About six years ago, then-American Legion National Commander Paul A. Morin was astonished to find that wounded and sick U.S. military personnel recovering at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany did not always have working television sets. The level of medical care, he noted, was second to none, unparalleled in the history of warfare.
But certain things – namely, comfort items that pass the time when a battle-hardened soldier is suddenly stuck in a hospital bed – were not readily available. Music players, DVDs, books, magazines and such are considered non-essential items in a military hospital. So Commander Morin called upon The American Legion to raise $50,000 to buy comfort items for patients at Landstuhl. He set a deadline of about six weeks.
In that time, The American Legion family raised more than $257,000 for what was then called Operation Landstuhl.
In 2008, the program was renamed Operation Comfort Warriors (OCW) and its scope expanded. The Legion began delivering comfort items to recovering military personnel around the world. As the fund drew down through distributions, Legionnaires stepped up with more donations. The effort was so central to the Legion’s core mission that OCW easily beat out more than 700 other causes in the first-ever Pepsi Refresh Everything grant competition in early 2010. Legion family members everywhere made online voting a daily routine, and the reward was a $250,000 grant from PepsiCo.
OCW has produced gift cards and equipment at Fort Lewis, fitness gear at Fort Benning, gift-filled backpacks at Camp Pendleton, sweatsuits at Walter Reed, recreational items at Fort Gordon, day trips for Landstuhl patients, tickets to Six Flags amusement parks for military families and much more. It has purchased hundreds of video games, consoles, Blu-ray players, movies, CDs, iPods, games, puzzles, books and magazines. Not one donated cent has gone into marketing, administration or staff. It all flows to the servicemembers and families in need, through the DoD facilities that help them.
Operation Comfort Warriors embodies the very spirit of The American Legion. When members of this organization see a need, they simply get it done.
That’s why OCW is my major fundraising project this year. As you might guess, with so many distributions behind us and more to come, the fund always needs new infusions. I have set a goal of $500,000 in new contributions this year and, as I write this, more than $33,500 has already come in. I know we can do this. If you would like to watch videos about what OCW means to our recovering troops, visit www.legion.org/operationcomfortwarriors. I promise that when you see how our troops appreciate these items, you will understand why this matters so much to me.
Giving is easy when you visit www.legion.org/donate or mail a check to Operation Comfort Warriors, c/o The American Legion, P.O. Box 1055, Indianapolis, IN 46206. No gift is too small, and little is more priceless than the delivery of comfort to someone who suffers so that we may live in freedom.