WASHINGTON, DC-Enjoying a steak dinner at a favorite restaurant with family and friends on a Friday night is a fixture in American life. Hal Koster, part owner of Fran O'Brien's Steak House in Washington, D.C., understood this when he began a unique program about 1 1/2 years ago. Through his donation of time and money, as well as through the help of local donors, he initiated a program that gave wounded military personnel a chance to enjoy time away from the hospital-a few hours to enjoy a normal American Friday night meal and to escape the everyday reality of physical therapy and dealing with combat injuries.
Now supported in part by the VFW's Unmet Needs Program, a national program sponsored by Vermont American and designed to assist military families that run into financial difficulties, these dinners help begin to heal the mental and emotional scars of combat injuries and help reacquaint affected troops and their families with each other and the normalcy of every day life. The Unmet Needs Program has donated enough money to help cover the costs of service and food one Friday night per month, over the next year.
Koster, a veteran himself, sees the need for the dinners growing. "There are a whole lot more wounded than there used to be when we started this a little over a year ago," says Koster. "People like Vermont American are the ones that make it possible-we simply couldn't afford to do it financially," he adds. Koster cites an example of the dinner's power to help in the healing process. "There is one young man who has had a traumatic brain injury that has resulted in extreme depression. His mother has told me that the Friday night dinners are the only time that he voluntarily leaves his room to be with others. The opportunity to come together in this setting just means so much to the troops," he said.
At the restaurant, military personnel are able to be with others who have experienced the same type of injuries as they have-in a social setting where they can relax, discuss and even joke about their situations. For the wounded, the casual and relaxed setting is not only a morale booster, but can also help them get used to going out in public again and helps further build their confidence and strength which aids greatly in their overall recovery.
"The Unmet Needs Program is all about helping some of the bravest heroes in our society, our military service members and their families. We are pleased to support this weekly dinner because it provides a much needed bridge between the best medical care that is available, to the emotional and mental healing that will help aid a quick return to civilian life once their service is complete," said Chris Connington, director of brand marketing, Vermont American Brand Power Tools Accessories.
Vermont American established the Unmet Needs Program with the VFW last summer, with a five-year, $1.25 million contribution from Vermont American Power Tool Accessories. In addition, advertising and promotional support will be aided by Vermont American's radio and print ad plans as well as product distribution across the country.
Individuals can participate in a number of ways, including:
Purchasing Vermont American products, as a portion of each product purchased goes to support the program
Visit www.unmetneeds.com and donate online, as 100 percent of your donation goes directly to military families (Vermont American takes care of all administrative costs)
Mail donations to the Unmet Needs Program, VFW Foundation, 406 West 34th Street, Room 514, Kansas City, MO, 64111
Donate your skill via the www.unmetneeds.com Web site
Families in need can visit the Web site or call 866-789-NEED (866-789-6333) to request assistance.