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VOL. 130 | NO. 174 | Monday, September 7, 2015

Dr. Mary C. McDonald

Ed Wallin Spends Lifetime Helping Traumatized Vets

DR. MARY C. McDONALD | Special to The Daily News

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Abraham Lincoln said, “Commitment is what transforms a promise into a reality.”

It’s the kind of commitment Ed Wallin has. He doesn’t count the days, months or years, the successes or failures, the efforts or rejections, but simply keeps going, to keep the promise.

That commitment has kept Ed going since his return from Vietnam in the late 1960s after his second tour of duty as an Army chaplain.

Ed, a native New Yorker, was always committed to serving others. As a Paulist priest he was assigned to St. Patrick Church in Memphis. It was there that he worked to eliminate the poverty, walked with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and joined the Army to serve as a chaplain to soldiers in combat.

After seeing and experiencing the atrocities of war, and understanding that the devastating effects of combat live on in veterans’ lives long after the war ends, Ed made a promise to spend the rest of his life taking care of veterans.

Ed left the priesthood after returning from Vietnam, went to Fordham University and received a degree as a clinical psychiatric social worker. He returned to Memphis to work at the VA Hospital. He spent the next 33 years assessing and working with combat soldiers suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

During this time a mother of two combat soldiers suffering from PTSD asked Ed how he could help her sons. Recognizing the growing problems of homelessness and PTSD among retuning soldiers, he, along with that mother, Ola Mae Rasom, co-founded Alpha Omega Veterans Services, the first home for veterans’ homeless services in the United States.

It is still a beacon of hope for many military veterans today, leading the way in addressing the plight of homelessness among veterans.

There are more than 61,000 military veterans in Shelby County, and 40 percent of them are over the age of 65. Their need for long-term nursing care is growing.

While there are many good senior care facilities, meeting the unique needs of military veterans, especially the need for comradery with their follow soldiers, was the seed that Ed planted seven years ago that led to the current grassroots effort to build a much-needed state veterans home in West Tennessee.

With the help of concerned citizens like Sen. Mark Norris, Assistant District Attorney Kevin Rardin, Henry Hooper and a multitude of others, the vision for a West Tennessee Veterans Home (veterans-home.com) is getting close to being a reality.

The highly skilled, 144-bed nursing facility will be built in Arlington and offer long-term and rehabilitation services. The project, sidelined since 2004 and viewed as a political orphan, was reinvigorated by Ed and his friends who are raising the needed funds and support. Ed sees it as a way to thank our veterans for their service.

Even at age 87, Ed’s commitment hasn’t waned.

“I’m seeing this through till the end. On my gravestone it will say, “We did it!”

Dr. Mary C. McDonald, a National Education Consultant, can be reached at 901-574-2956 or mcd-partners.com.

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