Over the weekend, IPods for Wounded Veterans (IFWV), a charity founded and overseen by retired Teamster and Vietnam veteran Paul Cardello, celebrated its 22nd visit to veterans in need. The organization provides free electronics and other goods to veterans in hospitals who are recovering from injuries they received in combat.
“We’re so glad we have gotten the chance to provide resources for over 3,500 servicemen and women over the course of the 22 trips we’ve taken over the last six years,” Cardello said. “This is all about us coming together to help those who protect the United States of America and our way of life.”
Wounded veterans often have to be in a medical facility for months and sometimes even years while they recover from their injuries. Being stuck in a hospital for such a long time can lead to a great deal of boredom and feelings of alienation. The electronics the veterans receive help them stay in touch with family and pass the time. The laptop computers they receive can also be used for education or training they can use to re-adjust to civilian life. In addition to delivering electronics, IFWV also delivers letters from students thanking them for their service as a part of their “Dear Soldier” campaign. The organization is completely operated by volunteers.
IFWV was started in October 2010, when Cardello was visiting monuments in Washington, D.C. as part of a group of veterans. Cardello reached out to the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center to ask what they were in need of, and a staff member from the facility said the recovering members of the military had been asking for iPods. Cardello and his fellow veterans stopped by to meet with their fellow veterans and delivered the iPods.
“A few days later, I get a letter from Admiral M.L. Nathan saying that everyone at the VA won’t stop talking about what we did, so we decided to go back down that Thanksgiving,” Cardello said. “The following year, we incorporated as a nonprofit. We got on-the-job training and learned on the fly, but now we know what we’re doing.”
During the most recent trip, the organization visited members of the armed forces at VA medical facilities in Ft. Belvoir, Petersburgh and Richmond, Va. Teamsters Airline Division Director Capt. David Bourne and Economics and Contracts Director Jim Kimball went with the organization to assist with distributing goods to those recovering at VA medical facilities.
“They have to wait weeks and months between operations recovering, and this sort of becomes their life,” Bourne said. “They’re always happy to see us. They’re a very inspiring group of young men and women.”
“I appreciated the opportunity to do something for our wounded veterans, however small it was,” Kimball said. “I wish them a speedy recovery and thank them for their service.”
Brotherhood of Maintenance and Way Employes Division Southern Region Vice President Roger Sanchez also accompanied the group during their visits.
“The people we went to see were quiet at first, but once they opened up it was very heartwarming for us to get a chance to thank them for their service,” Sanchez said. “Our troops face a lot of challenges reintegrating back into society. Taking care of our veterans; it’s long overdue, and we need to let them know that we care about them.”
“This all happened on a whim, it’s funny how things happen in life,” Cardello said. “A lot of people believe in the work that we’re doing. With this nonprofit, I work more hours now that I’m retired than I did as a Teamster!”