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Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Inside Story of Project Valour

On June 21st, Major Chuck Ziegenfuss was on patrol with his unit in Iraq in Baqubah, Iraq. His unit received reports of an impending attack in the area. His unit, partnered with an Iraqi unit, went to investigate. An Iraqi civilian report seeing an IED (Improvised Explosive Device) in front of his office. Major Ziegenfuss got out of his tank and investigated. They had cleared a couple of IED's when a buried IED exploded right below him. The impact propelled him into the water. The injuries that Major Ziegenfuss sustained were so serious that he was clinically dead not once, not twice, but three times.

Eventually, he wound up at Landstuhl Base in Germany and then Walter Reed. He'd lost no limbs but part of his right hand wasn't functional and he could only use one finger. Major Ziegenfuss wanted more than anything to stay in contact with the troops back in Iraq. Also, Ziegenfuss was a Mil Blogger (Military Blogger). He was contacted by the charity, Soldier's Angels. He told them that he wanted more than anything to get a laptop and software that would allow him to use it through voice commands. That's exactly what happened. The gift touched Major Ziegenfuss so much that he then partnered up with Soldier's Angels to form Project Valour.

Patti Patton-Bader was the dutiful soldier's mom. Back starting in 2003, several times a week she sent her son, Brandon in Iraq letters and other care packages. Finally, her son, sheepishly, told his mom that he felt embarrassed by all the letters and care packages she sent. It turns out many of the soldiers in his platoon didn't ever receive anything and he felt bad that he was so showered with love. Ms. Bader was moved to act. So, she began to send care packages not just to her son but to all the soldiers in his platoon. So, Soldier's Angels was formed.

Now, Soldier's Angels sends care packages to thousands of soldiers each and every year. Since 2005, they've partnered with Major Ziegenfuss for Project Valour. Project Valour sends out thousands of lap tops, software for voice activated controls, and WIIs. Physical therapists contacted Soldier's Angels and told them that soldiers recovering from serious injuries could use the WII effectively as a form of physical therapy. Anyone who's played Guitar Hero on the WII knows exactly what these physical therapists are talking about. Also, Project Valour provides GPS devices that are about the size of a cell phone. Often soldiers that develop PTSD go through memory loss and such devices help them regain their bearings, their whereabouts, and help them get where they need to go.

Currently, Project Valour is going through their fundraising drive and that will last through Veteran's Day, next Wednesday. Their mission continues all year round. They will distribute laptops, software and WII's all year round to Walter Reed, Brooke Army Medical Center and wherever else there's a wounded warrior in need. As Blake Powers, of the milblogging site Black Five, told me, "taking care of wounder warriors isn't seasonal".

To make things interesting, everyone in the drive chooses a branch of the military and then the branches all compete to see which raises the most money. If you know anything about military rivalries, you know that the military branches will use an excuse to compete with each other. The goal for this year is to raise $150,000. To make things really interesting, Ms. Bader has promised to shave her head if the drive reaches $100,000 more than the goal.

To help please visit the site.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

(a little edit)

Randstuhl is actually Landstuhl)