Local veterans charity sets the record straight - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Local veterans charity sets the record straight

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SAN DIEGO (CBS 8) – A local charity that helps veterans is feeling the fallout after the Wounded Warrior Project came under fire for its spending even though the two charities are not affiliated.

When CBS Evening News’ investigative report on the Wounded Warrior Project’s lavish spending and fundraising efforts aired, San Diego’s non-profit Warrior Foundation-Freedom Station began to receive backlash from donors.

The two non-profits are not in any way affiliated to one another.

“As a disabled veteran, it makes me sick,” said retired Army Staff Sgt. Erick Millette. He is also a former WWP employee.

Donors began to confuse the Wounded Warrior Project with the Warrior Foundation-Freedom Station.

“They thought we were having lavish parties with our donors’ money. I knew right away at that point I had to do some defensive moves. I had to make sure that we were very clear,” said Sandy Lehmkuler, the Warrior Foundation-Freedom Station President. 

Retired Gunnery Sgt. Juan Cano was injured in 2004, and is now living with a brain injury, hearing loss and PTSD. He has lived at the Freedom Station since its inception in 2011.

The Freedom Station has helped Sgt. Cano and other wounded warriors transition from the hospital to civilian life.

“I can tell you that people drive by here and see this is real tangible effort and where their money is going to. The organization is really transparent,” said Sgt. Cano.

Donors began writing emails to the “Warrior Foundation’s” president Sandy Lehmkuler stating they were livid, disgusted, and outraged about what was happening with their donations.

“I am asking donors to continue donating, to trust us. We will be ethical and good stewards with your donation,” said Lehmkuler.

Sgt. Juan Cano said because of the Warrior Foundation he was able to earn his bachelor’s degree from National University this January. He is now currently looking for a job.

“Warrior Foundation stepped in and they were able to provide the assistance I need from getting me tutoring services to computers to giving me a place to live,” he said.

According to their financial report, the Warrior Foundation shows that 96-percent of its budget is spent on programs.

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