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Saturday, October 31, 2009

Valour-IT: Finding a new normal

A common comment from Valour-IT recipients is that the technology offers a new way to do something that they were able to do before their injuries but now find impossible or simply exhausting. Our wounded warriors simply can't do some things the "old way", and Valour IT enables a new way. A new normal.

I shared this story with friends via email Thursday night, and Cassandra of Team Marine Corps wrote about him today, too.

Please read to the end of this post and find the link to the long write-up on Bryan at Esquire in January 2008, two years after he received his laptop and a year after being Esquire's cover story. SGT Bryan Anderson offers you an extended window on his world and the ongoing challenges of being a wounded vet.
Have a look?

From the November 2005 request for a Valour IT voice-activated laptop for triple amputee, SGT Bryan Anderson:

It was the last day of Valour-IT's first Veterans Day (2005) fundraiser, when I was still stunned by its success and thrilled Valour-IT was now a viable project. Amid that emotion, arrived an email requesting a laptop for Bryan:

'...He has a long road ahead of him. His mother said that they are doing everything for him and it is getting very frustrating for him. He wants to talk to his friends but he just is not ready to do it yet. With this laptop he will be able to communicate with family and friends and will be able to do it without the help of anyone. This is going to be the first step in showing him that he will be able to do things on his own.'

Less than four months later, in February 2006, Bryan was walking. The same correspondent shared:

B[ryan] came in town for a benefit dinner to help raise funds for his family. He walked into the room with his prosthetic legs, he was smiling and overwhelmed at the support he and his family received...

The laptop was the first step to the road to recovery. It proved that he was going to be able to do all the things that he did before.'

And today, out of the blue, I found him on the cover of Esquire. As my correspondent predicted, he did do all the things he'd done before... and so much more:

I've been wakeboarding, water-skiing, jet-skiing, tubing, rock climbing, snow skiing, playing catch with my brother. I try to do the same things. I'm not going to let it stop me. We did a 110-mile bike ride from Gettysburg to Washington, D. C. Sixty miles the first day, fifty miles the second day. Hand cycle, three wheels. I ended up ripping the glove, breaking the hand, breaking the whole socket. I might do it a little differently, but I'm still going to do it...
He knows who he is:
This doesn't define me. It may be how I look on the outside, but it's not who I am. I guess you could remember me easily as being a triple amputee, but it's not who I am, has nothing to do with who I am. I've always been the same person..'

And I discovered that Bryan continued to share his story here in Esquire Magazine.

It’s a long road, but you can help with that first step.

Special thanks to Brian Mockenhaupt at Esquire for writing about Bryan's story.

Click on the thermometer widget below to make a credit card donation today!

Address for donations by check or through PayPal are at the bottom of the page HERE.

[Note: 100% of all donations go to the purchase of Valour IT equipment. Soldiers' Angels is an IRS-designated 501(c)(3) nonprofit. Donations are tax-deductible and may be eligible for matching funds from donors' employers (ask your employer). Consult your tax advisor for details.]

Friday, October 30, 2009

And in case you didn't know what a Prowler is...

A U.S. Navy EA-6B Prowler aircraft from Electronic Attack Squadron 129 prepares to launch from catapult one aboard the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) in the Pacific Ocean on Sept. 19, 2009. The Stennis is underway conducting fleet replacement squadron carrier qualifications off the coast of southern California. DoD photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Walter M. Wayman, U.S. Navy. (Released)

Aircraft carriers. Subs. Tomcats, Hornets, Prowlers. Crypto geeks! Combat medics aka "forward deployed Angels", and, SEALS... *and* Steeljaws!

What are Steeljaws? Go HERE.

Better yet, why do I now know what a Steeljaw is? Because fellow Team Navy blogger Steeljaw Scribe posted some inspirational videos to rally the team!!

They're all HERE, and I like the navy planes, but I know you'll like this one:

Thanks to all the folks who answered the call (er, email) from last night and nudged Team Navy forward!!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

A Wife's Perspective....on Valour IT laptops

On the Soldiers' Angels website, you'll see this quote from Major Chuck Ziegenfuss:
"It was the first time I felt whole since I’d woken up wounded in Landstuhl."
Now go read what Carren - Chuck's amazing wife - had to say about the impact of the Valour IT laptop:
"I was able to relax a little bit more. Instead of trying to figure how to get Chuck some sort of outlet, I knew he had one. Instead of going to the Mologne House every night, wondering how Chuck will manage throughout the night, I knew he had an outlet. Instead of feeling guilty as hell when I went somewhere without him (for ME time), I knew Chuck had his connection to the outside world."
Her whole post is HERE. (BTW, that "amazing" is no exaggeration. One of the benefits of being a volunteer with Soliders' Angels has been getting to know people like Carren.)

A voice-activated Valour IT laptop is a gift that you can help give to other wounded warriors. Donate today!

I think you should support Team Navy (click thermometer widget at top right! or HERE), but I really don't care who gets credit. You can make a donation through any service's team HERE.

But really, Navy is still the best. Aircraft carriers. Subs. Tomcats, Hornets, Prowlers. Crypto geeks! Combat medics aka "forward deployed Angels", and, duh, SEALS.

'Nuf said.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Come on NAVY!

The friendly (cough, cough) inter-service Valour-IT fundraising competition has begun! Support our wounded warriors and Team Navy today!

Soldiers' Angels's Valour-IT program provides voice-activated laptops and other helpful technology gadgets to our more severely injured troops. 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.
For the very first recipient (and inspiration for the program), the Valour-IT laptop meant being able to blog again and get back in touch with his buddies down range, even when tapping on a keyboard was not an option. It made a huge difference to him and has to many others since.

Won't you support this wonderful program with a small (or LARGE!) donation today? And Team Navy could really use the help. Sheesh! Click on the thermometer widget below to make a credit card donation today!

Address for donations by check or through PayPal are at the bottom of the page HERE.

[Note: 100% of all donations go to the purchase of Valour IT equipment. Soldiers' Angels is an IRS-designated 501(c)(3) nonprofit. Donations are tax-deductible and may be eligible for matching funds from donors' employers (ask your employer). Consult your tax advisor for details.]

Friday, October 23, 2009

Send a Care Package. Annoy A Mail Clerk...at least at first :-)

A great letter from a Medic in Afghanistan who was on the receiving end of some care packages from Soldiers' Angels. Here's an excerpt, but go read the whole thing:

"I must admit the Soldier who is our mail clerk was cursing my name when he went to check the mail yesterday and discovered that many of the packages had my name on them. Oh how the tune changed when it was discovered that the contents of the packages were for our wounded warriors and the Soldiers assigned to the team."

I have a suspicion that I've caused similar consternation on one or two occasions over the last 5 years. Last year I sent 12 or 14 boxes to a medic for their holiday party, but those boxes at least went out in three batches. However, my favorite Post Office experience was from December 2006, when an my Angel buddy, Michelle (in Iowa), and I inadvertently adopted a Navy ship for Christmas.... Whole ship.

With contributions from family and friends, we collected cards and goodies to fill 270 homemade gift bags. Because it was a last minute "adoption" and the goodies were heavy, I needed to send everything Priority Mail in those great flat rate boxes. 23 flat rate boxes to be precise (thanks, Dad, for the postage money!). Fortunately for me, the National Capital Post Office (a block from Union Station in DC) is open until midnight each weeknight. I drove over on a Tuesday night at about 9:30pm and wheeled in my load of boxes. When the clerk who was to help me saw my pile, I could see him thinking "oh no!". However, he quickly caught on to the project at hand and didn't give me a hard time at all when we realized that I'd printed out my customs forms incorrectly and had to hand-write all 23 of them over again. Anyone who knows what postal clerks have to put up with as far as clueless unprepared customers also knows what a "pass" I got. No "go stand over there and come back when you're done". Nope, I wrote fast, and he methodically processed my packages.

So we got the packages all set to go and I said thanks with a smile.

I was back at that post office after the first of the year and happened to get the same clerk helping me. I asked, "I don't know if you remember me, I..." He interrupted, and said, "Oh yes, I remember you." Ha! I'm confident that there was a twinkle in his eye. Better yet, his face brightened when I told him that I'd gotten several emails from sailors on Christmas Eve letting me know that the US Postal Service and US Navy had done yeoman's work to get the packages to the ship (somewhere in the Pacific) on time. I got a thank you message from the ship's Command Master Chief too. And I got one more email about 10 days later that I'll share later, in honor of TEAM NAVY and the Valour IT fundraiser. But just to tease... To this day, it's the coolest email that I've ever gotten as a result of a Soldiers' Angel project.

So, be an Angel, go annoy a Postal Clerk...until they catch on and smile too.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

It starts Monday! Get ready to support TEAM NAVY!!

Bookmark DBS and read it every day.

This edition will remind you why we NEED MORE ANGELS!!! Adopt today :-) Or donate, and we'll pass along your TLC that way!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Not for Nothing - Take ...10

HT: Dawn Patrol (good job GH)

For all those who serve or have served in Iraq, and remembering those that made the ultimate sacrifice while serving there, once again we have a reminder of the tremendous progress made:

"In a demonstration of how far the mission in Iraq has come, the first minutes of the leaders’ media availability after their meeting concerned Afghanistan - something that would have been inconceivable two years ago."

Read it all HERE.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Milblog to Read: "AfghanQuest.com"

HT: Dawn Patrol and Mudville
I've read Old Blue's writing in the past, but this is my reminder to do it more often. If you're wondering what's really going on in Afghanistan, his blog - Afghan Qwest - gives you at least one piece of the puzzle. Check it out. Often.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Angel Buddies!

This is a great slide show set to music/song (thank you Jeff and Patti!) that happens to include a couple of photos of some of my favorite Angel buddies... including Robin, Debbie, Monica, Emily and Trevor, plus Diane and Steve of massive-Holiday-Project-down-in-Georgia fame.

Saw mention recently, that some of those Georgia troops are on their way back to Iraq for a fourth tour. Hope you'll consider adopting a deployed troop or making a donation to Soldiers' Angels' efforts to provide them all some extra TLC while they are on the front lines for all of us.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

SOS for Soldiers' Angels - need your help!

Thanks for stopping by this blog!

I’ve been an active member and volunteer with Soldiers’ Angels for nearly five years now and can personally attest to how much our deployed troops and wounded warriors appreciate support from their fellow Americans.

Could you afford to make a donation to Soldiers’ Angels today? Even $10 would be a big help.

Soldiers' Angels is a tax-exempt 501(C)(3) volunteer organization that was started by Patti Patton-Bader in 2003 when her oldest son was serving in Iraq. And while she named the organization for her son’s service, Soldiers’ Angels supports all branches of our military: Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard.

One of our core activities is the one-on-one adoption of troops for the length of their deployments. I’m currently participating in this program, so I send one letter a week and at least one care package a month to a soldier in Iraq and two troops in Afghanistan. I’ve got Halloween candy and decorations to ship out tomorrow!

It would be fantastic if you could adopt a troop, too (we have 2100+ troops waiting for an Angel), but if that’s not within your means, I’m hoping that you might be able to spare a few dollars.

You see, Soldiers’ Angels has 4000+ care packages ready to ship to troops in Afghanistan and Iraq but is short on cash for postage.

We also are seeing a very high demand for our First Response Backpacks, and we need to purchase items to fill them up. Here’s some info on that need from my team member Roger.

A group of Angels and friends in Bowie, MD rallied to make 330+ no-sew fleece blankets for those backpacks last weekend. I got to help (fun!) and wrote about it here.

Your donations also support activities like a monthly deli buffet lunch for our ill and wounded and their loved ones at our National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, MD (I’m actually the coordinator/hostess for that lunch each month). I’ve written about that here and here.

If you are able to support one of these efforts financially….

Maybe one of the above would work for you?

If you have any questions, please leave them as a comment. If you’re still wondering if your donation could make a difference, go read some of these:

Make a Difference - Adopt a Service Member

Thank you letters to Soldiers' Angels in Germany

Thank you letters to Soldiers' Angels from troops (scroll to bottom to see latest letter from troops)

"Do Americans Care About British Soldiers" (my Angel buddy MaryAnn plays a role in this story related by Michael Yon)

Thanks in advance for any assistance that you can provide!

Love and smiles,


Member, Soldiers Angels, Wounded Team – Bethesda

Tribute to Our Military Health Care Providers

HT: Soldiers' Angels Germany

They're pretty special, and a former patient shows appreciation through this video.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Blanket-Making Marathon Busts Record AGAIN :-) (UPDATED again!)

Great link from the other Lisa - tons of photos of the blanket-making party!!

UPDATE from Matt and Lisa in the comments! Total? 335!!! YAY! :-)
Just a quick post to let you know.... 313+ Blankets of Hope were made in Bowie, MD on Saturday! (I don't know the final tally as I had to leave a little before 4pm)


That wipes out last year's record of 242, which is a pretty amazing effort and so MUCH needed. These blankets are a cozy, personal touch included in our much-appreciated Soldiers' Angels First Response Backpacks. Read a message from a recent recipient HERE.

All of the blankets made on Saturday got boxed up for shipment to MaryAnn in Germany, where they'll be distributed at our Landstuhl Regional Medical Center. See all those boxes below??!? MaryAnn called in to say hi and to let all the blanket-makers know how much their efforts are appreciated. MaryAnn often delivers the blankets to troops herself, so she gets their feedback first hand.

If you'd like to make a *NO-SEW* fleece blanket for a wounded troop, click HERE for instructions (size for Germany is 45" x 60" minimum) and then click HERE to send an email to MaryAnn to get mailing instructions.

Back to Saturday's fun... here are some of the busy little hands that tied a bunch of blankets at my table. Those hands belong to some 4th grade girl scouts. They took the lead tying the knots and their moms and I did the cutting. Amazingly enough, one of the mom/daughter pairs were the same two that I helped get going last year! Small world in Bowie, huh?

Maybe you'd like to have a blanket making party, too?

Kudos to Lisa and Matt for orchestrating the event once again - what a wonderful achievement! And really fun, too :-)