Monday, October 26, 2009

Project Valour-IT's Annual Fundraiser

Today is Soldiers' Angels' Fourth Annual Day of the Deployed:

Proclamation Day of the Deployed October 26

WHEREAS, this nation is kept strong and free by the loyal citizens who preserve our precious heritage through their positives declaration and actions; and

WHEREAS, our deployed service members have courageously answered their nation’s call to service by defending our freedoms on foreign lands; and

WHEREAS, Americans are encouraged to reaffirm their patriotism and allegiance to our flag and country, and honor the brave men and women currently deployed to protect and preserve our way of life; and

WHEREAS, since 2006 Soldiers' Angels has honored our deployed heroes with a day set aside in recognition of their hard work, dedication and commitment to the United States of America; and

NOW, THEREFORE, Soldiers’ Angels hereby proclaim October 26 as DAY OF THE DEPLOYED throughout the United States of America and where ever our service members are serving.

Patti Patton-Bader, Founder
Shelle Michaels, National Communication Officer

Today also marks the beginning of the annual Soldiers' Angels Valour-IT Fundraiser. In previous years, I'd decided to join the Army Team, since my father served nearly 27 years. This year, Chuck Ziegenfuss of From My Position: On the Way invited me to be join him on Team Army, but Cassandra and Carrie of Villainous Company beat him to the punch, inviting me to be on the Marine Team with them. Anyway, what Chuck said in his email asking bloggers to join the Army Team really struck me:

There's nothing in this for me. I gain nothing here. But trust me, one of the best days in my life was the few days after I'd died--twice--then came back and met the Angels, Then saw my wife, and finally when I was given back the ability to use a computer--even though I couldn't [use] my hands.

Another in my list of "Best Days" is the day I got to give a kid--an 18 year old kid who'd lost his hands--a laptop that he could use with his voice. The look on his face was priceless when I gave him the laptop--like I was a special kind of stupid and he didn't have a pencil to stick in his teeth. Then I put the headset on him, and showed him how he could train the computer to use his voice to do EVERYTHING he used to do with a computer. Minutes later, he was reading his email, then chatting with his buddies back in Iraq. I left a soldiers angels coin with him, and my card, and quietly walked away. That day ranks with the Marriage and birth of my children as best days in life. It ranks as the best day I've ever had in 17 years of service. And I had that same experience three times that day.

Giving that laptop to those soldiers was amazing. If I could, I'd spend every day doing it. My hope is to raise as much awareness for this as we can, so that we can make sure every wounded servicemember who has lost the use of their hands and eyes, can get one of these machines, and not have to be placed on a "waiting list."

I can only try to imagine what it is like, giving someone back some measure of independence after they've had it so suddenly and violently taken away from them. I can also only try to imagine what it is like, losing that independence so many of us take for granted. Chuck goes on to say:

The goal I want to raise for all services is $1 Million. That's more than one thousand laptops, That will give us the ability to meet every need we currently have, and should help us (god willing) have enough to last throughout the year. Injuries we see today take arms and legs and eyes. Taking away eyes and arms isn't something we can fix, but we do have the opportunity here to give the men and women who've lost the use of theirs the technology to help them get some function of normality back in their lives.

While we are having a little friendly competition between the four teams, representing the Marine Corps, the Army, the Air Force, and the Navy, the real goal is raising the money to support our Wounded Warriors.

Valour-IT doesn't just provide laptops anymore:

Project Valour-IT, in memory of SFC William V. Ziegenfuss, helps provide voice-controlled/adaptive laptop computers and other technology to support Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines recovering from hand wounds and other severe injuries. Technology supplied includes:

  • Voice-controlled Laptops - Operated by speaking into a microphone or using other adaptive technologies, they allow the wounded to maintain connections with the rest of the world during recovery.
  • Wii Video Game Systems - Whole-body game systems increase motivation and speed recovery when used under the guidance of physical therapists in therapy sessions (donated only to medical facilities).
  • Personal GPS - Handheld GPS devices build self-confidence and independence by compensating for short-term memory loss and organizational challenges related to severe TBI and severe PTSD.

The experience of Major Chuck Ziegenfuss, a partner in the project who suffered serious hand wounds while serving in Iraq, illustrates how important these laptops and other technologies can be to a wounded service member's recovery.

I realize money is tight for a lot of folks. I feel that pinch myself, so I've worked at finding creative ways to contribute, which I will be sharing a little later, once the fundraiser competition gets started. If you are able, please click on the Valour-IT Fundraiser (which officially run through Veterans Day, November 11th) link in the top right corner to make whatever donation you can make. If you prefer to mail your donation, please send it - along with the indication of which team (the MARINES!) you wish to support, and that it is for the Valour-IT fundraiser - to:

Soldiers Angels
1792 E. Washington Blvd
Pasadena, CA 91104