Lying in a military hospital bed, a wounded servicemember faces a long recovery. Just yesterday, one of our nation's finest young people in the military was engaged in an overseas war zone, helping to keep America safe.
But in the blink of an eye, everything changed. Rescued from the battlefield and rushed to a military hospital, this young hero is among countless servicemembers who face weeks, months and even years of recovery. They can be found in overseas military hospitals, warrior transition units stateside and other facilities where around-the-clock expert medical care is dispensed.
What's missing, however, are items termed "non-essential" in government checklists. But to a patient confined to a hospital facility, items that bring comfort and forge camaraderie among those rehabilitating are, indeed, essential. Consider this: In the heat of battle, the wounded are whisked away quickly and transported to a medical facility. There is no time to collect personal belongings. No time to pack a handful of reading materials or favorite movies to watch. No time to buy exercise equipment at a sporting goods store.
Our rehabilitating servicemembers need a range of items that help them recover, stimulating their minds and exercising their muscles. This is where The American Legion's Operation Comfort Warriors program makes a difference. All OCW donations are used to purchase items that prove invaluable to America's recovering warriors.
These servicemen and women travel the long road to recovery after suffering injuries from a variety of sources – a roadside bomb, sniper attack or helicopter crash. It doesn't matter how the injuries occurred, what matters is that the United States and The American Legion do everything possible to rehabilitate and care for our wounded, injured or ill military personnel.
Care from doctors, nurses and specialists goes a long way in healing the physical and emotional wounds of war. Operation Comfort Warriors must fill in other gaps by purchasing necessary items – loose-fitting sweatsuits for burn patients, for instance, or exercise and fishing equipment to encourage physical activities, magazines, iPods, CDs and DVDs to provide entertainment.
At the 94th annual National Convention, I announced that OCW would be my major fundraising program for this year. My goal is for The American Legion family and its supporters to raise $500,000 for OCW. Just imagine what that money can do for our recovering servicemembers.
Every one of us has a role to play in this endeavor. How can you help? You can contribute. You can go online to www/legion.org/OCW or mail a check to Operation Comfort Warriors, c/o The American Legion, P.O. Box 1055, Indianapolis, IN 46206. No donation is too small.
Conduct a fundraiser at your post. Coordinate with an Auxiliary unit, Sons of The American Legion squadron, Legion Riders chapter, church group or another nonprofit organization. Remember – unlike many other charities – 100 percent of donations go directly to those in need.
It's up to us – every one of us – to ensure that when our recovering warriors need us, we are there to provide comfort and support. It's the least we can do for those who sacrificed so much to protect America.