Nearly 1,000 wounded servicemembers and their family members were treated to a day at Six Flags San Antonio on Sept. 21, courtesy of The American Legion’s Operation Comfort Warriors (OCW) program and Department of Texas volunteers.
The Legion again was the main sponsor of the event, covering the cost of admission to the park and handing out backpacks, hats and T-shirts to the servicemen and women recovering at nearby Brooke Army Medical Center.
"Personally to me it means a lot that we got so many volunteers to help out today from different posts, different Auxiliary units," said Bob Masten, Post 10 commander and District 20 vice commander. "Everyone has a million things going on with work, life and family. But they all come out here because they feel the same way that I do: that we need to come out and support the wounded warriors. We’re out here to help them, as America’s largest wartime veterans organization."
During Past National Commander Jim Koutz’s year-long fundraising drive, more than $1.1 million was donated to the OCW program, which has been used to fund recreational activities such as the day at Six Flags, as well as comfort and rehabilitative gear for troops recovering in military hospitals throughout the U.S.
Overall, the Legion contributed more than $50,000 – its single largest OCW event this year – for the Six Flags event.
"I want to express my sincere gratitude to the Legion and Operation Comfort Warriors for the fact that you are spending a great deal of time to not only coordinate, but to execute this event to support our 950-plus warriors today," said Lt. Col. Eric Edwards, commander of WTB Brooke Army Medical Center. "It’s a monumental effort that we greatly appreciate."
Bringing together the wounded warriors with their family members, friends and caregivers goes well beyond the enjoyment of a Saturday afternoon in an amusement park.
"It fosters exactly what we are trying to do," Edwards noted. "Families provide resiliency. Families support the healing and transitions. We turn these folks back to the force, or transition them into veteran status back to their communities. They learn a heck of a lot looking at The American Legion folks here that have served and continue to serve our folks. It’s almost a mentorship approach behind the scenes so that we can continue to move beyond our time now and give back to the community."
Wounded warrior Sgt. Adam Sturdevant enjoyed the day at Six Flags with his wife, Emily, and their two sons Alexander, age 7, and Ethan, 19 months.
"It’s not only good for me and for all the warriors, but also for the families," said Sturdevant, a member of Post 593 in San Antonio who suffered injuries in Afghanistan and is now recuperating at Brooke Army Medical Center. "We get to see each other out here. We’ve gone through rehab together, and it’s a great morale boost that all of us can be here together."
Like other beneficiaries of OCW, Sturdevant is grateful to those who donated.
"People are actually supportive of what we are doing and what we’ve been through," he said. "It shows a lot – I know that not everybody can be in the military – but for those that support us, it’s absolutely fantastic. To them, I say, ‘Thank you with all my heart. Thank you.’ "