A previous hospital patient returned January 17 to give backpacks and words of encouragement in support of wounded service members.
Klay South, 31, and his Veterans of Valor organization made visits to hospital and physical therapy rooms at Bethesda Naval Hospital and Walter Reed Army Medical Center.
South, accompanied by country singer John Kiger, shared war stories and presented backpacks put together through donations to Veterans of Valor.
The backpacks contained iPods, video games and athletic gear that included athletic pants that open on the side. The pants were especially well received.
“The backpacks were just phenomenal. One of the best things in there were the side opening sweatpants, because in my case I have gun shot wounds in my legs and the doctors have to continually check them,” said Lt. Col. Keith Schuring.
The visits were a surprise to the patients and many weren’t aware that Veterans of Valor would be stopping by.
“I was surprised by the visit and the bag. I had just gotten finished with my physical therapy and was asked to hang tight. The bags are just great, it’s something that is certainly needed,” said Cpl. Jimmy Kinsey.
South drew upon personal experiences in designing both the bags and the trip to the wounded warriors. He spent many days in surgery and nights in thought through his time at the hospitals.
“I was turning a corner in Fallujah in November of 2004 when I was shot point blank in the face with an AK-47, “ said the Franklin, Indiana native. “Sometimes I felt like there was no light at the end of the tunnel.”
South had between 40-50 surgeries to reconstruct his face and jaw, he said. During his own long road to recovery he realized help for wounded veterans were needed and he wanted to do something.
Being a previous patient and wounded warrior was also well received by the recipients of the gifts. South was able to sympathize with the feelings that the patients were experiencing and offered his advice on how to get through
the recovery process.
“We have had visitors like Donald Rumsfeld and the Commandant of the Marine Corps. But when Sgt. South came in it was like a breath of fresh air. A Marine that has been in combat, a Marine that has started such a great program as Veterans of Valor, its just wonderful to see someone step-up and take charge like he has because he has lived this life. He knows what it’s like to be in this position,” said Schuring.
Schuring was also impressed that a young Marine spearheaded the organization and talked highly of the non-commissioned officers in the Marines.
“What Sgt. South has done with Veterans of Valor speaks volumes of the NCO corps. We have the strongest NCO corps in the world – bar none,” said Schuring.
The Veterans of Valor organization was officially launched on October 4, 2007 after raising $21,000 through donations and fundraisers. The quest for donations never stops
“We are constantly looking for new ideas for fundraisers and doing ground work to get donations,” said Janet South, Klay’s mother.
Klay has no intentions of slowing down with his newly founded organization.
“My main goal right now is to do everything I can for Veterans of Valor,” said Klay. “As long as there is a need I’m going to supply it.”
To make donations to the organization visitwww.veteransofvalor.org.