Thursday, June 13, 2013

Operation Comfort Warriors

OCW helps wounded warriors at Fort Drum
By Henry Howard - June 13, 2013

 The American Legion's Operation Comfort Warriors donated more than $5,200 worth of kayaking and fishing equipment to the warrior transition unit at Fort Drum, N.Y. (Photo by Henry Howard)

In Tim Adams’ first six months as coordinator of the military adaptive sports program at Fort Drum, N.Y., he has seen how donations can change the lives of wounded soldiers.

As members of The American Legion Family dropped off more than $5,200 worth of donated goods to the adaptive sports program at Fort Drum on June 12, Adams recalled one of his favorite success stories.

"There is a gentleman who was severely wounded over in Afghanistan and came back and was having a hard time with things," said Adams, whose first experience with the Fort Drum Warrior Transition Unit was when he returned from war as a wounded warrior. "(The soldier) got involved through curiosity with our scuba program. The equipment used was from outside donors, from The American Legion and others."

While the individual soldier will continue to have difficulties health-wise, Adams said, he is flourishing with his newly developed skill. "Now he is a member of the community of Watertown, and he is a member of the STAR team (Special Tactics And Responses) of the Sheriff’s Department in Jefferson County in Watertown."

He was successful "because we had a program with donated equipment, and he was curious and worked all the way through," Adams said. "We empowered him but he promoted himself up to the level of rescue diver. Now he is an integral part of search and rescue in Watertown."

The gifts donated by The American Legion's Operation Comfort Warriors program on June 12 included five sets of kayaks, paddles and personal flotation devices; as well as fishing equipment, such as poles and fully loaded tackle boxes.

"The Legion and other non-governmental organizations that do this stuff empower the soldier," Adams said. "I don’t do anything to empower the soldier. I help coordinate and conduct programs that are then sponsored, if you will, by the donation, the items that were bought."

As in most military communities, Fort Drum and the civilian population are closely bonded. John Konkol, a member of the nearby Alexandria Legion post, said such donations are an example of how Legion posts support the soldiers.

"This is an Army community. Without the Army, we don’t survive. We do everything we can to help them. I’m just a proud veteran myself," said Konkol, who served in the Navy from 1970 to 1984, then was in the Reserves until 1992. "I used to get packages and it was always fantastic to see the little things come to you."

The relationship is clearly a reciprocal one.

"We’re giving them all this sporting equipment," Konkol said. "The looks on their faces, the thanks and the gratitude. It’s just a great feeling."

Barbara Corker, the incoming Auxiliary president for the Department of New York, has chosen OCW as her program for the coming year. The reason, she says, is twofold: because she wanted to find a way to give back to veterans and 100 percent of donations go to help wounded warriors.

"It’s just a way of saying thank you for all they’ve sacrificed for us," Corker said. "They sign on the dotted line and they gave their all. And now it’s our turn to give back."

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