A group of local veterans is helping bring together wounded warriors and their families.
Members of AMVETS Post #1, McAdoo, are traveling to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Bethesda, Md., to deliver the latest in a series of donations to the Helping Hand Fund.
This year, the group is giving $4,000, bringing the total over the past five years to about $35,000.
"It's something we do every year. We try to give as much as we can," said Larry Kelly, past state commander for the Disabled American Veterans.
The AMVETS group channels the donation through the chaplain's office at Walter Reed.
"That way, the money goes directly to the veterans and not to the VA system," said Kelly, who served in Vietnam and was injured in 1969.
Past commander Richard Jacobs said the donations help military families visit their loved ones as they recover from battle wounds.
"They have little money, they have wives and little kids who can't come in to see them. That's what we use the money for. We pay their transportation, we pay for their hotel. We give the kids McDonald's cards. We do that through the chaplain's office, so no money goes directly we pay the bills," he said.
Commander Richard Dvorscak recalls the poignancy of their first visit to the newly-built hospital.
"The first time we went down there, it was just a visit to give a couple of dollars. But when we saw those soldiers ... girls, too, not only men. When we walked in the main door and there was a young girl in a wheelchair, with both legs amputated, well, that touched us. That was the spearhead of our project. From that day on, we pushed forward every year to get as much as we can to donate to them," Dvorscak said.
"They're glad to have us visit them, and we enjoy being with those troopers. They're thanking us for coming down but they are the ones who did all the work and all the suffering," he said.
Dvorscak said the soldiers enjoy swapping hunting stories.
"The average age of our wounded from Iraq and Afghanistan is 23. Their wives and children find it difficult to live in the Washington Metropolitan Area. The chaplain negotiates lower rates at local businesses and motels; greatly increasing the value of the financial donations to the Helping Hand Fund.
"This is one of the most gratifying efforts in which I have ever been involved," William Gaddes, the finance officer of Post One remarked.
"When one visits the rehabilitation wards and talks to the wounded men and women, their great sacrifice and courage, as well as their determination to cope with their situation becomes apparent. Their young wives and often their children are right there in the rehabilitation facility, supporting their loved ones' recovery," he said.
AMVETS Post #1 also supports a ministry called "Holy Joe's Café."
"This is an effort by chaplains and their staffs at locations in Iraq and Afghanistan to provide informal contact with troops about to experience combat. The coffee-and-doughnut efforts are funded totally by donations, and it is run by an Episcopal church in New England," he said. "Reports to us indicate that this effort by chaplains and chaplain's assistants on a one-to-one basis has avoided several suicides, and in one case, a planned multiple murder of other military personnel. Our post has donated $2,500 to this worthy cause."
AMVETS Post #1 officers are Richard Dvorscak, commander; Anthony Mussoline, first vice commander; Tom Mattie, adjutant; and William Gaddes, finance officer. Other members heavily involved in the donation efforts are Past Commander Richard Jacobs and Past Sr. Vice Commander John Nesgoda.
"I wish to thank all of my officers and members who have worked hard on the Walter Reed program, on the restoration of the Saint Patrick's Cemetery in Beaver Brook, where we have honored our Civil War comrades with a granite column containing their names, and on the efforts we have made in supporting our deployed regular military and local area National Guard families," Dvorscak said.