(Photo by Amy C. Elliot)

Fulfilling a specific need

More than $7,000 worth of sporting goods sat on the stage at the Killeen Civic Center in Texas. The items were provided to the Fort Hood Warrior Transition Battalion (WTB) by The American Legion’s Operation Comfort Warriors program. And according to one of the recipients of the equipment, every single piece matters.

During an American Legion Legacy Run stop in Killeen, the equipment was donated to Fort Hood. Two busloads of soldiers recovering at the WTB were in attendance at the donation, mingling with American Legion Riders and other Legion members at a luncheon paid for by USAA.

The donation – which included disc golf and softball equipment, bean bag toss games and ladder ball – meant a lot to its recipients.

“Getting a gift like this makes you feel like someone still cares for you,” said Sgt. Conjevaram Phillips, who is transitioning at Fort Hood. “When I came back from Iraq and went to use the subway, a woman in front of me paid for my fare. I was amazed. It’s the small things that matter. A donation like this means a lot to us soldiers.”

OCW Program Coordinator James Ellison worked with Legion Post 573 in nearby Harker Heights to get the equipment. The price tag for the equipment was $7,000, but Dick’s Sporting Goods provided enough discounts to bring the cost down to $5,400.

“Dick’s really came through,” Post 573 Commander Robert Crager said. “They had everything ready for us when we went to pick it up. It’s great, because it’s always good to give back. This is what we do.”

Lt. Col. Michael Burcham of Fort Hood’s WTB said the equipment donated goes a long way toward helping soldiers recover. “It helps us do something that’s not typical Army PT,” he said. “Things like just throwing a football can make a difference, and this donation will really make a difference for these soldiers.”

American Legion National Commander James Koutz – who has led a campaign that has raised more than $660,000 for OCW this year – said what makes OCW stand out is that it supplies a demand.

“This is what the soldiers requested,” he said. “We’re not just giving them a truckload of things. These are items that they requested. That’s what we are all about – taking care of the soldiers.”