Thursday, April 03, 2008

Arizona Post Raises $18,000 for Free Calls Home

Jerry Pujat, Arizona’s VFW Operation Uplink chairman, knew he was involved with a special program from the moment he started handing out phone cards at the Veterans Administration Medical Center in Tucson, Ariz.

"I handed a phone card to an elderly lady in her nineties, and she started sobbing," he shared. "When I asked why, she said it was the first time anyone had given her anything during her stay at the hospital. Then, she told me that she had been a POW in Japan during World War II. Wow! This lady’s story made me cry!"

When Don Underwood and VFW Post 9401, Lake Havasu City, Ariz., planned a picnic fundraiser in Arizona, Pujat and his comrades came out in full force.

"By far, this picnic was the biggest event held in Arizona for VFW Operation Uplink," he said.

The late November event started with a flag retirement ceremony. Throughout the day, bands played, and raffles were held each hour. Picnic-goers could win gift baskets, trips and even a motorcycle, all of which were donated by local businesses. In all, over 2,000 people attended, and the VFW raised $18,000+!

"The day was a great effort between all the local service organizations," explained Frank Emery, Post service officer. "We are proud to have the led the event."

"The best part of the day was getting the word out about VFW Operation Uplink," said Pujat. "I did interviews with the local newspaper and a television station.

"When I was in Vietnam, I used the MARS radio network," continued Pujat. "You couldn’t say anything too personal because the whole world could tune in. But now, each service member has private time with their loved ones, which is super!"