The American Legion's marquee program that puts smiles on the faces of wounded and sick troops has captured the nation's attention.
Operation Comfort Warriors – which raises funds to purchase comfort items like games, videos, books and sweatsuits for military personnel recovering in DoD medical facilities – has spent much of the national Pepsi Refresh Project "Good Idea" campaign ranked first or second among 729 other competitors – all of whom are competing for monetary donations from Pepsi. Rankings are based on the number of online votes the program receives. The actual tallies are not disclosed by Pepsi, but Operation Comfort Warriors soared from 28th place to second after the Feb. 4 edition of The American Legion Online Update e-newsletter was mailed to subscribers. The program vaulted into first place over the Feb. 6-7 weekend and was either first or second through the second week of voting.
The winning project receives $250,000 in grant money from Pepsi. The second-place finisher also wins funding.
The American Legion has placed a convenient button to vote for the program on the front page of its Web site at www.legion.org. Visitors can vote once a day through Feb. 28. The Legion is also promoting the campaign and charitable giving to Operation Comfort Warriors on Facebook and Twitter.
The OCW initiative was modeled after a 2007 American Legion campaign to provide comfort items like television sets, portable music players, loose-fitting sweat suits, games and books for troops recovering at Landstuhl Army Medical Center in Germany. Operation Landstuhl raised over $100,000 in less than six weeks, and all the money was used to purchase and deliver quality-of-life items.
In 2008, Operation Comfort Warriors was launched to purchase items for troops recovering in military medical facilities and transition units throughout the United States. By Dec. 12, 2009, the program had raised more than $218,000 and has used, or is scheduled to use, more than $211,000.
All money raised directly supports the troops. None is used for promotion, salaries or administration. The Legion works closely with Warrior Transition Units, the Red Cross, chaplaincies and base commands to assure the correct items are purchased and sent. Wish lists are provided, and if the Legion does not make the purchase directly, funds are delivered by local Legionnaires near the medical facilities.
While video games, DVDs, sweatsuits and portable electronic music players represent the majority of items donated, OCW purchases have also included such gifts as a Biofeedback System at Madigan Army Medical Center near Fort Lewis, Wash.; rolling duffel bags for the National Naval Medical Center at Bethesda, Md.; holiday gift cards for recovering troops at Fort Hood, Texas; and many others. Military personnel have welcomed Operation Comfort Warriors at installations across the country, including Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Fort Riley, Fort Bragg, Camp Lejeune, Fort Carson, Fort Drum, Fort Stewart, Camp Pendleton, Fort Gordon, Fort Bliss, Fort Knox, Tripler Army Medical Center and others.
To donate online to Operation Comfort Warriors, visit www.legion.org/donate and click on the program's logo.