BRETT: Preventing injured military families from falling through the cracks

September 30th, 2011

By Brigid Brett | North County Times | NCTimes.com | September 30, 2011

Richard "Sunny" Farrand hates to see anyone who has been injured while serving in the military falling through the cracks. Which is why he spends pretty much all his time checking up on wounded warriors at Naval Medical Center San Diego and helping military families who are trapped in bureaucratic limbo.

A Vietnam War Air Force veteran, Farrand knows what it's like to fall through the cracks. Sixteen years ago he was sleeping on the streets of San Diego, and couldn't have imagined that one day he'd be chairman of San Diego Heroes to Hometowns.

Farrand met Marine Sgt. Charlie Linville, his wife, Mandi, and their two small daughters at the Naval Medical Center. In January, in Afghanistan with 3rd Battalion 5th Marines (3/5), an IED explosion left Linville with two amputated fingers, injured his spine and crushed his foot. He also returned with the invisible wounds of war: mild traumatic brain injury and PTSD.

Because the family was based in Okinawa before coming to San Diego for Linville's treatment, "there were so many complications with communications between San Diego and Okinawa" that they lived in a San Diego hotel for three months, Mandi told me this week.

The hotel served cheese and crackers in the evening and each Thursday they got to have a "really good meal with amazing people who cared" because of Marine Parents (marineparents.com). Without organizations like the Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund helping to pay for their lodging and car rental, she doesn't know what they would have done.

Finally, they were able to move into military housing, off base. Two months later, on August 31, Linville was granted three weeks leave and they drove to their family in Idaho. They returned to find their house burgled. All their electronic items, including a Wii System Linville uses for his rehabilitation, were gone. So were two laptops with hard drives that held all their treasured family memories. And Linville's anodized Purple Heart.

When Farrand heard about this, he contacted the Military Order of the Purple Heart and on Sept. 24, at a ceremony at the Veterans Museum, Sgt. Linville was presented with a new medal. Farrand got a new laptop donated to the family and helped them get through their newest bureaucratic nightmare: insurance payments.

"We're always going to be fine, we're always going to bounce back and recover, and my husband ---- he's pretty awesome," Mandi said. "If it wasn't for people like Sunny and the Marine Parents making us feel like family, going out of their way to help us, I don't think his recovery would be going as well as it is."

To help Farrand support military families contact him at http://www.heroestohometowns.org/
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