Frequently Asked Questions
Q. Are you guys for real?
A. Believe it or not, yes! If you are junior enlisted in the United States military, and would like a free airline ticket to visit your family for Christmas, we will make every effort to buy one for you. Our only rule is, one ticket per person. If we flew you home in a previous LBEH campaign, you may not apply again. Sorry folks, but them's the breaks.
Q. Doesn't the government pay for troops to fly home?
A. Yes and no, but we're talking about two different things here. A soldier on their two weeks of "R&R" leave from Iraq or Afghanistan, gets his or her airfare paid for by the government. But if the same soldier wishes to visit home before or after his deployment, they have to pay for that themselves. The same goes for any military member who is not on R&R from combat. Thus the Airman stationed at Hanscom AFB, the Sailor onboard the USS Peleliu in San Diego, the Marine aboard the USS Essex in Okinawa, or the Soldier stationed at Spangdahlem, Germany -- all are forced to pay their own airfare home. It's these people we're trying to help.
Q. Can't military personnel fly for free on military planes?
A. Space-Available travel (or Space-A for short) is a program started way back in the 1970's when the military had lots of open bases around the country and around the globe. Each day hundreds of flights with thousands of seats were flying virtually everywhere. But during the 1990's 60% of the military bases in the United States were closed, along with 50% of our overseas bases. To compound matters, funding for training is the first to go after budget cuts, that means training flights are one of the first "luxuries" to disappear, and with them all the extra seats that would be available to space-a travellers. So now we have less seats on less flights, and those travelling on official business or those on emergency leave are given the highest priority. So yes, while a recruiter will gladly tell you can fly anywhere for free, realistically it's just not a viable option for our younger troops.
Q. The military is an all volunteer force, and they get paid for what they do. Why should I help them fly for free?
A. Your mailman gets paid, but you still give him something around Christmas time, don't you? Same thing with your paperboy. And you toss a few bucks to your waiter and all he did was bring you a sandwich. Is it too much to ask you do at least as much to help a person who may one day lay down their life so that you may continue yours?
Q. How can you afford to give out free plane tickets to our military?
A. The funding for our ticket drive relies 100% on donations from the public. We search through various sources to find the cheapest airfare for the given dates a military personnel can travel, and as soon as we've got the donations, buy them the ticket.
Q. Are you booking all of your flights through any one particular airline?
A. Nope. Just like you, we shop around and compare prices, trying to balance the need of the individual person's schedule with the costs of compatible airfares. Whatever airline gives us the most bang for our buck, gets the business!
Q. How can I donate frequent flier miles to buy a ticket?
A. If you have enough miles to cover an entire roundtrip ticket (usually at least 25,000) then yes. Give this page a quick read and you'll be on your way!
Q. How can I donate money to help buy a ticket?
A. Donations of any amount large or small, are greatly appreciated! The easiest way for us to receive funds is via Paypal. They will allow you to send us money either directly from your bank account or through a credit card. If you don't have a Paypal account and would like one, click here to sign up. It's free, and it's secure. If however, internet commerce isn't your game and you'd prefer to send a check or money order, you can get our mailing address on the donation page.
Q. How can I see who donated?
A. An updated list of donors who have graciously contributed to this year's project can be seen here. I'll try to keep this list updated every 24 hours or so. If you donate and don't see your name listed within the next day or so, give me a thump on the head to check in and make sure it was received okay. Nov 15th - waiting for Paypal to resolve a problem preventing us from downloading the list of donors. Should be fixed soon.
Q. How do I know you're legit and not keeping the money for yourself?
A. Understandably, many people share this concern since I'm just "some guy on the internet" and not a well known international charity like the Red Cross. But rest assured that as of November 2004, we are a 501c non-profit charity, and our tax records are reviewed each year by the IRS. [See below for annual returns] Those that are familiar with the project from the past twelve years are probably pretty comfortable, even relieved to know their donation is going to help a small group of deserving people instead of some nameless conglomerate.
Q. How much of the money sent in goes towards purchasing tickets?
A. Our administrative costs hover around 5% - meaning 95% makes it towards buying tickets, the rest towards keeping the lights on. Keep in mind, some other veterans charities have administrative costs as high as 80%. That's right, I said eighty percent of your money doesn't go where you think it's going. For every dollar you donate to those other veterans charities, as little as $0.20 actually makes it to our guys in uniform. When you donate to LBEH, $0.95 makes gets through. Where is your donation doing the most good? You do the math.
Q. Are donations tax deductible?
Q. What if I have a website and want to link to you guys?
A. You can click here and choose from several banners or text links.
Q. Why are you doing all this? What do you get out of it?
A. Just the appreciation of some dedicated, underpaid, and overworked people. Believe it or not, each year this is the best part about Christmas for us.
Got a question about our program that you'd like answered, ask away!