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A fighter for families

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(CNN) -- The recent disclosure of the deplorable conditions at Walter Reed Army Hospital highlighted the emotional and physical needs of the more than 25,000 Americans wounded in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

But who is addressing the needs of their families?

John Folsom seeks to provide an answer to that question, at least temporarily, through his nonprofit organization, Wounded Warriors. The organization offers free week-long vacations at its condos for any military service member wounded in action who has dependent children. Widows or widowers and children of those killed in combat or as a result of combat injuries also qualify.

"When we go to war, our families go to war," Folsom told CNN recently. "They're paying a price, and we need to recognize that."

In addition to free lodging at the Orlando, Florida, or Galveston, Texas, locations, the organization also offers the families free passes to nearby attractions, such as Walt Disney World, Sea World, or water parks.

"This is a very small way of helping those families stay together as a nuclear family unit," Folsom said. "They need a chance to get together as a family and come to a place that has carefree atmosphere, where they just get away from everything and just focus on their kids."

"Let them unload the baggage, get away for a week, don't worry about physical therapy, don't worry about unpaid bills, don't worry about stuff."

Folsom came up with the idea of helping wounded servicemen while he was serving as a Marine in Europe monitoring American casualties who arrived from Iraq and Afghanistan in the beginning of the U.S.-led invasions there.

Through his first fundraising effort spontaneously passing a hat around a command center Folsom was able to buy a big screen television and some movies for wounded Marines.

When he returned to the United States in April 2004, he set up a Web site to collect money for computers for wounded servicemen. After serving in Iraq, where he continued to raise money for computers, Folsom returned home and his fundraising efforts became full time. Today, he remains the sole employee.

Folsom said he soon realized that other organizations were giving away computers, and he began thinking of a unique way to help the wounded servicemen.

"Had this idea about the condominium, about having a condo that we would own that we would let families use," Folsom said. He bought a unit in Orlando, and a family first stayed there in April 2006.

Since then, he said, "dozens" of families have taken advantage of the organization's offer.

"It was great," Michele Reid, told The Omaha World-Herald in October article. Her husband was wounded by an insurgent mortar attack in Iraq. "There was no way we could have afforded a week in Orlando if Wounded Warriors hadn't provided the condo."

Folsom said he is expanding the organization with an 80-acre wounded retreat in Nebraska. The floor of the retreat lodge will be built with bricks displaying the names of those military men and women who have lost their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan. Construction begins in the summer of 2007, according to the organization's Web site.

"It's good to be able to look to look at the future and say what can we do that's going to have a positive effect on a young family's life," Folsom said.


storvert.john.folsom.jpg

John Folsom, shown here while active in the Marine Corps, founded Wounded Warriors.

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