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European edition, Thursday, September 13, 2007

Landstuhl Regional Medical Center is set to receive more than $250,000 the American Legion raised in just two months.

It will be the largest single donation Landstuhl has received since the start of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

In June, the American Legion challenged members and any willing participants to raise $50,000 by the end of August for troops recovering at Landstuhl. At the legion’s 89th national convention last month, national commander Paul Morin announced the group had raised $257,360.55, according to a news release.

But the money wasn’t raised without a little controversy.

The effort was dubbed “Operation Landstuhl” and came on the heels of a visit to the hospital by Morin and American Legion Auxiliary President JoAnn Cronin. While there, the two were discouraged by some of what they saw.

In a news release announcing the fundraiser, the Legion painted a bleak picture of wounded troops arriving at Landstuhl naked and going without comfort items, such as DVDs, MP3s or even magazines.

The group later backed off its statements in a follow-up letter.

“In an earlier editorial we wrote, ‘Many of the wounded arrive there naked,’” according to the letter. “ … Perhaps a more accurate choice of words would have been that the heroes arrive ‘without their clothes.’”

The group also clarified its reaction about broken TVs.

“During The American Legion’s visit to LRMC we found some rooms with broken TVs,” the follow-up letter stated. “Naturally, the American Legion family is inclined to raise a little hell about it. If you are a bed-ridden warrior, watching TV can be a big deal while combating boredom. The commander of the Europe [Regional] Medical Command assures us that he ordered new state-of-the-art TVs in October 2006.”

By late November, the hospital will have 80 new TVs and DVD players installed in patient rooms, according to Landstuhl’s public affairs office.

The Legion said conditions its leaders saw at Landstuhl were not comparable to Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

“This is not a Walter Reed situation where maintenance-neglect led to moldy rooms and other substandard conditions,” according to the letter. “Rather than saying that ‘little is being done’ to help these heroes, we should have said ‘not enough’ is being done to help these heroes, because they are indeed receiving outstanding care.”

The American Legion has already sent $25,000 worth of calling cards to Landstuhl so patients can call family and friends in the United States.

Landstuhl will use the Legion’s $250,000 donation for shoes, clothes, more pre-paid calling cards and other programs such as “spiritual fitness trips” for the outpatient wounded.

Landstuhl commander Col. Brian Lein expressed “a huge thank you” to the Legion on behalf of the medical center for “this generous and heartfelt contribution for our wounded warriors.”

Congress chartered the American Legion in 1919 as a patriotic, mutual-help, wartime veterans organization, according to the group’s Web site.

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