A delegation of American Legion staff members visited patients at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., Oct. 5, as part of the organization’s ongoing efforts to support America’s military veterans and their families.
Lori Perkio, an assistant director in The American Legion’s Veterans Affairs and Rehabilitation Division, presented a Blue Star Banner to the parents of Afghanistan war veteran Matthew Commons. Commons stepped on a pressure plate IED while on patrol in Kandahar on May 23. His leg was severely wounded and his right foot is still at risk for amputation. American Legion Post 259 in Williamsport, Ind., provided the banner, coins and certificates of appreciation for Commons and his parents.
The American Legion’s Operation Comfort Warriors (OCW) program provided Amazon gift cards, water bottles and baseball caps to Commons and more than 40 other patients, who attended a Legion-sponsored steak dinner at the National Press Club that evening.
The dinner, which was hosted by the Aleethia Foundation, has been a weekly tradition in Washington since Aleethia began hosting the Friday night gatherings in 2003 as a way of helping recently injured troops and their families enjoy a social dining experience away from the hospital. The American Legion is one of several organizations that sponsor the events on a rotating basis.
National Commander James Koutz told delegates to the 94th National Convention in Indianapolis that OCW will serve as his primary fundraising goal this year. OCW funds are used to supplement the high-quality care provided at most military hospitals and transition units in the United States and abroad. Funds go toward items such as exercise equipment, rehabilitation gear, entertainment and family events.
"Every one of us has a role to play in this operation," Koutz said, "This operation depends on our financial support. All of you, don’t you wish there had been an Operation Comfort Warriors when you came home? We can’t undo the past, but we can see that it is not repeated."
More than $1 million of assistance has been provided to wounded, injured or ill military personnel and veterans through OCW and its predecessor, Operation Landstuhl. Koutz hopes to raise $500,000 for the program during his term as national commander.