When Donald Trump crashed our military veterans website
© Getty Images

Nine minutes after Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpThe Hill's Morning Report - White House, Congress: Urgency of now around budget GOP presses Trump to make a deal on spending Democrats wary of handing Trump a win on infrastructure MORE appeared with our military veterans group on national television, our website crashed.

It was Jan. 28 and the Republican front-runner opted to skip a presidential debate in order to hold a televised rally for veteran service organizations (VSOs) in Des Moines.

Our group, 22KILL, was among the VSOs that participated that night. Why are we named 22KILL? Because an average of 22 veterans die from suicide every day and that must stop.

ADVERTISEMENT

To help people, we need resources. And on that cold night in Iowa, Trump helped us. Jacob Schick, our executive director, joined Trump that evening, appearing on stage with him and other warriors about addressing military suicides.

Due to a massive increase in Web traffic, our site crashed and was down for 12 minutes. Requests to access 22KILL.com increased by an astonishing 19,000 percent, growing from an average of 10 to 12 hits per second to over 2,400 hits per second.

Following the event, the 22KILL social media team began to promote Schick's appearance at the rally and his opportunity to speak about 22KILL. Our mission is to bridge the gap between veterans and civilians to build a community of support and empowerment, and how we, as a nation, cannot idly stand by while 22 of our nation's warriors take their lives every day.

Almost immediately, we began to receive emails and social media replies both supporting the mission and also asking why we would support Trump, or why we would consider accepting funds from his rally.

Unfortunately, 22KILL and Honor Courage Commitment, Inc. (22KILL's partner organization) lost some supporters that night, but not because of the work we do for our warriors. We lost some of our backers because certain individuals do not support Trump.

What those individuals fail to realize is that first and foremost, as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, we cannot, and will not, support any candidate running for elected office. It is a violation of IRS rules and regulations, not to mention our own code of conduct.

As military members, we raise our right hands and take an oath to defend the Constitution of the United States, our country's ideals and way of life.

We do not serve because we support one specific individual who may be occupying an office that is oval in shape; we do it because of all those back in our hometowns, because of our brothers and sisters serving with us, and because we want to ensure that our children have the same rights and opportunities we have, thanks to our forefathers.

The second thing those people fail to realize is that running a nonprofit organization and providing services for our nation's veterans takes money. Program services, operational overhead and all the expenses that are associated with running any business all require money.

From an organizational standpoint, we are happy to accept funds from any individual or group willing to support our mission and benefit veterans. We do not care if the funds come from the left or the right, from Republicans or Democrats, conservatives or liberals.

All their money is the same, and we are able to put those funds to use to empower veterans in many different ways — from job assistance, to helping them start their own businesses, to getting them mental health assistance, to finding financial assistance; the list goes on and on.

This is not a political or campaign issue; it is a veterans' issue. While some people may not agree with the course of action we and other VSOs took, from our perspective, three undeniable facts came out of the veterans' rally that January evening.

First, 22KILL was able to raise awareness on a national level for our organization and mission, as attested by the increase in our Web traffic and the barrage of questions, comments and support via email, phone and social media. Second, we may have lost a few supporters, but we gained many, many more. Finally, we received $200,000 as a direct result of the funds raised that evening.

Compared to the same time last year, 22KILL and Honor Courage Commitment experienced an increase in donations of more than 500 percent due to the awareness gained that evening.

Those donations help real people who served this nation.

Sosamon is executive director of Honor Courage Commitment, Inc. To learn more about 22KILL and Honor Courage Commitment, please visit 22kill.com and honorcouragecommitment.org.