- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 26, 2004

Dear Sgt. Shaft:

Thank you so much for your help to this amputee. I was seen yesterday at the Hampton VA Medical Center.

What a great week I’ve had. Monday I received my new legs, Tuesday a new power scooter arrived, and Thursday I was able to secure a van that will be equipped with hand controls. All thanks to you and the Hampton VA center.

Everyone was very helpful and professional. My new doctor was especially helpful and made the proper referral to rehabilitation services. I was contacted today and advised that I have an appointment in July.

While I still have issues with Tricare, I believe they will be remedied in due course. In that regard, I can’t say enough good things about the military and civilian personnel at the Langley Air Force Base internal medicine clinic and at the Portsmouth Naval Hospital.

Again, I am very grateful for your assistance. I will be devoting a significant amount of time to various veterans groups as a small way of saying “Thank you.”

Also in appreciation I am mailing a check to the Semper Fi Fund on your behalf. I know it will go to a very worthy cause.

Retired Air Force Maj. Dick H.

Portsmouth, Va.

Dear Dick:

Thanks for your generous contribution to the Semper Fi Fund, which was established to help families of hospitalized Marines.

Previous columns have stated that the Semper Fi Fund was set up to assist families of U.S. Marines serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Every day Marines are wounded in combat, often severely. These American heroes are returning to the United States after being stabilized at military hospitals in Germany. Their destination is typically the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, but on some occasions the Marines are sent to hospitals around the country.

The length of their stay depends on the severity of their injuries and when they are recovered enough to proceed to a rehabilitation hospital or a hospital closer to their duty station. However, some have initial hospital stays for durations of more than one month, and rehabilitation can last years.

The Semper Fi Fund was created to facilitate the provision of immediate resources to active-duty Marines who have been injured in combat and their families.

At this time, the Department of Defense will pay lodging and travel expenses for only two next of kin to visit those Marines considered seriously injured. The department pays for these two individuals to stay for no more than one week. After the term of one week, if the family members choose to stay at their Marine’s bedside, it is the sole responsibility of the family to arrange and pay for lodging and transportation.

The Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund has a close-working relationship with the U.S. Marine Corps and is assessing the needs of injured Marines and their families on a regular basis. In the short term, lodging, transportation and assistance with daily financial burdens for the families are the most challenging areas of concern and will be a major focus.

Dear Sgt. Shaft:

I have been reading with interest your comments about the Semper Fi Fund. I am so impressed with the mission of this fine organization that I have sent them a check for $100. I would hope many of your readers would see fit to match this donation.

Sincerely,

Jim F.

Springfield, Va.

Dear Jim:

I, for one, will match your generous contribution to the fund. I am sure many others will follow your lead.

Shaft notes

A high-five to the approximately 800 Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) employees from around the country who have volunteered to assist hurricane-damaged communities of Florida.

Many of the employees, who represent clinical, engineering, safety, security, logistics and administrative skills, have been deployed to nearby staging areas to wait for assignments from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

“So far, more than 120 of our dedicated VA employees have gone directly to stricken areas to help with relief efforts,” said Veterans Affairs Secretary Anthony J. Principi. “Individually and in teams, VA people are performing an important part of our mission by providing emergency aid to communities hit by natural disasters.”

Mr. Principi said VA has chartered buses to transport its emergency response personnel to community centers and shelters to provide nursing and medical care to people who are sick, injured or at risk of illness because of age.

In support of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, VA has deployed four teams. Each consists of 15 nurses, one pharmacist, one area emergency manager, one driver and one administrative clerk. Four VA emergency managers in Miami coordinate their activities.

Send letters to Sgt. Shaft, c/o John Fales, PO Box 65900, Washington, D.C. 20035-5900; fax 301/622-3330; call 202/257-5446; or e-mail sgtshaft@bavf.org.

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