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WASHINGTON — Larry Smith wants a billiards table in every VA and military hospital in America.

He has already started, by getting the first one for Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

Now, he wants veterans groups to keep it going.

“If not a pool table, then some other leisure activity,” the Navy veteran said. “Too many of these places don’t have anything extra for their patients. It took me a few weeks’ work to get this table in there. Veterans groups can do even more.”

Walter Reed officials installed the table last week, complete with new cues and balls, for servicemembers recovering at the hospital.

Smith, a contractor from Wisconsin, said even though he lives more than 700 miles away, the whole project took just a few weeks, thanks to the generosity of citizens who want to help the military.

First, a fundraiser with assistance from his American Legion post and Disabled Veterans of America chapter helped raise about $800 for the effort.

Smith said when he approached Olhausen Billiards about buying and delivering a table, they offered to donate one instead, and use his money to pay for the accessories.

Sue Doyle, marketing director for the company, said officials with the company wanted to do their part too.

“For a handful of people from a small town to make an effort like this, it’s pretty inspiring,” she said. “We’ve sent tables overseas to troops in the past, and we’ve sent some care packages of balls and repair kits to troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. When our local dealer heard about this, he found a table for [Walter Reed] right away.”

Smith said his family has looked for ways to help the troops in the past, but the billiards idea jumped into his head because of his own time in the Navy.

“This was really a big deal for us; we didn’t have video games or other stuff, so we played pool a lot,” he said. “It’s just something to help make them more comfortable.”

Smith has already begun making more contacts to donate a second table to the hospital, and he has started talking with officials at Bethesda Naval Medical Center about getting one there.

But, he said, he knows dozens of other hospitals that would benefit from similar gifts.

“I know local veterans groups that do some work, but others are sitting on way too much money,” he said. “I just want to get the message out about how easy it is to help out.”


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