'Wounded warriors' remembered with barbecue at Walter Reed
MILLERTON â€” Soldiers looking out for soldiers. Veterans helping veterans. Military families supporting other military families. Thatâ€™s what an upcoming trip the Millerton American Legion Post 178 is planning to the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., is all about.
â€œThis is an opportunity to give back to these veterans, the gals and guys who have given parts and pieces of their bodies,â€ said 42nd Infantry Division Command Sgt. Major Robert Jenks. â€œItâ€™s a small way to say thanks. We stand on the shoulders of all those who preceded us.â€
American Legion members will travel by bus on May 30 to Walter Reed and two military housing facilities for families of the ill and infirm. There the Legionnaires will cook a steak luncheon for nearly 300 wounded soldiers and their families.
The Legion will bring down gifts as well, all of which have been donated, along with the food, to the military community.
The housing facilities at the focus of the excursion are the Fisher House and the Molonge House, two institutions Jenks said are irreplaceable.
â€œThe impact of those are significant,â€ he said. â€œTheyâ€™ve touched thousands of families for many years and they donâ€™t cost anything. Thatâ€™s the last thing a husband or wife needs to worry about: How am I going to pay for a hotel? Everybody we talked to about this has so many great things to say about the services those houses have. Thereâ€™s a lot of noise in the background when a loved one is injured. There, you donâ€™t have anything to worry about, theyâ€™re going to take care of it. Theyâ€™re just great organizations.â€
Touring the Mall, too
The American Legion bus will make a few stops along the way. It will stop at the National Mall in the capital, so the 50 or 60 people making the trip can see some historic sites and perhaps take in a tour. That will take up much of the day Saturday. On Sunday morning, May 31, the group will head to Walter Reed and get the grills fired up.
â€œI think itâ€™s very important,â€ Jenks said. â€œWhen youâ€™re down in Walter Reed you get a lot of high-end brass. But for a Legion post or VFW to show up and come down and provide a world-class lunch and give a special thanks to them, I think that will go a long way.â€
Practically all of the food has been donated for the barbecue; $1,800 of the estimated $2,000 cost has already been raised as well. The Legion has continued to fundraise, however, as itâ€™s still gathering money to purchase gifts: phone and gas cards, gift cards to Wal-Mart and Target, and other practical items that will help the wounded and their families while at Walter Reed and the Fisher and Molonge houses.
To get an idea of what might be most useful, the Legion asked wounded veteran Stephen Valyou of Millerton for suggestions.
Dave MacMillan, of NPR radio station WHDD-91.9 FM in Sharon, hosts a weekly show called Hometown Sunday Morning. He and station co-owner Marshall Miles are planning a live broadcast from the hospital from 9 a.m. to noon on May 31. It will air on WHDD; listeners can also hear a podcast afterward at robinhoodradio.com.
â€œWe expect to interview the wounded warriors, their families, caretakers and people involved with making these people better,â€ MacMillan said. â€œI never had the service experience. But with all of the freedoms we enjoy in this country because of the sacrifices of generations of people who stood up and served our country, each morning I start out with a troop tribute.
â€œThis is a way to give back, and weâ€™re excited.â€
An essential mission
â€œThis is a way for veterans from all the conflicts still surviving to get together and show our gratitude for the sacrifices of these soldiers and their families,â€ said Legionnaire and Army 1st Lt. Sean Klay.
â€œA lot of Americans donâ€™t know about places like the Fisher and Molonge houses, which provide this very essential and critical mission of helping families of service members,â€ he added. â€œThis is our own small way of going down there and saying thank you, on behalf of our community.â€
To make a contribution to the Walter Reed trip, send a check to American Legion Post 178 (specifying in the memo line whether itâ€™s for food or gifts), PO Box 22, Millerton, NY 12546.
Donations can also be dropped off at the Legion Hall on Route 44 in Millerton. For more information, log onto the Legionâ€™s Web site at legionpost178.org.