Helping our wounded warriors

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9-11 prayer event marks anniversary

By John Barnhart

    An effort by the American Legion to help wounded warriors was the theme of this year’s 9-11 ecumenical prayer breakfast, held at Main Street United Methodist Church.

    The event was sponsored by the Bedford Christian Fellowship, the National D-Day Memorial Foundation, American Legion Post 54, the Society of St. Andrew and the Bedford County Ministerial Association.
    The guest speaker was George Lussier, national executive board chairman of the American Legion.  He was a radioman aboard the USS Forest Sherman (DD-931) in the mid-1960s.

    “We spent quite a bit of time in the North Atlantic,” he commented.
    Lussier spoke about the Legion’s Operation Comfort Warrior.
    He said Operation Comfort Warrior started in 2007 because wounded soldiers were coming back to medical centers in the United States often with only what they were wearing. Their personal items were slow in making the trip back and the Legion saw the need to help.
    Last year, all of the Legion’s programs for wounded warriors were consolidated under Operation Comfort Warrior.  Lussier said the Legion is going to major medical centers because that’s where the greatest concentration of injured servicemen are.
    What the effort provides depends on the need, and  Lussier said they find out what’s needed from the medical center. The need may be for items to keep the soldiers’ minds busy, iPods to counteract the ringing a soldier may have in his ears due to an IED blast or bulky sweats that won’t put pressure on healing burns. They have also had requests for musical instruments and sporting goods.
    One medical center, with a number of buildings that are widely separated, asked for Segways.
    “These wounded warriors have a hard time walking,”  Lussier said.
     Lussier said they are also working with wounded veterans who are living in the community. He said they want to do more for veterans with traumatic brain injuries and are seeking to find them jobs they can do from home.
    He urged local organizations that want to help wounded veterans in the community to seek both large and small donations.
    “You don’t have to get and look for big donors,” he said. Pointing out the value of small donations, he mentioned a school system that raised $3,000 through a “penny challenge.” This fundraising drive raised the entire amount in pennies.
     Lussier said that the Legion would like to partner with local organizations. He said the biggest problem it has in helping injured veterans living in the community is to identify them. Local residents can help them in this effort.