Wounded warriors get early Thanksgiving

The American Legion and the generosity of Coalition to Salute America's Heroes (CSAH) are making this Thanksgiving a happier one for a great number of wounded warriors and their families.

The American Legion recently distributed $60 gift checks to 2,000 wounded veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. The funds were provided by the CSAH, a Connecticut-based non-profit organization that identifies itself as "the leading non-governmental provider of emergency financial relief to wounded soldiers from Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom and their families." The Coalition partners with corporate sponsors, individual contributors and volunteers "to provide a simple and meaningful way for individuals and corporations to help these veterans and their families rebuild their lives."

Verna Jones, director of the Legion's Veterans Affairs and Rehabilitation Division in Washington, said the Legion's involvement began with a call from the Coalition to the Legion's Washington office offering gift money for distribution to wounded warriors. "We, in turn, passed the word along to our network of department adjutants, commanders and service officers, asking them to identify veterans who would most benefit from a holiday gift," said Jones.

National Guard and reserve units, the Department of Veterans Affairs Voluntary Service and Walter Reed Army Medical Center were also asked to participate. "The response was overwhelming," Jones said, "with literally thousands of e-mails and phone calls pouring in."

The American Legion National Headquarters in Indianapolis administered the preparation and mailing of the gift checks, each with a letter attached from Roger Chapin, president and founder of CSAH.

"In 2005, the Coalition started distributing checks and gift cards to severely wounded servicemembers just before special holidays, such as Thanksgiving and Christmas," Chapin said. "These can be especially difficult times for disabled veterans who are struggling to make ends meet. Thanksgiving, in particular, is all about spending time with family, so we wanted these veterans and their loved ones to be able to truly enjoy the occasion and be reminded of how much their sacrifices are appreciated by the American people.

"We are delighted The American Legion is assisting us in the distribution of these holiday checks. This will make them appreciated even more, since our veterans hold the Legion in such high regard."

Chapin also mentioned, as of this season, 10,000 disabled servicemen and women will have been awarded holiday checks or gift cards worth a total of more than $2.3 million.