Sentinels Get Big Donations
Efforts to welcome at least three recovering veterans to the area as part of Sentinels for Freedom got a big boost recently from a single generous gift.
The cost of providing the four-year scholarship service to help those grievously wounded in recent conflicts re-enter civilian life is $100,000.
Retired Maj. Gen. Sidney Shachnow is one of a number of local people raising money. He has been asking everybody he knows to help out by giving or pledging money to help these veterans.
Many wounds that would have been fatal in earlier wars are survivable now -- but leave behind a veteran with severe disabilities struggling through a lifetime of suffering.
"I called a fellow up," Shachnow said. "I told him about the Sentinels for Freedom -- what it was all about -- and he listened. He said, 'I want to sponsor one of those families.' I wasn't quite sure whether he understood."
It takes a commitment of $100,000 for each family.
"I expected $1,000, maybe $500 -- you know -- I said, to sponsor it takes maybe $100,000 a person," Shachnow said. "He said, 'That's all right, I'll write you a $100,000 check.' And he did. That was Steve Vanderwoude."
Vanderwoude has done many things in the past to support the nation's troops, according to Shachnow.
"There was a ceremony at Fort Bragg with a number of wounded soldiers, and Gen. Wagner gave him a plaque," Shachnow said. "There were guys he had lunch with. Sgt. Glenn was there; then there was a guy -- Castro -- he was blind completely. Another guy was blind in one eye, and has got a leg missing."
The group was very upbeat and positive, he said.
"Steve gave me the check at a ceremony at Fort Bragg," "Gen. Bob Wagner -- the commander of the Special Operations Command -- recognized and honored Steve and his wife, Denise. He gave them a handsome plaque."
Shachnow said he cashed the check right away, joking that he left on a Baltic cruise the next day. In fact, he did leave on a cruise, a trip to Northern Europe that included his old homeland, Lithuania.
"Gen. Wagner hosted a lunch at the dining facility with some Special Forces NCOs (noncommissioned officers)," Shachnow said. "The group included Master Sgt. Brendon O'Connor. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross (DSC), the nation's second highest award.
He earned the medal for a battle he fought for 17 hours outnumbered by enemy in Afghanistan. When the battle was over 120 enemy were killed."
There were other heroic soldiers at the table that day, Shachnow said.
"Staff Sgt. Shawn Adams, on his fourth deployment to the combat zone, was wounded in an ambush," he said. "He is undergoing his third reconstructive surgery. (There was) Capt. Ken Dwyer, a highly decorated officer, wounded and blind in one eye, and Capt. Ivan Castro, (who) was injured and is blind. It is people like these that inspired Steve."
In 2006, O'Connor was recognized as Medic of the Year by the Army's Special Operations Command. The DSC was awarded in May of this year.
Dwyer, severely injured by an enemy rocket propelled grenade, won the Silver Star for valor. Dwyer commands the 3rd SFG Headquarters and Headquarters Company at Fort Bragg.
A mortar round blinded Castro and killed two soldiers next to him in Yusufiyah, Iraq, while he was providing sniper support on a rooftop. A runner from college days in Puerto Rico, Castro finished the Bataan Memorial this year in New Mexico in five hours
"Not bad for a blind guy," said his wife, Evelyn.
Also at the table was Sgt. First Class David Glenn, who spoke at the Sentinels of Freedom roll-out meeting in Pinehurst. Glenn has both legs amputated, limited use of his left arm and had to have reconstructive surgery on his head.
"I think that, one day, reality will set in," he said. "You know. At some point the spotlight no longer shines. The hurrah is gone, and you realize that you are sitting there without two legs; and life is never going to be the same."
But now, talk to these wounded veterans and you will find them very positive -- ready to go back
"You have to ask, 'Do you really mean that?'" Shachnow said. "But they do."
Also, another donor pledged an annual gift of $20,000 for four years, Shachnow said.
"That was a pledge from Mr. Bill Entenmann," Shachnow said. "He used to live here. His daughter still lives here. He used to have a house here, a neighbor of mine."
The family name is familiar from its appearance in blue and white script Entenmann pastry boxes. The first William Entenmann opened a Brooklyn bakery in 1898, where he made small cakes, breads and rolls. Entenmann's business flourished, and in the 1950s Entenmann began to expand throughout the East Coast, selling its goods through grocery stores as well as through its bakeries.
Today Entenmann's is one of America's largest pastry makers and is the nation's second-largest doughnut maker, though it is now owned by a Canadian firm.
"He made that donation through his family foundation," Shachnow said.
Modern wars will bring home thousands and thousands of veterans who will need greater support for a longer time than ever before, Shachnow said. The Sentinels for Freedom project is one way local people can be part of what at least a few of them will need, he said.
Contact John Chappell at 783-5841 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
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