A delegation of Legionnaires from the Department of Washington and National Headquarters distributed retail gift cards and other items to 500 wounded warriors stationed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, during an Operation Comfort Warriors visit there January 12-13.
"They didn't expect the check and donations," Department of Washington Commander Jake Cabuag said. "(It's) a big morale factor, not just for the wounded warriors but for those involved caring for them – from the command down to the sergeant – they were really in awe. We do it to give thanks to them as much as possible."
The nearly $50,000 worth of donations included pots and pans for the Warrior Transition Battalion barracks, recumbent bicycles, yoga equipment, air rifle pellets, wheelchair accessories and a $1,500 check to the Soldiers Family Assistance Center. The funding was provided by Operation Comfort Warriors, an American Legion program which provides gifts and other support to wounded, injured and ill U.S. military veterans in hospitals and transition units around the world.
Combined with a previous support program for troops recuperating at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany (http://www.legion.org/troops/160548/chance-defuse ), OCW has provided more than $1 million of donations and recreational events since 2007. OCW also purchased four golf carts to transport wounded, injured or ill soldiers from the WTB barracks to medical appointments at nearby Madigan Army Medical Center.
The carts were especially welcome by Chip Townsend, the WTB's transportation coordinator. "In this particular case, we will now have a means to get soldiers around and do things we weren't able to do before," he said. "I can't say thanks enough."
Woody Stone, outreach coordinator for the WTB, believes the donations are significant because they came from veterans. We value organizations like The American Legion first of all because there's a connection," he said. "You have people that actually understand these soldiers – whether combat wounded, injured in a training accident or whether they become ill and are trying to recover, those soldiers have been through a number of experiences that Legionnaires can connect with. And soldiers appreciate that. They sense that there is somebody that really understands what they have been through. You just don't get that with every organization."
More than $20,000 has been raised in the last two years in memory of Army Cpl. Zachary Nordmeyer, a Legionnaire from Post 500 in Speedway, Ind. "My son was killed in Iraq in 2009," said his father, Michael Nordmeyer, who helped with the distribution at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. "We wanted to be involved with a charity like this to help wounded soldiers feel needed again and appreciated. It brings a lot of joy to me, a little piece of mind knowing that I can help somebody feel appreciated."
Donations can be made to Operation Comfort Warriors by sending a check to: Operation Comfort Warriors, The American Legion, P.O. Box 1055, Indianapolis, IN 46206.
Online donations can be made at www.legion.org/ocw  .
John Raughter is The American Legion's communications director.