The Christmas and New Year holiday season always brings out the best in most riders, but this especially holds true for veteran riders across the nation. Why is this so? If you are a veteran, you most likely spent some past holidays away from family and friends as you served our country. As we know, this can be a very lonely time of the year, especially if we were overseas, and worse, in combat. So, we veterans tend to band together with other riders to raise money and gather gifts for those less fortunate, who need just a little help. This unique force of men and women dressed in leather and riding motorcycles, gently touch children across the nation every year, giving them a happiness which would have surely eluded them.
This year’s holiday season touches the veteran rider even deeper, as we have fellow brothers and sisters fighting a daily bloody battle in Iraq, with no end date in sight. With the ordered increase of more troop deployments, instant TV coverage of the war carnage and the casualty rate on the rise; this is beginning to resemble the early days of Vietnam. Why do I bring this up now, especially since we are just finishing up a great year of helping others? Our service member casualty rate is increasing, with a ratio of one killed in action (KIA) to nine wounded in action (WIA). That being said, we have over 1,325 KIA in Iraq today, which means that approximately 11,934 service members have been wounded.
The majority of those WIA are hospitalized with traumatic life threatening injuries. These are the ones which need our support over the next year and beyond. Our 2005 charity rides should have an increased focus to support those combat wounded veterans and their immediate families. The money raised will help the wounded soldier stay in phone contact with family members and friends, reduce the out-of-pocket expenses of their loved ones morale visits and provide a little more quality of life for the wounded as they struggle towards recovery during their stay in the hospital. With so many wounded, including over 200 amputees, their hospital stay is months, not weeks or days.
One such rider group, the Southern Riders from Columbia, South Carolina, recognized this need and sponsored a charity ride to support the WIA service members. On December 12, 2004, motorcycle riders, both veterans and supporters, revved up their engines and took a 100-mile ride for the Veteran’s Christmas Charity Ride. They rode to the WJB Dorn VA Medical Center in Columbia, South Carolina to drop off gifts for 216 veterans WIA defending our nation during wartime.
Jim Wertman, the organizer of the event, says he was inspired by his own 30 years of military service, 'These are people that have served their country, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Gulf, Afghanistan and now Iraq, who have to stay in the hospital the majority of the year, so we are taking Christmas to them.' Jim said the turnout was bigger than expected with over 230 bikes and 350 riders and friends. Many attended to support the cause, even though they didn’t own a bike! Many of the donated gifts needed by the vets were warm clothes, pajamas, socks, slippers, soft candy, radios, books, postage stamps and calling cards.
Also, the U.S. Angels sent me the following e-mail, informing us of their support. This is the kind of backing our wounded soldiers need:
I work at the Pentagon; - I put this group together after the Pentagon Foundation contacted me about helping to raise money for the soldiers at Walter Reed. We've been fund-raising for them since Feb 04. In fact, this Sunday (12/19), we've been invited to visit the 5th floor at Walter Reed where the most seriously injured soldiers are. After that, we're heading over to the Fisher house to throw a big Christmas party for the soldiers & their families there. We got a wish list from them and figured we'd hit local dept. stores to see who would donate. Hecht's told us look no further, they're filling the entire list - we pick up the gifts this Friday ;-)
If you want more info on us - check out our website at http://www.usangels2005.com.
5B137 – Pentagon
As the Nation begins to grasp the human suffering our WIA servicemen and women are now undergoing, they will be looking to help in some way. I ask that you take it upon yourself to help shape the direction of future charity rides to support our brothers and sisters. This does not mean we abandon the groups we already support, but to measure who is in greater need of our hard earned money and precious spare time.
There are many great organizations which support our wounded military members. I will leave you with four, which are 100 percent valid and all the money donated goes to those in need:
1) The Fisher House allows you to contribute toward the cost of lodging for a family whose loved one was injured in Operation Iraqi Freedom or the war on terror, visit www.fisherhouse.org.
2) Operation Wounded Soldiers strives to provide quality programs
that make it possible for caring citizens to help our wounded Armed Forces personnel
as they fight for our freedom, visit www.operationwoundedsoldiers.org/index.htm.
3) Operation Uplink is a unique program that keeps military personnel and hospitalized veterans in touch with their families and loved ones by providing them with a free phone card. Using contributions from supporters like you, Operation Uplink purchases phone cards and distributes them to servicemen and women, who are separated from those they care about, visit www.operationuplink.org.
4) To write a message of encouragement for any hero injured in the line of duty, visit www.caringbridge.org/wounded/heroes.
5) To volunteer at a VA hospital and provide comfort for veterans of past wars, visit www.va.gov/sta/guide/home.asp?DIVISION=ALL.
Have a great 2005 riding year!