The American Legion sponsored a Wounded Warriors Dinner on Feb. 10 at the National Press Club in Washington. Since October 2003, the Aleethia Foundation has hosted such dinners on Friday evenings as a way of helping recently injured troops enjoy an informal get-together away from the hospital.
About 90 people attended the event, including five Legionnaires from the Washington area. Kevin Blanchard, a wounded Iraq War veteran and a national field service representative for the Legion's Veterans Affairs & Rehabilitation Division, spoke to the group about his own recovery. "I used to attend these dinners while I was an inpatient at Walter Reed in 2005 and 2006. They provide a relaxed social setting that gives these veterans a chance to spend time with family and friends outside the hospital. It's a way for them to feel normal again."
Blanchard spoke to the attendees about his own severe injury, his leg amputation, and how he endured more than 30 surgeries and 13 months in the hospital. He stressed the importance of keeping positive and staying active.
"I looked out among the crowd and thought about how I used to be in a wheelchair, rolling into these events," Blanchard said. "I explained how the process these veterans are going through can be thought of as a blessing that's filled with opportunity. I explained the many blessings I have been granted after my injury, such as education, helping other wounded warriors and,most importantly,an immense appreciation for life."
John Stovall, director of the Legion's National Security/Foreign Relations Division, said that events like the Wounded Warrior Dinner gives recovering warriors "a chance to get away from the hospital and rehabilitation, and enjoy a relaxing evening among people who are going through the same tough process of recovery."
Besides a fine dinner, the wounded warriors also received several door prizes, including copies of a book signed by former Kansas senator and presidential candidate Bob Dole.
John Sommer, former executive director of the Legion's office in Washington, said the Legion sponsored Friday night's dinner because its purpose "falls right in line with the mission of The American Legion. The Aleethia Foundation appreciates the Legion's support, and all the other wonderful individuals and organizations that participate in its efforts, on behalf of those who have given themselves in service to our nation."
Also attending the dinner were Freddy Gessner and Marlene Hall, both assistant directors in the Legion's National Security/Foreign Relations Division. Hall manages the Legion's outreach program for wounded warriors, Heroes To Hometowns.