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An MOAA Christmas

By Ty Cobb Jr.
You may not know it, but there are over 700 homeless vets in and around Rowan County. Among these vets are many who have sustained serious, often disabling wounds that have left them in dire straits, not only physically, but financially and emotionally.
Fortunately, there are those who care about their plights. First, there are the federal Veterans Administration (VA) offices right here in Salisbury. Don Morrison works with the homeless vets by searching for accommodations, for which he gets a small about of grants from the feds. These grants help, but there remains a funding shortfall for the tasks he needs to accomplish. Debbie Volkmer works with returning “wounded warriors” in and around Rowan County watching after their welfare and assuring they get the medical care they deserve. Not a few have traumatic brain injuries (TBI) and/or post traumatic syndrome disorder (PTSD), and most are likely to be supporting a family (in my day — Vietnam era — few soldiers were married; today many are). Concerned individuals and some local organizations, such as the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA), help as they can.
I joined MOAA’s local chapter (Central Carolina) about four years ago. MOAA is a 370,000-member-strong national organization of active, retired, guard/reserve and former commissioned/warrant officers of all five services and the Public Health Service dedicated to furthering a strong national defense. Our local chapter supports national level efforts for a strong defense, but we are most proud of work we do locally. We support all the county Junior ROTC units and recently began a major effort in supporting the area’s homeless vets and the “wounded warriors” of whom we learned about 30 months ago.
At one of our luncheon meetings (we meet for lunch every other month during odd numbered months), a local VA speaker informed us about the plight of vets in our area and left us with a list of things (clothes, dishes, blankets, towels, and other house set-up items) the homeless vets needed. A few items trickled in at our next meeting. I rose and suggested that we really get serious about helping these homeless service members as “they may have supported us in the service.” At the subsequent meeting, I was swamped with “stuff” to help. I also got several checks to infuse Mr. Morrison’s emergency fund for assisting homeless. meeting does not go by that I do not receive several hundred dollars from individual members. To date we have collected over $4,000 for Morrison’s fund. I assure you that we will continue to collect “stuff” and funds to aid these homeless service members.
We also learned from the VA about local “wounded warriors” and their plights. In 2010, we “passed the hat” and bought a $250 Walmart Christmas gift card for one of these soldiers in financial need. In 2011, we upped the ante and were able to buy $250 cards for two such service members. I lightly cajoled the membership to “dig deeper,” and checks starting rolling in. One member pledged to buy a card by himself and two 50-year reunion classes (Salisbury and North Rowan High Schools) donated several hundred dollars. Bottom line — this year we were able to hand over enough cards to help six “wounded warriors” in our area!
Those six service members (three Army, two Marines and one Coast Guardswoman) accounted for 12 tours in Iraq and/or Afghanistan. Five suffered PTSD and had TBI.
Of interest, one of the service members we helped in 2011 happily reported that she had “paid the favor forward” by buying a Christmas ham this year for two families in need.
We hope to beat the six level soundly in 2013! If you want to help us, call me at 704-279-1477. If you want to join our 65-member-strong local MOAA chapter, call Bob Loeblein (USNR) at 704-636-4766 or our president, David Lee (USNR), at 704-636-6650.
Merry Christmas to all, and to all “good day!”

“My Turn” submissions should be between 500 and 700 words. Send to cverner@salisburypost.com with “My Turn” in the subject line. Include name, address, phone number and a digital photo of yourself if possible.

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