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War Wife Weekly: Project Valour-IT is a Techie’s Dream

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Hospital patients have held a special place in my heart for many years. With our recent life change from private practice to my husband being a surgeon in the US Army (and currently serving in Afghanistan), a different world has opened up — that of the wounded warrior.

Soldiers’ Angels, the non-profit organization with over 200,000 volunteers and thirty teams, supports all the branches of the armed forces. Soldiers' Angels They work to ensure the well-being of the troops. From backpacks filled with goodies sent to the front line to soldiers in small outposts, to the daunting challenge of ensuring a wounded warrior's emotional and practical needs are met, the organization consistently follows through.

On Monday, October 26, the annual kickoff begins that pits branches against one another to raise money for the Soldiers’ Angels program Project Valour-IT. This program raises funds for Soldier's Angels to provide wounded warriors with laptops with voice-activated software. How the program started was the result of serious accident.

In 2005, then Captain Chuck Ziegenfuss was injured by an IED while serving as commander of a tank company in Iraq. He was a popular blogger, describing his life in the war zone, and he and his wife documented both his injury and his recovery.

Major Chuck ZiegenfussWhile Chuck was recuperating from major wounds to his extremities, which included the loss of some fingers, he wanted to keep in touch with his troops, and also with those in the blogosphere. When Soldiers’ Angels asked if there was anything they could do for him, he told them he wanted a computer with voice-activated software. Although the group’s founder, Patti Patton-Bader, had never purchased a computer or the software before, she found one and sent it. Upon receiving it Ziegenfuss said, "It was the first time I felt whole since I'd woken up wounded in Landstuhl." (Landstuhl is the major military medical center where the wounded are flown after being treated and stabilized in the field).

Thus, a serious tragedy provided the seeds for a major charity. Chuck (now Major Ziegenfuss) recovered. He also founded Project Valour-IT, in memory of his father, the late SFC William V. Ziegenfuss, who served first as a medic, then as a nurse in the US Army.

Project Valour-IT helps supply three key pieces of technical equipment that greatly boost a soldier’s self-confidence and recovery process after a significant injury. First, it provides computers with voice-activated software to soldiers who are unable to use a traditional keyboard. The Department of Defense provides the adaptive software.

In addition, Wii video game systems, which require whole body engagement,  are donated to physical therapy departments at military medical centers. While games like Wii Sports Resort are fun for teens at home, they also provide a way to help patients with eye-hand coordination and gross motor movement.

Many soldiers who have suffered from traumatic brain injury (TBI) or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) have a difficult time with memory loss and navigation. So Project Valour-IT gives them handheld GPS units. This not only helps them get to where they need to go, but gives them the ability to program a day's worth of stops, and it can store directions to home and other favorite locations. This not only greatly enhances their self-confidence, but helps them on the road to independence.

All of these technologies are key to helping a soldier recover. Recovery is neither easy nor quick, but having the right equipment greatly helps address immediate physical needs, self-esteem, and outlook on life.

In order to meet the growing needs of veterans, independent projects such as this fill a critical need. One can donate through the Soldiers’ Angels website, or come over to The Kitchen Dispatch and donate on behalf of TEAM ARMY. Of course, this milspouse doesn't care which branch of the military you decide to honor — only that you follow through and help the thousands of wounded warriors who need and deserve our support.

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  • http://kitchendispatch.blogspot.com Kanani

    Correction: The founder of Soldier’s Angels is Patti PATTON-BADER.

  • http://www.frommyposition.com Chuck

    DoD does, in its own glacially lethargic way, provide the software. Often, we provide the software too.

    As far as a techie’s dream, this was more the Fentanyl and Morphine induced brainchild of a crippled milblogger. I just mixed the chocolate and the peanut butter, as it were.

    Either way, it’s a worthy cause. Thanks for joining team Army.

  • http://kitchendispatch.blogspot.com Kanani

    Chuck! Thank you for commenting! Well, I didn’t mean to infer that you were in any way in a purple and orange haze at the time! However, will agree that the combo –plus whatever else you were on, could have been a great stimulus for a dream like state!

    Really, when titling these things, we often try to find one that’ll have wide appeal. In this case the technical community here on BC, who know quite a bit about voice activated software. The Hubs used it for years –in fact I have it still for dictating notes. I believe it’s still in use at the hospitals!

    Know what? I’d love to see Eric Olsen and Richard Jalichandra give big time to the cause! What about it EO and RJ?

  • http://www.joannehuspek.wordpress.com Joanne Huspek

    I don’t have much, but I’m in. As an ex-Army brat, I know too well that our government does not always take care of its warriors.

  • http://kitchendispatch.blogspot.com Kanani

    Joanne, Thank you! I hope you’ll give to TEAM ARMY!
    A lot of people give $5 and $10 bucks, and collectively they make up thousands.

    If you can mention PV IT on your blog today, then come over to the Kitchen Dispatch and make a comment on today’s post. You’ll be entered into a giveaway for a really nice meditation kit donated by Cool Joe.

  • http://www.ReportingForDoodie.com Judy

    Hi there…I’m donating % of sales now thru Veterans Day to Project Valour-IT. Pls help support our troops!

    Read the first chapter on the “Sneak Peek” tab…I think you’ll enjoy it!

  • http://kitchendispatch.blogspot.com Kanani

    Judy, that’s great! Let me know more about your book and I’ll try to get it up on my blog.

    Also, if you blog about this, be sure to enter my giveaway!