Thursday, November 13, 2008

Active Minds means Saved Lives

"Greater love hath no man than this; that a man lay down his life for his friends" -- John 15:13

In June of 2005, then Captain (now Major) Charles "Chuck" Ziegenfuss, led an armored patrol in force into an Iraqi town where intelligence had indicated an ambush of U.S. forces was planned.

On arriving in the town, Cpt. Ziegenfuss was approached by a local resident, and informed of a large IED that was placed near his house overnight. Because his tank could not cross a bridge over a small irrigation canal to enter the town, Cpt. Ziegenfuss dismounted, and was proceeding on foot to investigate; when a second IED that had been previously buried under the roadway was detonated.

Cpt. Ziegenfuss was blown several meters into the canal; suffering severe shrapnel wounds over almost the entirety of his body excepting where he was protected by armor. He also lost half of one hand, part of the other, and much of the skin and muscle on his arms and legs to the blast.

I'm proud to say I know Chuck, and I've shot with him (he's a damn fine shot even still). He's a funny guy, with a hell of a lot of guts. A lot of other folks would've said "Well, I've had enough now"... but that just isn't the kind of guy he is. He's back on active duty, instructing ROTC cadets in his home state of Pennsylvania, and he plans on staying on active duty until they kick him out.

When Chuck was in the hospital recovering from his wounds (I should note, it's been three years and he is still in recovery; though he has been back on active duty since 2006); he figured something out: What he really wanted most, to help him get through the pain, and the boredom, and the mind numbing misery that is an extended hospital stay... was a laptop.

Thing is though, Chuck had two half hands, both wrapped in bandages. How was he going to use a laptop?

Well, he's not a quitter (there's an understatement). He had an idea, and he asked Soldiers Angels to help him out. Could they get him a laptop, with voice command software installed on it, so he could run the thing without using his hands much?

The Soldiers Angels motto is "Let no soldier go unloved", and these people move mountains, at great personal cost in time, energy, and money; to make sure that every soldier gets what they need to help them get through their times of hardship.

Turns out, the Angels more than lived up to their reputation, and they could indeed get Chuck a laptop, and they did, and it worked. He was able to keep his mind active, and keep communicating with the world at large even while he was laid up.

In fact, it was such an improvement to his morale, that he was able to (in fact he damn near forced them to) reduce his pain medication. So long as he could keep his mind occupied with other things, his pain didn't seem to matter as much.

Now, at this point, you might have got the notion that Chuck isn't one to lay down, even when he's lost 30lbs of muscle and bone, and is on enough morphine to kill a horse.

See, he figured, that if a voice activated laptop did so much for him, why couldn't they do this for other wounded soldiers. So he pitched the idea to Soldiers Angels; and Project Valour IT was born.

Voice Activated Laptops for Our Injured Troops - Valour IT

Valour IT buys laptop computers, and accessibility accessories for wounded soldiers. Be they wounded in combat or training, if they need a laptop, and Valor IT has the money, they're getting a laptop and everything they need to make it work.

...If they have the money.

So far, Valour IT has raised enough to give over 1500 laptops to our wounded soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines; but there are more wounded men and women that could use our help.

So, just to keep this in the military spirit (and to use our rivalry to best effect), they have an annual interservice fundraising drive; with teams from and supporting each of the services competing to raise the most cash for the cause.

One should note, all the money ends up being used for ALL service members; the money raised by the Air Force team doesn't go only to Airmen. It's just a way of having a little fun while raising money for a good cause.

This is a standard, tax deductible charitable donation, and I can't imagine a better cause. All my charitable giving for the last two years, and for the foreseeable future (excepting that going to my parish), is going to Valour IT; and I ask you to please help in any way you can.