Throughout the year, Kenneth N Dowden Wayne Post 64 in Indianapolis fundraises for Operation Comfort Warriors (OCW), an American Legion program that provides comfort items and recreational opportunities for wounded and sick military personnel and veterans in severe need. In 2022 alone, more than $363,000 In OCW grants were distributed: 38 to U.S. servicemembers, 10 to American Legion posts or districts, nine to veteran-related events and five to Department of Veterans Affairs medical facilities.
After all the fundraising is complete the post invites American Legion Past National Commander James Koutz – who made OCW his project during his tenure as commander from 2012 to 2013 – to the event.
Since an initial donation of around $30,000 in 2013, Post 64 has regularly exceeded that, topping $50,000 multiple times. But at last year’s OCW Day at the post, Koutz was astonished to find out the post’s American Legion Family had raised more than $106,000 that year. But Post 64 was far from finished.
On March 25, during its 2023 OCW Day – with Koutz and his wife, American Legion Auxiliary National President Vickie Koutz, joined by American Legion National Commander Vincent Troiola and Sons of The American Legion National Commander Christopher Carlton – Post 64’s Legion Family presented OCW with a donation of $111,200.
“I didn’t think they’d break last year’s (donation total). But when it came to $111,000, I was pretty shocked,” PNC Koutz said. “But they really believe in OCW at Post 64. And it’s the entire American Legion Family. It was a great day.”
In addition to donations coming from individuals, Post 64 donated $100,000, its SAL squadron $5,000, American Legion Riders Chapter 64 $2,000 and Auxiliary Unit 64 another $1,500.
Steve DeFeo – Post 64’s first vice commander, a District 11 vice commander, and both the Department of Indiana historian and Sons of The American Legion national historian – said Post 64’s dedication to Operation Comfort Warriors is in part due to its dedication to Koutz.
“PNC Koutz is one of the driving reasons, because we are so proud of him as a national commander from Indiana,” DeFeo said. “He is around the post a lot. We have an affinity for each other, and that affinity translates into helping him as best we can.”
But the mission behind OCW also strikes a chord with Post 64’s Legion Family. “I think that OCW embodies the spirt of the Legion, of veterans helping veterans,” DeFeo said. “If there’s an injured veteran in the hospital because he or she has been serving their country, then the least we can do is make them comfortable and help them out the best we can with their recovery."
Koutz is happy to see the program still going strong and supporrt not waning. “All the people that still raise money for Operation Comfort Warriors, they’re still into it," he said. "They believe in what we do for that program and for our soldiers who have been either injured or wounded or ill – and now going into veteran hospitals and taking care of the people who need help there – I think everything comes together for Operation Comfort Warriors. People really believe in it.”
OCW to Sponsor Indy Event. On April 1, Operation Comfort Warriors is providing $3,750 to sponsor an Irreverent Warriors Silkies Hike in downtown Indianapolis. Around 200 veterans are expected to participate.
Irreverent Warriors is a nonprofit that conducts a variety of therapeutic events across the country. The Silkies Hikes are open to veterans, active-duty military, National Guardsmen and reservists.
This weekend’s hike will take place from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and will start at the Indiana War Memorial, 55 E. Michigan St. Click here for more information.