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Wheatland Sun

Raising Funds for Wounded Veterans

May 26, 2022 12:00AM ● By By Elise Spleiss

Suzanne Winters, president of American Legion Auxiliary California District 6, received an award for helping collect items for the 2021 California fires from Commander Brian McGuinnes. Photo by Jim Trapp

Raising Funds for Wounded Veterans [5 Images] Click Any Image To Expand

SACRAMENTO REGION, CA (MPG) - For decades the American Legion and its counterpart, the American Legion Auxiliary have been known for their tireless work helping veterans at home and overseas in a myriad of different ways.

Carrying on this legacy, May 14, 2022, was a special evening of fun and relaxation but with a most important purpose: to raise funds for the American Legion’s program, Operation Comfort Warriors (OCW). Attendees came from all over Northern California up to the Oregon border. The event took place at the California Railroad Museum in Sacramento and began with a full opening ceremony complete with bagpipes, posting of colors, the National Anthem and Chaplain’s invocation.

Event host, Commander of the American Legion’s 6th District, Brian McGuinness led the evening. As is tradition with the armed forces, the program began with eight toasts each followed by a response to honor our government, armed forces, others who serve including non-military first responders, and our fallen who have died in defense of freedom.  The meaning/explanation of the empty POW/MIA table set for one in the room was read by Jennifer Turner ALA President of Unit 233 followed by the final toast made with water.

The United Service Organizations (USO) and its work with veterans for 81 years was recognized.

Commander McGuinness honored Suzanne Winters, president of California’s 6th district of the American Legion Auxiliary with an award for the work her units accomplished in helping collect food and other items for the victims of Northern California’s fires in 2021. In the end 60,000 pounds of goods had been delivered to all the victims of all the fires. McGuinnes spoke of the often-unrecognized work the auxiliary does working side-by-side with the American Legion since its inception.

Douglas Chace, OCW Director of Operations American Legion, National Headquarters American Legion, elaborated on the program, “OCW is the best kept secret of the American Legion despite the thousands of veterans whose lives it has impacted. OCW grants provide items, events and experiences to wounded, ill and injured veterans that no government program would even consider including outings, video games, arts and crafts, televisions, iPads, sporting equipment, winter kits and food for homeless veterans, rehabilitation equipment such a recumbent bikes or elliptical workout systems, even tickets to ball games, and much more.”

Their work is carried out with little fanfare and help is always needed. So much so that it was decided by American Legion Auxiliary member Lara Chan and Commander McGuinnes to bring their work to the forefront by putting on its first Annual Armed Forces Day Ball, with proceeds going to OCW.

Besides this unique program, two attendees also have a unique story. Eileen Safford and Breona Calvert are both connected to the military while also reigning beauty queens. Safford has served in the United States Army, and after close to 32 years of service recently retired as a master sergeant from the United States Air Force Reserve following a work injury.  She has been in pageants since she was in foster care at the age of 15. Her platform is to fight for foster care reform as she survived being placed in 42 foster homes. She is presently Ms. California Continental Worldwide. 

Breona Calvert has been on active duty for 18 years in the United States Air Force and plans to serve another 20 years. She is a Technical Sergeant at Beale Air Force Base where she supports over 300 personnel. She is the current reigning Mrs. California with Continental Worldwide Pageants. Her platform is the Well-being of the Female Veteran, and she is active in her community working towards her goals. She will be competing for both the title of Mrs. Continental Worldwide and Mrs. USA in July 2022.

Tickets for the ball included a prime rib buffet, live music and dancing, a silent auction, full bar, and a craft beer tasting table. Attendees were free to visit the train museum at their leisure. The evening finally ended with dancing until the lights went down and music ended. Attendees gained a new appreciation of our wounded, ill, and injured veterans and those who care for them.

For more information on Operation Comfort Warriors visit www.legion.org/operationcomfort

Operation Comfort Warriors’ website says:

“As the war in Afghanistan winds down, U.S. military personnel are coming home where they join other recent veterans who served in Iraq. Many of these servicemembers have left the battlefield only to be faced with a new fight: a struggle to overcome the mental and physical wounds suffered during deployment. Those with Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) are returning home in unprecedented numbers. In fact, the Army has said that up to 20 percent of the men and women who served in Afghanistan or Iraq have suffered TBI.

“Even as the wars conclude, those in the military still face inherent dangers while fighting the global war on terrorism, during training exercises and while performing other dangerous duties.

“While the care at many military hospitals and warrior transition units is extraordinary, The American Legion’s Operation Comfort Warriors (OCW) program was created to provide “nonessentials” – items that help wounded warriors’ recovery but don’t usually show up as a budget line on government spreadsheets.”

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