Band of brothers

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

HAVRE DE GRACE, Md.--Provider Robert O’Connor remembers returning home from the Vietnam War to a cool reception. To prevent that from happening to other soldiers, O’Connor organized his second Veteran’s Day Waterfowl Weekend in November for three soldiers wounded in combat.
“We want to make sure they feel welcomed home and supported,” said O’Connor, vice president of Home Mediservice in Havre De Grace, Md.
O’Connor works with the Walter Reed Medical Center to select the participating soldiers. This year’s trio, all amputees, represented the Navy, Army and Air Force.

The weekend began with a clay-shooting warm up and an informal dinner. The next day, the group hunted fowl--and bagged 60 birds, both duck and geese--in a local marsh.

Each soldier was assigned a four-person support team to handle the logistics of transporting the special-needs hunters.

“We are responsible for these guys for three days and have to agree to certain conditions,” said O’Connor.

The event attracted the attention of the Pentagon, which sent a crew to film the weekend and then broadcasted it to military bases around the world.
While O’Connor spearheads the effort with some fellow Vietnam vets, the event receives a lot of local support. The soldiers stay with local host families and Home Mediservice provides any needed HME, such as bathroom aids. Additionally, each soldier received about $1,000, the result of town fundraising efforts, so they could visit their families for the holidays.

“This time, no matter if people agree or disagree about the Iraq War, everyone makes sure soldiers are treated well,” said O’Connor.