You can help send twelve Soldiers and Marines to the Endeavor Games:
The 6th Annual UCO Endeavor Games for Athletes with Physical Disabilities. The Games will be held June 9-12, 2005, in Edmond, Oklahoma. The Endeavor Games were created when a need was found for a multi-sport event for athletes with physical disabilities in 2000, the inaugural year of the Games. Seven sports were featured for 119 athletes from seven states and Australia. Participation in the Games has more than doubled since inception to 2003, 270 athletes competed in eight sports, traveling from 26 states and two countries.
And this year Operation Comfort, an organization (applying for 501(3) status) wants to send twelve wounded Soldiers and Marines from Brooke Army Medical Center (San Antonio, Texas). Estimated costs are about $800 per military personnel which totals at around $9,600.
Janis, an American Airlines Flight Attendant that has been taking care of our wounded heroes for decades, started Operation Comfort to help support these heroes at BAMC. Soldiers' Angels is also supporting Operation Comfort's efforts.
Our organization is trying to raise funds for 12 amputee or wheelchair bound Soldiers & Marines to attend the Endeavor Games June 9-12. We will have to have them there on June 8th. On the 9th & 10th are clinics to teach our wounded how to play wheelchair basketball, wheelchair fencing, sit volleyball and first step track and field. It is important to us to be able to get these great men and women involved in sports again and this is a perfect way of doing it...Operation Comfort has not received our 501 C3 yet so we are going through the Marine Corps League Foundation and the Williamson County Det. Marine Corps League.Checks may either be made out to Williamson Co. Det. MCL or Operation Comfort and mailed to me:
6304 Lakeshore Drive
Lago Vista, Texas 78645
JANIS ROZNOWSKI & OPERATION COMFORT
In 1969, when I was 20 years old and living in San Antonio, Texas my roommate and I would go over to the old Brooke Army Medical Center (BAMC) on Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas and visit our wounded soldiers who were coming in from Vietnam. Some of the wounded could get day passes and we would take them to the movies, and sometimes to dinner. I can remember one soldier who had lost his legs and he was in a wheelchair and we pushed him out to the car and there must have been something wrong with his buddy’s arms because he could not help us get the wheelchair into the trunk of our car. I can remember how heavy that wheelchair was. We had a wonderful time with them and although I do not recall the soldier’s names, I have never forgotten them and often times wonder how they are doing. I loved visiting BAMC.
I began flying for American Airlines in June 1970 and during that time American was flying MAC (Military Air Charters) which was transporting our military back and forth to Viet Nam. All of the junior flight attendants wanted to fly the MAC trips, to be able to do our part, but due to the flights going to the most senior flight attendants, the trips were out of reach for the junior flight attendants.
Desert Storm came and went and still I could not fly our military due to my seniority.
I have now been flying for American Airlines for 35 years and I am on our international operation.
When the war was declared the Civilian Reserve Air Fleet (CRAF) went into effect. During times of conflict the United States government will activate commercial aircraft to transport our military men and women near the area of conflict. We call them CRAF Missions. These flights are staffed with commercial pilots and flight attendants and we volunteer for these missions. Both the company and the government do not want is anyone on these flights who do not want to be there. Plus, there was the issue of Chemical Weapons so we were issued chemical suits and gas masks as well as the atropine shots.
American Airlines began flying the CRAF Missions in February 2003 and my first Mission was March 18, 2003 when I carried the 24th Marines who were from Saginaw, Michigan and Toledo, Ohio into the Middle East. I wanted to do something for these brave men and their families who were about to face some very difficult times. So I asked if I could take their pictures and if they would write their names in my book along with the name and phone number of their loved one I would be happy to call them once I returned home to let their families know where they were. You see the 24th Marines had not been able to talk to their families or e-mail them for several weeks. Their families did not know where they were or that they had even left the United States.
As I took their picture I assigned them a frame number and had them place that frame number next to their name in my book (the only way I could keep the pictures with their names). It occurred to me that they might like to write a personal message for me to relay to their families so I told them that if they would like to send a personal message I would relay it to their loved one.
When I returned home I called their loved one and mailed the picture. By this time the war had started. The families were overwhelmed with joy and relief in knowing where their son or husband was because they did not know whether they were in the United States or in another country. They had not heard from them for weeks.
I called and sent the single pictures to the families for the first two missions and I realized that these men and women had a lot to say to their families and so I began giving them stationary so they could say what they needed to say. I continued taking pictures of the entire flight sometimes two & three hundred of them on my digital camera and mailing their letters once I reached home. It occurred to me that they might like to have pictures of the entire flight and so I then began burning all the pictures onto a CD and sending the families the CD. The families really liked this because they knew so many of the guys on board not just their husband, son or wife.
As of this date I have flown around 14 CRAF Missions in and out of the Middle East. Each time taking pictures and burning them to CD’s and mailing them to their families, all at my own expense.
Having the responsibility of flying our Marines & Soldiers into war I felt I also had the responsibility of helping them along the way in anyway that I could. In August 2003, I began visiting our wounded Marines & Soldiers who were recovering at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Landstuhl, Germany. I was instrumental in raising clothing, toiletries, games, and DVD’s for our wounded soldiers at Landstuhl.
In January 2004, I realized that our wounded were also being sent to Brooke Army Medical Center (BAMC) on Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas so I began visiting them in San Antonio because it is so much easier and closer than Germany. Only 2 hours from my home in Austin.
Operation Comfort was born in January 2004, on one of my first visits to BAMC when I asked a soldier if there was anything that he needed and he assured me there wasn’t so I asked if there was anything he wanted and I noticed that there was hesitation in his voice. I asked again several times and at last he said he wished they had computers so they could talk to their buddies in Iraq. I replied that if he wanted computers I would get him computers. Then I mentioned it to a nurse and she said she wished they had a living room for them since they were there for such long periods of time. Rooms with computers and a big screen TV to watch their sports together, a place where they have play stations and X-Boxes. A room like they might have at home. I told her if she wanted a living room I would get her a living room.
April 2004, American Airlines did a small story on what the employees of American Airlines were doing to make a difference. They mentioned my efforts trying to raise funds for our living room project and gave my contact information. Passengers read this article in the American Way magazine which is in the seat back pocket of the plane. Once this appeared many of our customers contacted me for more information about contributing. Some of these people wanted to go through a 501(c) 3.
I had just recently signed up to be a VA volunteer with the Cedar Park, Texas VA outpatient clinic and was working with Mr. Gil Newfield of the Williamson County Det. MCL, Georgetown, Texas. I asked Gil if he knew of a 501(c) 3 that we could go through and he said that I might be able to use his detachments. When it turned out that they were a 501(c) 4 he and Commandant Cliff Williams turned to the Marine Corps League Foundation and asked if we could use their 501(c) 3 until Operation Comfort could establish their own 501(c) 3. We were granted permission by the MCLF to use their 501(c) 3.
Operation Comfort was able to change the waiting room on the burn unit into a living room with a 50” TV, DVD/VHS player, leather sectionals and two recliners. Due to infection control issues, we are just now able to place computers in this room. On the orthopedic unit we were able to paint, carpet, place 4 computers, all voice activated for those who cannot use their hands, also with cam cameras, printers, an X-BOX, DVD/VHS player, movies and books.
The ribbon cutting ceremony for Operation Comfort was held on October 14, 2004. Our Marines and Soldiers have used the rooms many times throughout each day communicating with their family and friends. They watch television and play games and most of all they have a place that is their own. Many times they have expressed to me how much the room means to them.
Our second project was assisting in remodeling the Activities Daily Living Lab in order to coincide with the new Amputee Center that was about to open. This is an apartment within BAMC set up to teach our amputees how to live in their home again. They retrain Marines and Soldiers how to use their upper extremities to do everyday tasks such as making a bed or ironing, showering, shaving or combing their hair. Cooking & Baking-learning how to open cans, hold a pot, turn on a stove and open the refrigerator and oven doors. They are taught how to retrieve and carry items from the refrigerator such as milk and eggs and carrying items using their prosthesis. The apartment was already in place but it was in serious need of more functionality. We began this project on December 14th and we had until January 10th because the ribbon cutting for the new Amputee Center was scheduled for January 14, 2005.
While visiting one of our wounded Marines, Jacob Schick, at BAMC I met his mother Debbie Schick and we visited for about three hours while Jacob slept. I told Debbie about the computers and the living room that Jacob could use once he felt better. Debbie said that she was an interior decorator in Dallas and that she would be happy to help in any other projects while she was there with her son. After Captain Watt asked if we could help with his project I called upon Debbie and she was so gracious and more than happy to help.
Although the Army was paying for this particular project, I believe that private citizens would like to be able to participate in something that will help our wounded and amputees. I called upon Gene and Ann Franz with Classic Cabinet Designs in Elgin, Texas and they called upon their suppliers and friends. Ann and Gene are custom cabinet builders and they built and donated red oak custom cabinets to our project. They called upon Cal Monger who donated the Formica for the counter tops; they also called upon Steven Plessala who donated the iron work in the kitchen and the rest of the apartment. Ann also contacted one of their suppliers Factory Builder of San Antonio and they donated a new stove. I asked Star Furniture, Louis Shanks and Chair King of San Antonio to give us a discount on the furniture. I also asked Bed Bath & Beyond, Lowe’s, Thad Ziegler Glass & Mirror and Stone Appliances for discounts. Everyone was happy to be a part of such a wonderful effort in helping our amputees.
There is a second part to this project and that is the Occupational Therapy game room. There is a room in the Occupational Therapy room that is used to teach our amputees how to begin to socialize by playing basketball and other games. Captain Watt asked if we could help redo this room. Operation Comfort place a 50” Samsung TV in the room as well as a pool table. With the newly painted walls, the new furniture and the pool table it is a huge hit with our wounded. They now look forward to going to Occupational Therapy and often times get there early in order to play pool, basketball, watch TV or play the X-BOX that was donated.
The ribbon cutting was held January 14, 2005, and it was a huge success and everyone loves the apartment as well as the game room. Several amputees have made lunch in there a number of times. One day four of them fried chicken and mashed potatoes. When they proudly told me of their accomplishments one of them asked if I could get them some cake pans because when they baked their cake they had to bake it in a Pyrex dish and the soldier said “that’s not what you bake a cake in. We need cake pans and measuring cups and measuring spoons.” I laughed and told them that we would have put those things in the kitchen if we had known they were going to be baking! They now have cake pans, measuring cups and measuring spoons.
On February 9, 2005, Operation Comfort was able to assist in the First Annual Veteran’s Winter Festival which was held in Sun Valley, Idaho. We were able to help all along the way with things that needed to be done. Three wounded Marines, and 5 amputee Soldiers, along with their wives, attended. This event transformed our Marines and Soldiers who thought they would never be able to ski again or ever have the opportunity. You see when first faced with the reality of a disability, many experience a loss of confidence, depression and believe their lives have ended. Having the great opportunity to attend such an event was truly inspiring for them.
In late July and early August 2005, Operation Comfort will once again join forces with Sun Valley Adaptive Sports, the community of Sun Valley and our wounded Soldiers & Marines at Brooke Army Medical Center on a wilderness area, river rafting, fly fishing trip on the Snake River in Idaho.
Operation Comfort will sponsor 12 amputee Soldiers & Marines in the University of Central Oklahoma ENDEAVOR GAMES for athletes with physical disabilities to be held June 9-12, 2005 in Edmond, Oklahoma. There will be clinics in Wheelchair Basketball, Wheelchair Fencing, First Step Track & Field, Sit Volleyball and Swimming. Operation Comfort is seeking donations to sponsor our wounded Soldiers & Marines in this worthwhile event. These young men and women have spent a great deal of their lives involved in sports and now they are returning from Iraq and Afghanistan as amputees, vision impaired and paralyzed. It is important for them to know that they can once again enjoy sports using adaptive equipment. As Americans we must support them in all they want to accomplish in their lives for they are they ones who answered America’s call and it is they who have suffered more than we can imagine. Let us now do our part by opening our hearts.
Operation Comfort is in the process of redoing the Soldier Family Assistance Center (SFAC) which is across from the hospital next to the Fisher House. The SFAC was put together quickly last year when the Army determined that our out med wounded needed a place to go and know that that space was for them and their families. When the wounded are flown into BAMC the SFAC serves as a place where the families can find information to help them, a place to retire to when the pressures become to difficult, a refuge where they can find other families who are having the same experiences.
The Soldier Family Assistance Center handles 2,500 visits a month. The way they know this is that they have people sign in when they enter the room. One family member or wounded may come in several times a day but each time they have to sign in and that is how they know the number of visitations. The furniture is very heavily used as well as the carpet. The SFAC is a very important facility helping families of the wounded at all times and it is time for a fresh look.
Operation Comfort is in the process of collecting funds for this project.
Once we complete the Soldier Family Assistance Center project we will begin work on the ICU Burn Center family waiting room, where we will give our heart broken families a comfortable place where they can relax and rest. The impact of this remodel will affect every family member, who has to stay in the waiting room for hours at a time. Burn care for our Soldiers and Marines requires family members to spend extended periods of time during the patient’s hospital stay in the Burn Center and during hours of surgery. In addition, many of the family members hold all night vigils for our critical patients. The families of our servicemen and women travel from all over the world to Fort Sam Houston to be at their bedside. Visiting family members often use the waiting room for five or more hours each day of the week for months at a time. There are limited areas that families can relax and be close to their loved ones. The families of our soldiers deserve the best waiting room that we can offer them. Operation Comfort is excited about doing what we can to help make a stressful and disheartening time less painful for these families who have sacrificed so much.
I continue to visit the wounded each chance I get. Often times I find I can make the 4 hour drive (roundtrip) twice a month, sometimes weekly and sometimes twice weekly, depending upon my flying schedule. Each time I go, I try and take the wounded a gift of some kind. There have been times that I have been too tired to drive home and so I stay the night in a hotel and at all times the funds come out of my personal funds.
Glenda Johnson Founder and Director of Medical Wings International and a cargo agent for American Airlines donates red bulls for me to give our wounded. Her brother was a P.O.W. during Vietnam and as I give them to our wounded I tell the story of Glenda’s brother and of his survival. The bull takes on greater meaning for our wounded and I can tell from their expression and the way they hold it that the bull means a great deal to them.
Operation Comfort is now incorporated in the State of Texas and we are filling out our paperwork for our 501(c) 3. 100% of funds collected by Operation Comfort goes to our soldiers, their families and projects we are working on. There are no overhead or operating expenses. All expenses and overhead come out of personal funds. We believe that when people give to Operation Comfort they want their donations to go to the wounded. We honor that feeling.
Operation Comfort is an on-going project, which comes from the heart of all who have participated in making it a reality. They are people who in some cases make up corporations and other cases are single people who are working on their own. There is no difference in these people at all for they are people who care, love and respect our military and want to do what they can do to add a little comfort to their lives. They recognize and honor the sacrifices that our men and women of the military are making everyday.
I have never forgotten the wounded soldiers who served in Vietnam that I visited at the old BAMC in 1969. I wonder where they are and how they are doing. They are always in my prayers.