Freedom Alliance treats 350 to steak dinner, recreation
Marcie C. Wright,
The Freedom Alliance group has a heart for injured servicemembers. For several years the organization has toured the country sponsoring dinners and other entertainment to transitioning veterans to show its gratitude.
Friday marked the fourth year Fort Bliss was invited to participate, and nearly 350 people, wounded warriors and family members, were treated to a steak dinner at Cattleman’s Steakhouse at Indian Cliffs Ranch. He chose Cattleman’s because of excellent food reviews and the extra activities available.
“Time with families and reconnecting and getting out of that recovery environment really helps with their healing,” said Calvin K. Coolidge, executive director of Freedom Alliance. “We want to include the families and the caregivers because they are the unsung heroes in all of this. They’re the ones quitting jobs to take care of a loved one; they are there on the worst days and there to celebrate the best days.
“We just want to have a good relaxing time and celebrate freedom,” continued Coolidge, who said he had no agenda planned, “other than to say ‘thank you for your service.’”
“They want to make sure these Soldiers and their families are not forgotten,” said Freedom Alliance public relations officer Brian A. Butler of Vistra Communications. “He [Coolidge] is very passionate about the entire program.”
Established 23 years ago, the organization was founded by veterans of the Vietnam War. Coolidge said it is more important now than ever to let servicemembers know that they are not forgotten.
Some other things the organization sponsors are hunting, camping and fishing adventures for injured warriors. A trip to the wilderness will include lodging, activities, boating and whatever else is needed to support warriors’ needs and ensure a good time.
Attempting to help in as many ways as possible, the organization also provides college scholarships to children of deceased and severely injured servicemembers. The Freedom Alliance scholarship fund is designed to aid a student through four years of undergraduate education, with the maximum award set at $7500 per year. So far, the company has awarded more than $5 million with $1 million going to 240 students last year. Butler and Coolidge agreed the group is looking for more applicants to give money to.
“We’re looking to grow the fund,” said Coolidge. “We try to make it as easy as possible for the student. The reason we do this is similar to the reason we do the dinners – to make sure that family’s sacrifice isn’t forgotten.
“We look at this as more than just a check,” continued Coolidge. “We want to build a relationship with the students.”
They do so by putting together care packages for students around exam times and sending greeting cards with gift cards at Christmas and birthdays. Last year, he held the first ever scholarship retreat on Washington.
The dinners are something Freedom Alliance will continue to do for years to come. What began in Washington for Walter Reed patients has grown to reach scores of veterans and units at 25 installations so far. For more information, visit www.freedomalliance.org.
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