KSDK-- An O'Fallon, Illinois, wounded veterans advocacy group is planning a road trip to Fort Leonard Wood in southwest Missouri, next weekend, to present a picnic for recovering veterans and their families.
Members of the O'Fallon, Illinois, chapter of Hope for Heroes are traveling to Fort Leonard Wood early Saturday.
Chip Shaffer is project coordinator. Shaffer is a Navy veteran. His son, Army specialist and combat engineer Charles Shaffer is recovering at Walter Reed Medical Center after an IED explosion in Iraq two years ago.
At a fund-raiser Saturday at the O'Fallon/Fairview Heights Moose Lodge, Shaffer said, "There are sixty-nine wounded warriors in the Warrior Transition Unit at Fort Leonard Wood that have family members down there. What we're doing is we're doing a free bar-b-q for them."
Shaffer spoke of the group's partnership with the Moose Lodge.
"Moose has been great. We partnered with them about two months ago. And we can get more involved now in the community. We're doing collection drives."
Shaffer said there are still needs to be filled before the trip to Fort Leonard Wood, Saturday, May 22.
"Right now we're needing bottled water," he said. "We're still needing serviceable card tables with folding chairs, and we're needing outdoor entertainment equipment, such as croquet sets, horse shoes, things like that."
To arrange pick-up of donations, Chip Shaffer you can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by cellular telephone at 618-567-5315.
Hope for Heroes is a program presented by Epsilon Sigma Alpha International, and directly supported by the Xi Chi Chapter of O'Fallon. More information is available on the website of the group's local chapter, which is www.esa-xichi.org/heroes.
Shaffer explained the need for card tables and folding chairs.
"What we want to do is get them in the common rooms, where they get out and do something other than sit in their room. So the card tables get them out, get them inter-mixing with other people within the Warrior Transition Unit down there, and gives them an opportunity to interface with each other and talk about what's going on."
It's a small part of a much larger effort by Hope for Heroes to provide wounded service members with conveniences as they make their way out of the combat theater.
"One thing that many people don't understand is a kid may come out that's been wounded, and all he's got to carry his personal affects in is a plastic bag," said Shaffer. "So we try to get a backpack over to them or a tote bag with a phone card in it so they can call family and let them know where they're at, what's going on. Plus personal hygiene items, snacks, hand-held games, things like that. We want to help them get back here to the United States for further treatment.
It's a project that is close to home for Shaffer, since his son's leg was amputated after that IED attack, September 1, 2008.
"I arrived at Walter Reed Medical Center September 5," said Shaffer. "Met the ambulance as it pulled up to the hospital. I spent the next 8 months literally living there. My son lost his right leg. He was seriously wounded. And the support I got from all the organizations was just phenomenal."
It explains Shaffer's passion about something as simple as card tables and folding chairs.
"We need to push psychological recovery real hard, because we need to get these kids, instead of hibernating and thinking they did something wrong because they got wounded, we need to get them out and involved."
Shaffer's conversation turns personal, once again, as he alludes to his son.
"He wants to stay on active duty," said Shaffer. "And I'm encouraging him to do that, because he's not coming home, sitting on the couch, playing video games and watching TV. He's going to get on with his life. He's got a life to live."