Opening up 'a world of opportunities'
Zane Washington, of the Minnesota National Guard, has a wish granted by Soldier's Wish Executive Director Mark Oschenbein, in which she received a mobility van so she may gain more independance during the 100th American Legion National Convention in Minneapolis, Minn., on Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2018. Photo by Schelly Stone/The American Legion.

Opening up 'a world of opportunities'

For Minnesota National Guardsman Spec. Zan Washington, there were two loves in her life: playing football and working with at-risk children. A fall last winter left Washington paralyzed, on a ventilator and faced with being a quadriplegic and no longer able to play football.

But Washington wanted to continue working with children in the Twin Cities. And thanks to a grant from Soldier’s Wish, getting to and from the homeless children’s shelter where she served as manager of outreach services will now be easier.

On Aug. 28 on the stage of The American Legion’s 100th National Convention, Soldier’s Wish Volunteer Executive Director Mark Ochsenbein announced that Washington would receive a mobility van in a collaboration with American Legion Charities, The American Legion Department of Minnesota and Cummings Mobility.

Soldier’s Wish is an American Legion-supported nonprofit organization that raises funds to honor and support members of the U.S. military personnel, veterans and their families by granting wishes to improve their lives.

“Mentally, Zan never lost anything,” said Ochsenbein, a member of American Legion Post 46 in Cookeville, Tenn. “Zan wants more than anything to get back to work and to helping those less fortunate than herself.

‘Soldier’s Wish is about making our active-duty military, veterans and their families have a better quality of life. It is our hope that her wish today will open up a world of opportunities.”

Washington was a military policeman and later a logistics specialist – all while completing both bachelor’s and master’s degrees. She played on various professional women’s football teams while finding time to work with the community’s homeless youth.

She wanted to get back to that after first being given a zero to 1-percent chance to live after her accident, and then spending six weeks in a coma.

“Zan is a soldier. She’s a warrior,” Ochsenbein said. “The family was told to expect the worst. But like I said, Zan is a fighter. She came out of the coma in March and has fought through infections and has had to fight off pneumonia on several occasions. She makes strides on a daily basis to get to what is now her new normal.

“Zan has not and will not let this injury define. We hope that this van will open up so much for (her).”

Ochsenbein said Soldier’s Wish also was able to grant a wish to a 92-year-old World War II Navy veteran, providing him with the funds to attend the 75th anniversary of D-Day next year in France. The veteran and Legionnaire served on the U.S.S. Herndon, the lead destroyer during D-Day.