Every day there are many men and women fighting to protect the freedom of citizens, risking their lives to ensure safety and serving as pillars that support America. In Nassau County alone, there are a large number of wounded service members that need assistance following injuries sustained in the line of duty. That is why the Nassau County Firefighter’s-Operation Wounded Warrior (NCFF-OWW) was formed 11 years ago, and it remains dedicated to protecting the morale of these service members.
The group, which is not affiliated with the Wounded Warrior Project, says their main focus is to provide materials and gifts of appreciation to those who have served in the armed forces. NCFF-OWW Chairman Joe O’Grady says that a lot of people don’t understand how important it is to assist these service members.
“You meet them personally. You meet their families. You meet their wives. It’s an injury that affects their entire family for the rest of their life,” said O’Grady. “It’s not a small battle wound. It’s a trauma that they live with day in and day out.”
Now consisting of firefighters and EMS volunteers, NFCC-OWW was formed during the response to a local community event. Since then, they have remained affiliated with Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Washington, DC, Womack Army Medical Center in Fort Bragg, NC, and the Naval Hospital in Camp Lejeune, NC.
“It got started in the Village of Stewart Manor, by the Stewart Manor Fire Department. One of their members was deployed in Afghanistan and every July 4, they had a parade in their town. They asked residents and everyone coming into the parade to bring care packages that they could send over to the troops overseas,” said O’Grady. “The response was so overwhelming that they took the extra care packages and items and they drove them down to Walter Reed and visited wounded soldiers and were actually at their bedside. So the word of that spread and the organization has just grown.”
The NCFF-OWW has helped many wounded service members by raising money for their recuperation processes, families and basic necessities. They work in conjunction with many different American Legions, church groups and woman’s knitting clubs to offer materials and donations. They also actively fundraise to buy new items for the soldiers.
“We ask the hospitals what would be best for the wounded soldiers. What do they need to help their recovery? We consistently get feedback that iPads are a great gift because the doctors can then force the wounded warriors rehabilitation schedules into their calendars…they can stay in touch with them to get email,” said O’Grady. “It really provides a link with the wounded warrior and the doctor and keeps them on track.”
In addition to iPads, the NCFF-OWW has also provided oversized athletic clothing, phone cards and exercising equipment to assist with their rehabilitation.
“Down in Fort Bragg, their physical therapist said they were interested in some physical therapy machine, or exercise equipment, that would better serve some of the injuries but they weren’t machines that the governor of the military was providing. So we went and bought the machine for the day,” said O’Grady.
The NCFF-OWW is also committed to ensuring that veterans are being cared for as well.
“We make donations to the VA hospital each year in Northport. We do that each November, just in time for Thanksgiving…We have donated to Building Homes for Heroes and they put up homes, on the Island or anywhere else, for veterans. We try to donate the kitchen appliances for their kitchens. We’re actually looking for any veteran who needs help,” said O’Grady. “Most of them don’t come out and ask for help, so it’s tough to find them. But we’re not just covering the military basis, we’re also covering the VA hospitals or other organizations that need help.”
The NCFF-OWW also wants to make sure that Long Islanders are aware that anyone can be involved. To make donations, visit www.ncff-oww.org.
“Our main mission is to express thanks for the sacrifices that the wounded warriors have made,” said O’Grady.