America Supports You: Operation First Response Gets Boost
By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jun. 28, 2006 Operation First Response, an organization dedicated to supporting the nation's wounded servicemembers and their families, got a little support of its own recently.
The nonprofit group found itself on the receiving end of a $50,000 grant from the Military Order of the Purple Service Foundation in late May. Both organizations share a similar goal of helping veterans and wounded servicemembers, Dick Gallant, executive director of the foundation, said.
"That's our only reason for being," he said. "If anybody doesn't have that reason, they shouldn't be in this field."
The grant means a lot to First Response and will help keep its programs available to families in need, Peggy Baker, the organization's president and co-founder, said.
"On a daily basis, we have new cases coming in and different (military) bases from across the States that are calling for support for their wounded," Baker said. "(The grant) just gives us the ability to continue on, and to know that we can meet the needs of the families."
First Response offers a wide variety of services that change with the needs of the families, Baker said. Those services include financial assistance, transportation between airports and the two military medical facilities in the Washington area. The organization also provides airline tickets so family members can be with their wounded servicemembers as they receive treatment.
First Response doesn't wait until a wounded servicemember gets stateside to show its care and support, however. Backpacks loaded with clothing, travel-sized personal items, a prepaid phone card and a handmade blanket are sent to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany. Several combat support hospitals in Iraq also receive the packs for their patients, Baker said.
"If something new comes our way and we have a way of being able to handle that for a family, then we do," Baker said.
If, for some reason, First Response can't handle a family's request or it doesn't fit the organization's mission, requestors are referred to another troop-support group. Baker emphasized that families are referred only to reputable groups "that we know aren't going to be a disappointment to them."
"There are military families out there that really need all of us, and we've been blessed to see a coalition of really wonderful organizations going together and catching the families that (need extra help)," Baker said. "We will continue to do that until they don't need us anymore."
It was this spirit and, "what they have done so far," that helped earn First Response the Military Order of the Purple Service Foundation's grant, Gallant said.
From the foundation's perspective, there's an obligation to support organizations like First Response that provide needed support to wounded servicemembers. "If you have the capability to assist some others who are doing great work to help the veterans, if it's possible, then you do it," Gallant said.