Vanguard Soldiers help disabled Iraqi children
April 7, 2011
RAMADI, Iraq - "Today is the kind of day where it makes you proud to be a Soldier," said 1st Lt. Jonty McCoy, platoon leader with the 1st Battalion, 76th Field Artillery Regiment, 4th Advise and Assist Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division.
First Lieutenant McCoy was referring to April 2 - a day where fellow 4th AAB Soldiers spent at the Anbar Operations Center in Ramadi, Iraq, distributing 21 pediatric wheelchairs to disabled Iraqi children.
"This is by far the best thing we've been able to see this deployment," said 1st Lt. McCoy. "The quality of life for these children has now significantly improved, and to be a part of that is amazing."
The event was made possible thanks to Brad Blauser, Dallas native, who founded the non-profit organization, Wheelchairs for Iraq Kids, in August 2005. Blauser, who was present for the Ramadi event, watched as the 926th donated wheelchair was given to another child in need.
Blauser said that in Iraq, many children are born with cerebral palsy and spine bifida, causing the physical disability in movement. He added that many children became double amputees as a result of violence in country, "so I came up with a plan in Aug 2005 to help," he said.
"I mean, who else is going to do this," said Blauser of his reasons to continue supporting this operation - for free - for the last 5 A,A1/2 years. He credits also, support from former Iraq Commander, Gen. David Petraeus who helped him jumpstart the program and the continuing support of U.S. citizens who donate money to fund the $385 wheelchairs.
Blauser helped teach 4th AAB Soldiers and Ministry of Health rehabilitation center employees how to fit the wheelchairs to children.
"They will be able to adjust the wheelchair to fit the child, and as the child grows, the wheelchair grows also," he said.
Blauser also said that there is a plan in the works to help continue supporting this operation after the U.S. withdraws from the Iraqi footprint at the end of this year.
"We've teamed up with the Iraqi Disable Alliance Organization and the plan is to have the Iraqis eventually manufacture the wheelchairs and distribute them to not only Iraqi children, but perhaps Afghani children as well," he said.
Until then, Blauser said he has about 60 more wheelchairs he's planning to distribute with hope to positively affect the lives of more Iraqi families in the near future.
Specialist Gwendolyn Cousin, a Soldier with Golf Company, 703rd Brigade Support Battalion, 4th AAB, who was on-hand to support the Ramadi distribution, said that participating in the event was a blessing.
"I'm humbled to be a part of something that is so rewarding," said Spc. Cousin. "To be able to come out here and make a difference in someone's life, it's beautiful."
For information on how you can help support funding wheelchairs for Iraqi children, log on to www.WheelchairsforIraqiKids.com.