LARSON: Sentinels hit a home run helping wounded vets

Susan Larson

Susan Larson

Now is the time for 60 "good men" to come to the aid of their county as the Sentinels of Freedom-Gwinnett recruits players for its third annual fundraising softball tournament.

SOF is a "grass-roots promise to accept responsibility for the well being of severely injured men and women of the U.S. Armed Forces who are returning to civilian life and show promise for bright and productive futures."

Disabled veterans have always been a concern, but since 9/11, needs have escalated. Due to advanced medical care, for every American who dies in battle, dozens more survive, which means many more severely wounded vets face the challenges of putting their lives back together. That's where Sentinels of Freedom report for duty.

SOF uses 100 percent of its funds to help wounded veterans become self-sufficient. This includes four years of college, rent-free housing, adaptive vehicles if needed and total financial support, which is so comprehensive that veterans must agree not to spend any of their disability pay for the entire four years.

"We have them put it in escrow so they have a nest egg to buy a house or car when they complete the program," Vice President George Rhode said.

And the money is not just left to sit in the bank. Financial experts like Al Brown, Bob House and Gil Guggenheim provide free professional advice on making the most of their money while also learning how to make the most of their lives.

But SOF's biggest support lies in its personal involvement and interaction with these wounded warriors. Beyond providing for physical and intellectual needs, SOF provides personal mentoring, standing side by side with them as family to help them establish roots in their new community.

State Rep. Brooks Coleman, a strong advocate of SOF, said, "This organization touches my heart with what they do for these vets. It's so vital that we the citizens remember and respect the sacrifices they've made and this is the least that we can do for them."

As for one of the "least" of SOF's efforts, that's where that softball tournament comes into play. This tournament, which will be at Bunten Park on May 29, needs 60 men to field four teams, each representing a branch of the military. The $35 fee includes a souvenir T-shirt and lunch. Registration begins at 10 a.m. and the games begin at 11 a.m. Spectators can enjoy food, souvenir military hats and a color guard presentation from Duluth High School JROTC.

"Teams are made up of volunteers," Jess Vics, SOF Public Relations Director said. "You don't have to be military or former military to play. You can play for your favorite service. The winning team's branch is listed on the permanent plaque in the Bunten Park office and has bragging rights for the coming year. Army has won the past two years."

Well, Air Force, Navy and Marines, now is the time.

For more information on the tournament or on coming to the aid of SOF, call Tim Thornberry, SOF President, at 678-987-2606 or visit www.sofgwinnett.org

Susan Larson is a Lilburn resident. E-mail her at susanlarson4@yahoo.com.