Operation Comfort Warrior

Broken television sets. Minimal access to music or magazines. A dismal clothing allowance.  That’s what wounded U.S. service members faced at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany when then-American Legion Commander Paul Morin visited in May 2007.

Morin returned to the United States with a mission: Raise $50,000 within a couple of months to purchase comfort items for recovering service members at the military hospital in Landstuhl. The compassionate Legion Family rallied to the cause, raising more than $257,000 by the deadline.

The money raised went to purchase television sets, stereos, long-distance calling cards, pool tables and other items to make the warriors’ stay at Landstuhl as comfortable as possible.

Operation Landstuhl grew into Operation Comfort Warriors (OCW) in December 2008 by then-National Commander David K. Rehbein (Iowa Legionnaire). Since then, OCW has continued to provide comfort items to those recovering in military hospitals and transition throughout the U.S. and at overseas facilities.

As the war in Afghanistan winds down, U.S. military personnel are coming home where they join other recent veterans who served in Iraq. Many of these service members have left the battlefield only to be faced with a new fight: a struggle to overcome the physical wounds and mental wounds suffered during deployment. Those with traumatic brain injury (TBI) or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are returning home in unprecedented numbers. In fact, the Army has said that up to 20 percent of the men and women who served in Afghanistan or Iraq have suffered TBI.

Even as the wars conclude, those in the military still face inherent dangers while fighting the global war on terrorism, during training exercises and while performing other dangerous duties.

While the care at many military hospitals and warrior transition units is extraordinary, The American Legion’s Operation Comfort Warriors (OCW) program was created to provide “non-essential” – items that help wounded warriors’ recovery but don’t usually show up as a budget line on government spreadsheets.

Operation Comfort Warriors is a national American Legion program dedicated to meeting the needs of wounded, injured or ill military personnel by providing them with comfort items not usually supplied by the government.

The American Legion Department of Iowa has a proud history of supporting OCW and has accepted a $31,626 donation toward Operation Comfort Warriors from Dr. Pepper Snapple Group. From July to August 2014, Dr. Pepper Snapple Group donated 25 cents for each case of Dr. Pepper, 7Up or Snapple products sold. The promotion ran in Fareway, Dahl’s and Hy-Vee food stores in Iowa. Do you know a business or organization that may want to do something similar?

“I think it’s fantastic,” Department of Iowa Commander Ron Struble said of the donation and its impact. “It means a lot for (recovering service members) to see that support at the local level. Some of these (OCW) gifts aren’t going to make them whole again, but I think it does show that their community is grateful for … their service and sacrifice.”

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