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Helping Our Veterans

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I had no idea that on 9/11/01 at 6am when I pretripped my Hunter Motorcoach as I had hundreds of times before enroute to pick up a group of senior citizens to go to a luncheon theater near New Paltz, NY that on that day my life would change forever. We decided to stop at the New Baltimore service area on the NY Thruway and that is where the change began. We saw the second plane hit the Twin Towers and I knew that I would be called upon to move troops as our company had a military contract. How right I was, I had just reached our destination when I received a phone call and was told to feed the group, take them home, and wait for further instructions. I received a call a short while later instructing me to go to Niagara Falls, NY to pick up a Military Police company and transport them to Stewart Airforce Base in Newburg, NY. When I arrived in Newburg, I was told go to your bus and get some sleep. At 2am I was awaken and instructed to take my troops to NYC . That was a scene that I will never forget. Ever since that day I have transported troops on a regular basis and have seen too many that I have known give the ultimate sacrifice and many more come back with serious injuries knowing that life will never be the same for them and their families.

In 2010 as National Northeast Area Vice President I took part in a phone conference regarding a request from former Marine Sgt. Bryan Purcell requesting assistance to transport Marine Sgt Eddie Ryan from Ellenville, NY to Washington, DC to take part in the Marine Marathon. Sgt Ryan was a Marine sniper who was on a rooftop in Iraq when he was shot in the head twice and was revived and after a long recovery in Bethesda Navy hospital came home with a brain injury and paralyzed. except for his one arm. When interviewed on a television program and asked his goal in life he said take part in the Marine marathon. Sgt Purcell heard the program and as Marines do he made sure it would happen. Since I had contacts in the RV industry and was involved in the bus industry I volunteered to assist Sgt Purcell. I contacted Alpin Haus RV and received the use of a motorhome to transport Sgt. Ryan but found that his wheelchair would not fit through the door. an airline wheelchair solved that problem as it was not as wide. The next step was to secure a Wheelchair bus as it would make the transportation in Washington easier. I contacted Adirondack Trailways who donated a bus and driver. When in Washington , Sgt Ryan asked to visit Bethesda Military Hospital so he could thank the doctors and nurses that saved his life. Little did we know that at Bethesda we would meet General Jim Amos the Marine Commandant who gave Eddie a medal. On the way back to our hotel for dinner Sgt Ryan asked to pick up a friend Specialist Brendan Morraco who lost both arms and legs . to have dinner with us. I will never forget him coming out of Walter Reed Hospital riding on his brothers back with his prothestic arm around his brothers neck to hold on.

John Ponte who was assisting us and was a retired Navy veteran said to me "Paul we have to help him". John contacted the Tunnel to Towers Foundation in NYC and as a result Brendan had a new special smart home built for him which unfortunately was recently destroyed by Hurricane Sandy. I have arrainged for an FMCA e-mail Blast to raise funds to help rebuild it.

After our return from the trip Sgt. Purcell and I decided that we would continue working for the veterans causes and gave a presentation to FMCA at a convention to request that a national FMCA program be established. However it was thought that since we wanted to focus on more than one service area that it would not work.

Upon returning home I spoke with my Northeast Area Board and we formed the Northeast Veterans Outreach Program and we continued our work. which included starting fundraising for a home for Airforce Veteran Joe Wilkinson who is a victim of chemical poisoning and is paralyzed from the waist down. In cooperation with the Tunnel to Towers foundation, he will move into his specially built home on December 7th.

Our next step was to form a Not For Profit organization independent of FMCA We now have formed Veterans Hope Foundation which has among it's Board Of Directors veterans. We have found that no task is to great if you work together and network. We have developed a network of many service organizations such as Tents For Troops, Blue Water Navy Vets., American Legion, VFW, Schriners, Veterans For Change, Tunnel to Towers, NEEDS which furnishes therapy dogs for disabled vets and several other organizations. Recently we were asked to form a NYS chapter of Pets For Vets which supplies companion animals for vets suffering from Post traumatic stress situations and other needs. That is being accomplished. We are presently forming a Military Families Chorus which is modeled after the Military Wives chorus in England . This chorus will do benefit concerts for fundraising for the disabled veterans.

There is no task too great to accomplish if we are only willing to work together to make it a reality. You can only fail if you don't try. What a way for FMCA to reach the age group that we need to reach to keep this great organization growing, by reaching out to the veterans and helping to meet their needs.

Paul DuBois Northeast Area Vice President

President Veterans Hope Foundation

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Hi Jim Our contact information is

E-mail veteranshopefoundation@ymail.com

Phone 518-829-7767

Snail mail Veterans Hope Foundation, P.O. Box 137,119 Second Avenue East, tribes Hill, NY, 12177

Our organization assists disabled veterans in several ways. We help build homes, obtain benefits, arrainge transportation, among other services. We were recently asked by pets For Vets to establish a New York State Chapter and are in the process of doing so. We are also forming a Veterans Hope Foundation Military Families Chorus which will include spouses of deployed soldiers and will perform at concerts to raise funds for our work. We network with several other veterans organizations to serve the disabled vets.

Below is part of an article about the ceremony we just had on Christmas Eve day to turn over the keys to a $450,000 completly handicapped accessable Smart Home to Sgt Joe Wilkinson and his family. Made possible by all of our organizations such as Tunnel To Towers, patriot Guard, Rolling Thunder and veterans Hope Foundation working together.

Before the Wilkinson’s were introduced to their new home, many people got up to speak about the outpouring of community support that went into the house, the expediency and dedication from Ponte to make sure the house was complete before Christmas and the importance of helping wounded war¬riors. But while the Wilkinson’s were grateful for the new home, those in attendance wanted to make sure to express their gratitude for the sacrifices made by Wilkinson for his country.

Wilkinson became para¬lyzed after suffering degenerative nerve dam¬age, known as Gulf War Syndrome, due to being exposed to toxic chemicals during his tours of duty in Iraq. Medical bills started putting a financial strain on Wilkinson. But after Paul Dubois, who works for Hunter Motor Coach, Inc., saw a story on televi¬sion about a fundraiser thrown by the Troy Police Benevolent Association, he was determined to get in contact with him.

After making a friend in Ponte while transporting Sgt. Eddie Ryan, another wounded soldier, to Washington D.C. for the D.C. marathon, DuBois was able to get in contact with Wilkinson and visit his home.

"I was able to meet him and see his house was so small," DuBois said. "I said, ‘We can’t let that go.’"

With DuBois’ help, the Stephen Stiller Tunnel to Towers foundation was able to provide what Wilkinson said is "the best Christmas present ever." And Wilkinson already has plans to be involved in other projects put forth by Building for America’s Bravest. In his opinion, it’s the least he could do.

"There are no words I can say to express my grat¬itude," Wilkinson said while sitting in a chair in his new home. "I’ll pay this forward and my actions will show."

Andrew Beam may also be reached at 270-1294.

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