U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth knows full well what it's like to wake up in a military hospital almost naked, vulnerable, and without possessions to claim.
That's why, she said, it was important for her to contribute to the "Send Something to Landstuhl, Sharana or Bagram" event organized Wednesday evening by VFW Post 1307 in Elgin.
Members of the community at large were invited to drop off items or contribute money to buy supplies to be shipped overseas to wounded military.
Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany is the largest American hospital outside the United States. Bagram Air Field is in Afghanistan. Sharana is a forward operating base, also in Afghanistan.
Duckworth lost both her legs and part of the use of her right arm when the Black Hawk helicopter she was piloting was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade in 2004 in Iraq.
"It doesn't seem like a lot -- toothpaste, a toothbrush, deodorant, a pair of underwear -- but let me tell you, to have that, it means everything," she said. "Everything."
The initiative started when members of the VWF Post found out that Elgin Hampton Inn wanted to donate about 90 small pillows to wounded veterans. That turned into an all-out effort to gather supplies, said post member Bob Getz.
Getz said the Hope for Heroes chapter in downstate O'Fallon will be shipping six boxes to Bagram and Sharana. Twelve or more boxes will be shipped to Landstuhl by Operation Support Out Troops -- America, he said.
South Elgin resident Richard Frey dropped off two bags of sweatshirts, pants, hats and more that his wife, Marie, had bought. His wife is a past president of the Post's Women Auxiliary, he said.
"I'm just doing the legwork because she's working," he said.
Post member Scott Webb, of Elgin, brought T-shirts, boxers and some cash.
"I'm a veteran. How do I not contribute to wounded veterans? How do I not help the people who need help?" Webb said. "Nothing is more important than helping."
Elgin councilman Richard Dunne and his wife, Judy, contributed some money to the effort.
"It's so nice for Bob (Getz) to coordinate this and get this together for the troops," Judy Dunne said.
Duckworth was about an hour late for the event because the car she was riding in was involved in a fender-bender at Route 20 and Randall Road. No one was injured in the minor accident.
Duckworth contributed some toiletries and women's underwear, the latter sorely missing from the usual lists of donated supplies when she got injured, she said.
"I wanted to come and say 'thank you' from the bottom of my heart," she told the crowd. "A lot of people around this country and even here in Elgin are not doing what you're doing tonight."