- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 26, 2009

Dear Sgt. Shaft, On Nov. 6, I attended the second annual Marine Corps Wounded Warrior Regiment Birthday Ball for the wounded and ill injured Marines at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda. I and several of the Marines with whom I served in Iraq were injured early in the war, before the establishment of the Marine Corps Wounded Warrior Regiment in 2007. Transition was particularly tough for Marines navigating significant health concerns in an organization geared for war.

However, this summer at a Texas A&M; University program for disabled veteran entrepreneurs, I was struck by the attendance of a Marine who looked as if he had been through a severe stroke. When we were introduced, it was clear he had been through much worse - an improvised explosive device had ripped into his head. As he took the stage, there was no pity, only admiration as we stood in applause (taking for granted our ability to do so with ease) to welcome Lt. Col. Timothy Maxwell, who helped found the Marine Corps Wounded Warrior Regiment during his recovery.

We spoke often over the following days, and he didn’t sugarcoat anything. It’s refreshing to rally with warriors who understand that the secret to maintaining a strong military and vibrant country is to care for those wounded, ill and injured by virtue of service. As we transition, it is important to assist each other to secure the benefits we’ve earned and, most important, stay connected and organized.

Lt. Col. Maxwell didn’t stop there. He shared numerous contacts and resources to lay out a plan to have injured Marines from across the country attend the USMC Wounded Warrior Regiment Birthday Ball in Bethesda. I took the mission and arranged for several Marines who I knew needed assistance to attend. In the end, just two were able to make it. Transportation and lodging were generously provided by Hope for the Warriors (www.hopeforthewarriors.org). We spent a day in Quantico, Va., at the Wounded Warrior Regiment headquarters to review the Marines’ issues. The wounded, ill or injured call center, district support cells and Lt. Col. Maxwell’s Tiger Team are outstanding. Now there’s a face to the name and real forward momentum for these Marines, who were falling through the cracks.

There are more of us out there, and we salute Lt. Col. Maxwell’s leadership and commitment, as the solutions to the issues we face at home are as unconventional as the war we are fighting overseas. Once a Marine, always a Marine.

Lt. Col. Maxwell’s Web site is www.sempermax.com.

Semper Fidelis - Robert Lee Aiken III USMC, retired.

Dear Marine,

Thanks for the heads-up on the Devil Dogs wounded-warrior project. Unfortunately, good news regarding our military is hard to find in the so-called mainstream media. Semper Fi.

Shaft notes

The U.S. Postal Service recently gave Scouting a “stamp of approval” to honor 100 years of the U.S. Scouting movement. The Celebrate Scouting stamp, which will be sold in the summer of 2010, coincides with the 100th anniversary of the Boy Scouts of America.

The new stamp design was unveiled during an event at the Smithsonian National Postal Museum on Nov. 12. The design, created by illustrator Craig Frazier of Mill Valley, Calif., depicts the spirit and outdoor adventure of Scouting with a backpacking Scout and a large silhouette of a Scout surveying the landscape.

“I’m very proud to represent the United States Postal Service as we unveil the artwork for the Scouting commemorative stamp to be released in 2010 and to recognize what Scouting has done for boys and girls alike for more than 100 years,” said Samuel M. Pulcrano, vice president for sustainability at the Postal Service. “I learned a great many things from Scouting when I was a boy, and many of those lessons came from my father, who served as my assistant Scoutmaster. The experience made such an impression on me that I now serve as assistant Scoutmaster for my sons’ troop.”

In conjunction with the Celebrate Scouting announcement and Veterans Day observances, the Boy Scouts of America announced it will begin a nationwide effort to support U.S. armed forces personnel serving overseas and veterans by sending letters and care packages using the Priority Mail flat-rate box through the Postal Service. Washington-area Scouts mailed letters and shared news about the Scouting stamp from the museum. The letter-writing campaign continues the Boy Scouts of America’s long-standing tradition of service and performing “a good turn” daily.

“We are grateful to the USPS for commemorating Scouting’s contributions to our nation for the past 100 years,” said Bob Mazzuca, chief Scout executive, Boy Scouts of America. “To continue our tradition of service, we are honored to launch our letter-writing campaign to support our troops serving overseas. Regardless of our age, we never outgrow the joy of receiving a personal letter in the mail. It is the least we can do for the servicemen and -women to whom we owe the deepest gratitude for their service.”

The Boy Scouts of America will celebrate its 100th anniversary on Feb. 8. To mark this milestone, the organization has undertaken nationwide efforts to reintroduce Boy Scouts to today’s young people and families, reinforce the value of Scouting and re-connect with the millions the organization has impacted. For more information on the Boy Scouts of America, please visit www.scouting.org.

Send letters to Sgt. Shaft, c/o John Fales, P.O. Box 65900, Washington, DC 20035-5900; fax 301/622-3330, call 202/257-5446 or e-mail [email protected]

“To continue our tradition of service, we are honored to launch our letter-writing campaign to support our troops serving overseas.”

- Bob Mazzuca, chief Scout executive, Boy Scouts of America

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