Past National Commander Jim Koutz and the Department of North Carolina received recognition from the Fort Bragg Warrior Transition Unit on Oct. 1 for Operation Comfort Warriors (OCW) donations.
Previous donations have included cookware, plates and utensils for wounded warriors recovering at the WTU. The gifts were purchased from donations to OCW, Koutz’s major fundraising initiative during his year as commander. More than $1.1 million was raised, shattering Koutz’s original goal of $500,000.
"What The American Legion has done specifically is to provide basic stuff that you would have in your home; we now have in our barracks, " said Lt. Col. Judson "Jay" Nelson, commander of the WTU. "Sometimes we get some folks straight out of theater who don’t have these things, stuff that you would take for granted. It’s been a big help to have this stuff in our kitchens in our barracks. So they have a place to eat on, stuff to cook with, a knife to cut with and forks to eat with instead of using their hands or getting some plastic ware."
The WTU presented certificates to Koutz and Glen Borg, District 8 commander.
"It was an honor to receive the award from the commanding officer of this warrior transition unit," Koutz said. "Having them say thanks for everything that we do with Operation Comfort Warriors is great. Taking care of our soldiers is what we’re all about. The American Legion saw fit to raise all that money last year ... so that we can buy these things for our wounded soldiers. That’s what we’re all about."
The leadership at Fort Bragg knows it can count on the Legion for continued support. "The American Legion is one of those stalwart organizations that when we need something, we know they will be there for us," Nelson said.
The recognition of the Legion’s assistance was part of a larger ceremony that included promotions and awards for members of the WTU. It’s important for Nelson to show his servicemen and women the efforts made by the Legion.
"We are a part of a broader legacy in that we fought too," he said. "One of the things that has impressed me over the past 15 months since I took command is the continuity of the experience. The commonality of the experience. Especially for the folks in Vietnam and Korea with our folks from OIF and OEF. And they connect on a level that only soldiers who have been in combat can connect on. And for me, I want folks that have retired to see this and know that we take this seriously. We are honored by their presence, and we know that we stand on their shoulders. And that we are here to do good by them."
Looking ahead, OCW will continue to provide comfort items such as rehabilitation equipment, adaptive sports therapy gear, recreational trips and more.
"Without the donors, we couldn’t do this," Koutz said. "I always like to say thank you to everybody who donated. It wasn’t just me as national commander. It was everybody that was involved in OCW … We need to keep it going because we don’t know how long we will need this program to take care of these troops. We’re always going to accept donations to buy these items for whatever the wounded warriors want. We’re going to give them whatever they need."