Norgaard.

       Colin Norgaard joins over 800 runners this year in raising money and awareness for the Semper Fi Fund!  He’ll be running the Marine Corps Marathon along with 50 wounded/ill service members, 25 of their family members, and 28 (a record number) hand cycles!
Not an athlete?  You can still participate!  Here’s how:  
1.  Stay tuned for MCM updates and share our story on Facebook  & Twitter.
2.  Find out more about the Marine Corps Marathon and join us in cheering our dedicated and inspirational athletes to the finish line!
 3. Know someone who was part of the 4th Marine Division, 24th Regiment, 3rd Battalion, Company I?  Please let us know so we can help Colin fulfill one of his Grandfather’s last wishes!
4.  Donate Now to provide hope, encouragement, and assistance to our injured and critically ill heroes!

430 Miles…One Mission: Ride for Semper Fi founder celebrates achievements and reflects on lessons learned.

October 14, 2011

430 Miles…One Mission!   This week 68 cyclists (including 3 members of Team Semper Fi) are biking 430 miles from Scottsdale, Arizona to San Diego, California!  They are raising funds and awareness for the  Semper Fi Fund.  After more than 5 months of hard work and training, they plan to present these funds at the end of their journey.

What follows is Part II of an interview with Ride for Semper Fi Founder, John Greenway:

John,  this week marks the 4th anniversary for The Ride for Semper Fi.   Please tell us why you started the Ride for Semper Fi and share with us a little about your mission:

The Ride for Semper Fi began with the idea of giving back; bound by a common cause.  We ride to honor the heroes lost,  to support those injured, and for those who continue to bravely serve.  Our mission is to provide hope for our injured heroes.  We believe that hope breeds determination; determination leads to accomplishment, and accomplishment provides healing. 


As you celebrate more than 5 months of training and fundraising  and the beginning of a 430 mile journey,  please share with us a favorite memory from your previous rides.

This is the most popular question I have been asked.  The interesting thing is there are so many memories that I can’t narrow it down.  I think most people who have done the ride would agree its more about what we have learned:

1.  The true meaning of sacrifice:   During our journey I have watched friends leave for multiple deployments and seen other young people come back terribly injured; this has changed my perspective on life. I have come to realize that my worst day sometimes is still better than the best day of a young person who is laying in a hospital somewhere away from their family.   Also, spending time with some of the Team Semper Fi Athletes has taught me the real meaning of sacrifice, and has given our team incredible inspiration.  

2.  Heroes come in all different  forms:  I always thought I knew what a hero was….an athlete…maybe a rock star…that’s what I looked at when I was young.  Now, I realize that heroes are doctors, nurses, volunteers at the Semper Fi Fund….people who just quietly serve day in and day out with the purpose of serving and taking care others. I have also seen the heroes of the battlefield.  Spending time with Major Smith and Major Christian and others has shown me what a real hero is:  a real leader leads from the front and puts the needs of others above his/her own.

3.  Americans are great and giving people:  The news or some columnists would have you believe that patriotism doesn’t exist anymore. My experience over the last four years says differently.  I have seen people wave flags as we ride by…I have had total strangers hug me and thank me for what we are doing.  I had an older gentleman walk up to me on the ride and tell me that he had been laid off for several months.  He said ” I don’t have much but I would like to give what I have.”  He then pressed a 10 dollar bill into my hands.  People like these make our country different than others…..Americans give until it hurts…..then they give a little more.

So, in the end, its not about a favorite memory as much as it has been about the journey…what we have experienced, the memories we have built, and the life lessons we have learned.

1 Team, 1 Mission, 1Goal

For those who are new to The Ride for Semper Fi, how can they learn more and even get involved?

*  Read about  injured heroes who are riding 430 miles with us!

*  Check out all the other Events these heroes are involved in.

* Follow our progress on Facebook and Twitter.

* Contribute to our cause  and help us provide hope for our injured heroes!

5 Really Good Reasons You should select the Semper Fi Fund through the Combined Federal Campaign (CFC!)

September 30, 2011

CFC ad photoAre you a federal or state employee or a member of the military?    You have the opportunity this fall to participate in the Combined Federal Campaign (CFC).   It is the only authorized workplace charitable giving drive for federal and state employees.   In fact, the CFC is the largest and most successful workplace fundraising campaign in the world!

Join us in supporting our heroes through the CFC and your spirit of public service will make the world a better place!

5 really good reasons to select The Semper Fi Fund for CFC

1.    The Semper Fi Fund is a highly rated charity! We have received the highest ratings from charity watchdog organizations like Charity Navigator and AIP.  You’ll have the reassurance that your donation actually reaches those in need.    Costs are kept low and our injured heroes benefit directly from 95% of every donation.

2. Your contribution helps injured and critically ill service members and their families go on to lead lives of perseverance, courage and hope.  We direct urgently needed resources to post 9-11 Marines and Sailors, as well as members of the Army, Air Force or Coast Guard who serve in support of Marine forces. See their Heroic Stories  here.

3.  Semper Fi Fund provides Assistance to our injured and critically ill heroes and their families in more ways than you may realize!  Learn more about the ways we help.

Team Semper Fi

4.  You will help injured heroes embrace a fighting athletic spirit on their road to recovery with  Team Semper FiInjured athletes who participate in this “Recovery through Sport” program inspire others to “stay in the fight” for their own recovery.

5.   Every dollar counts! Together through the CFC, members of the military, federal employees and state employees can make a difference in the lives of our heroes and their families!  

Want to help? 

You can find us in the  CFC Catalog under

“Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund – CFC # 11459

Need a little help remembering our CFC Campaign number? 

#11459 -The honor of supporting our injured is mine!

Check our website for more information on the Semper Fi Fund, and how you can make a difference by participating in the Combined Federal Campaign!