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Military group provides like family

All they did was send out a mailing to as many active or retired military officers they knew of in Kentucky or to their spouses who are auxiliary members.

That wasn't anything new. Members of the Bluegrass Chapter of the Military Officers Association of America had done that for years. It was their one fund-raising effort to help the veterans at the Thomson-Hood Veterans Center in Wilmore.

More than 930 letters went out, and 200 people responded with donations totaling a record $11,000.

"Last year we raised $9,000 and we said, 'Wow!'" said Pat Jones, treasurer of the local chapter. "We didn't expect this amount this year."

In a time of great need in this country, a time of cutting back, a time of hoarding just in case, members of the military and their families opened their wallets wider than ever before to ensure other veterans are taken care of.

"When you are connected to the military, we want to help you," Jones said. "This is military helping military, veterans helping veterans."

Gilda Hill, Thomson-Hood administrator, said the group's gift will go a long way in making the residents more comfortable.

"It is a sizeable donation, and we are grateful," Hill said.

The money will go into the joint executive council of veteran organizations trust fund for Thomson-Hood. From there, the $11,000, along with other donations, will be used to provide recreational outings to University of Kentucky football games for the veterans or tickets to Legends baseball games or other special events.

On Veterans Day, for example, everyone at the center gets a steak dinner. And there are special gifts at Christmas, including robes this year for each resident.

The home has a capacity for 270 veterans and is nearly full. That number includes 18 female veterans.

The Bluegrass MOAA, one of seven such groups in the state, has 72 active members or their spouses. The officers who qualify are those who were inducted in the services from Kentucky. The ages of current members range from 50 to 90, and half of them are women. Nationally, MOAA is the largest military officers' association. Members lobby for benefits or legislation of interest to veterans.

All active, retired or former commissioned officers and warrant officers of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, Public Health Service or National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are eligible for membership.

MOAA was formerly called The Retired Officers Association. The name changed on Jan. 1, 2003.

Jones, who was married to an officer in the Air Force, has been a member for more than 10 years. Although she is divorced, she still keeps her membership.

"You like to associate with members of your own kind," Jones said. "You sort of migrate to other military."

The chapter, headed by Col. Doug Harper of Lexington, does whatever is required to keep an eye out for veteran's benefits, retirement pay or other issues, she said.

And that would include looking out for the veterans who have served their country and need the medical and personal care services of available at Thomson-Hood.

Once again, it's military taking care of military.

"I like to keep up with what is happening in Washington," Jones said. "We try to support our own any way we can."

If you qualify and would like to join the Bluegrass Chapter of MOAA, call Jones at (859) 271-2606.

"We may be old, but we have fun," she said.

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