Sunday, July 31, 2011

Remembering 1LT Benjamin Hall, KIA Chowkay Valley, Afghanistan July 31, 2007

Please take a moment to remember and honor 1LT Hall today

1LT Benjamin Hall
28 December 1982 – 31 July 2007
Laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery
Secton 60 Site 8648

1LT Hall was a platoon leader of Delta Company, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, which is based in Vicenza, Italy during Operation Enduring Freedom VIII (OEF 8).  He had been in Afghanistan only 70 days when he was killed in action

"Everything he knew was the military," John Hall said. "His mother told him to be anything other than a soldier he said he wanted to serve his country."

The military is in the Halls' blood. John Hall is a retired Army colonel. Both of Hall's grandfathers served in World War II; his great-grandfather in World War I; and his great-great-grandfather was a Union soldier in the Civil War.

The 2005 Michigan Tech University graduate was a mentor to the cadets who served under him.  Professors and cadets at MTU remember him as "a solid foundation like a rock that everyone could depend on."  1LT Hall graduated at the top of his class and in the top 5% of all ROTC graduates nationwide.

"When the moment of truth came he was found out in the front exposed and leading his men" said LTC Todd Johnston said in 2007 during 1LT Hall's memorial service at Caserma Ederle in Italy.

Please take a minute to click on the two links at the bottom of this post to read more about what 1LT Hall's family, battle buddies and friends have to say about this amazing young man taken way too soon.

1LT Benjamin John Hall was born 28 December 1982 in Texas. The son of an Army Officer, 1LT Hall frequently moved from station to station living in both Europe and the United States. One of Ben’s greatest accomplishments as a child was earning the right to be an Eagle Scout.

After graduating from high school in 2001, he went on to higher education at Michigan Technological University in Houghton, Michigan earning his degree in International Relations in 2005. In June of the same year, 1LT Hall was commissioned into the United States Army as a Second Lieutenant, Infantry.

In April 2006, Ben Hall arrived to Vicenza, Italy and to the 173d Airborne Brigade Combat Team, where he was assigned to 2nd Battalion (Airborne), 503d Infantry. He was then assigned to be the Platoon Leader for 2nd Platoon, Destined Company.

While serving as Platoon Leader, 1LT Hall participated in three Germany training deployments, multiple local training area deployments and he deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom VIII.

1LT Ben Hall’s awards include the Purple Heart, Army Achievement Medal, Ranger Tab, Parachutist Badge, Combat Infantryman’s Badge, and Expert Infantryman’s Badge. 1LT Hall has been submitted for the Bronze Star Medal in support of Operation Enduring Freedom VIII.
SOURCES for blog post:
Fredericksburg dot com
ArlingtonCemetery dot net

Monday, July 25, 2011

Gold Star Wife & Mother Receive Unexpected Gift From Men They've Never Met & Who Never Met Their Husband and Son

While at work today (25 July 2011) I received a text message that said, "Call me".  Since the text was from a Soldier I stepped outside to call and make sure nothing was wrong.  I can assure you that nothing was wrong.  As a matter of fact so very much was right. 

At first I wasn't sure what was coming, especially when 1SG Jon Hill began with, "I know you're probably going to cry when I tell you this story."  At the moment I didn't realize the excitement in his voice so I braced for the worst.

Before I get to the content of the phone call I probably should back up a few years.  During OEF XIII the 173rd, 1-91 Cavalry out of Schweinfurt, Germany was deployed to eastern Afghanistan.  A part of the Cavalry unit was assigned to an area near the village of Kamu in Kunar Province, Afghanistan.  While on a patrol on 27 July 2007 men of the 1-91 came under attack by the enemy.  SSG Ryan Fritsche and MAJ Thomas G Bostick, Jr were killed by enemy fire.

FOB Naray was renamed FOB Bostick in honor and memory of MAJ Bostick.  OP (Observation Post) Fritsche was named in honor and memory of SSG Fritsche.

After a 15 month deployment the 173rd was replaced by 4th BDE, 4th ID out of Fort Carson, CO.  3-61 Cavalry (of 4-4) replaced 1-91 (of the 173rd) Cavalry in the AO.  Parts of 3-61 Cavalry were sent to COP Keating and OP Fritsche which over looked COP Keating.  1SG Hill and his men wanted to know about the Heros for whom OP Fritsche and COP Keating were named.  They did as much research as they could and one day made contact via email with SSG Fritsche's mother, Volitta.  As it turns out she had written a book about her son and sent them a copy to read.  Volitta has a website here.

On October 3, 2009 many of you will remember when an estimated 300 or more of the enemy attacked COP Keating and OP Fritsche in the early morning hours.  Eight Americans lost their lives that day and many other's lives were changed forever.  Many of you who read this blog came together in a matter of a couple of days to donate personal items such as socks, pillows, running shoes, toiletries, t shirts, etc. because all 56 survivors of the battle, known to the Army as the Battle of Kamdesh but to most of us as the Battle of COP Keating, lost all of their belongings as a result of most of the buildings burning.

The battle raged throughout the day.  Buildings caught on fire one after another.  Men were volunteering to give blood on the battle field so that the wounded could survive until they were medevaced.  Because of the intensity of the battle and the smoke from all of the fires it was impossible for medevac helicopters to arrive until night fell. 

Now back to the phone call I received from 1SG Hill today.  1SG Hill was SFC Hill during OEF IX.  He and his men were assigned to COP Keating and OP Fritsche.  One day after they arrived another Soldier, SSG John Francis, of 3-61 Cavalry was looking through a building and discovered this:

A beautiful white marble Memorial Stone that had been carefully wrapped in paper but, somehow, seemed to have been accidentally left behind when 1-91 left.  That would be understandable since the only access to OP Fritsche was on foot through high altitude and rough mountain terrain or via insertion by helicopter.  1SG Hill estimates the stone weights between 50 and 60 pounds.  SSG Francis called the discovery to the attention of 1SG Hill and others.  They agreed to place the stone at the entrance to the upper OP where the American's came and went.

After the fighting had subsided on 3-4 October 2009, 1SG Hill was at COP Keating.  He tells me that he cannot explain why but something kept pulling him back to the building that used to be the barracks for his platoon and him at COP Keating.  Although, as he described it, the building (made of mud) was like a furnace because of the intense heat from the fire that destroyed all of the contents, he continued to do a "walk through" of the building.  The roof was about to cave in,  but 1SG Hill decided to enter the building and check for anything that may have made it through the fire that should not be left behind for the enemy.  He walked in the darkness of the building moving his foot from side to side "feeling" through the ashes for anything that might be there.

Suddenly 1SG Hill felt his boot hit something.  With his light source he bent down, reached into the ashes and pulled out a Memorial bracelet with SSG Fritsche's name on it.  (Yeah, that's when the hairs stood up on my arms, too).  1SG Hill exited the building and radioed up to OP Fritsche to ask the men who were up there searching and destroying any information that didn't need to be in the hands of the enemy to be sure and extract the marble Memorial Stone.  As 1SG Hill told me today, there was no way he was leaving that stone behind for the enemy to deface and flaunt on the internet. 

The survivor's of 3-61 Cavalry were taken back to FOB Bostick.  The marble stone was taken with them.  Once at FOB Bostick the stone was carefully wrapped in layers of bubble wrap and placed in a Conex for shipment back to Fort Carson.

I'm not really clear why it took so long for the rest of this story to pan out.  I know the Conex's can take months to return to a unit's home base but....

The Conex arrived and SSG Francis retrieved SSG Fritsche's Memorial stone.  Again, I'm not really sure about the timeline on that.  1SG Hill told me today that for the past several months SSG Francis has been working diligently to get the Memorial stone in the hands of SSG Fritsche's widow and his mother who live in Indiana.

Not long before 1SG Hill called me today he received this email from SSG Fritsche's mother:

"Thanks to a soldier at Ft. Carson, Colorado named John Francis and the US Army, this 55/60lb marble memorial stone that was created by an unknown person or entity to mark the entrance of OP Fritsche in the mountains of Afghanistan near the Pakistan border has arrived at the post office in Martinsville to find its final resting place in Ryan’s home town.

John’s (SSG Francis) scout unit was sent to OP Fritsche in 2009 to search for enemy Taliban. The soldiers found this stone wrapped up laying in a building in a place that you can only be air dropped in or fight your way on foot up the rugged mountain side. They had no idea who had it made or how it found its way to such a remote place but they cleaned and mounted it at the entrance of OP Fritsche in honor of a fallen brother that they had never met.

In 2009 OP Fritsche and Camp Keating were both brutally attacked and the US lost 8 young men that day. Both bases were ultimately destroyed and abandon, but John’s First Sgt ask that the stone be brought back to safety with his unit.

July 27th marks the 4th anniversary of Ryan’s death. John has made it possible for the stone to arrive in Martinsville in memory and honor of that day.

Roger Coffin of Martinsville who is charge of the Morgan County War Memorial Park said it would be an honor for the stone which has traveled so far to find a permanent home in the War Memorial Park.

We invite anyone who would like to share this moment in memory of Ryan to meet with us at the Post Office at 1pm when we pick it up. Bette Nunn from the Reporter-Times and Roger Coffin will also be there.

Thank you and God Bless you John (SSG Francis) and First Sgt Hill for making this possible."

I just spoke with Volitta Fritsche, SSG Fritsche's mother.  I wanted to ask her if there was anything she would like for me to add to this story.  She said she wanted SSG Francis, 1SG Hill and all those involved in this to know how much she and her family appreciate them.  She looks forward to the day she will finally get to meet these men - strangers - who told her they brought the Memorial stone home because it was in honor of one of their brothers.

So today the memory of a fallen brother they didn't even know came full circle in Martinsville, Indiana thanks to the men of 3-61 Cavalry.  What I find even more interesting is that July 27th (just 2 days from now) is the day that Ryan's family was told. back in 2007, that he had been killed in action.  Mrs, Fritsche told me that the Army considers his "anniversary" to be July 29th because that is the day he was recovered but to the family July 27th will always be the day they remember as the day the husband, son and brother they loved so much was taken from them.  Way too soon.  Way too soon.

If anyone reading this knows men from 1-91 who served at OP Fritsche during OEF VIII please contact me.  I want to help Mrs. Fritsche and Ryan's widow, Brandi, find out who had the stone made in honor and memory of her son.

Brandi (Ryan's widow), TJ (Ryan's brother) and Volitta outside the Post Office today

Please take a minute to remember and honor Ryan.  Then do it again on Wednesday the 27th.  It is the very least we can do.

10 February 1984 – 27 July 2007
Bravo Troop , 1st Squadron (Airborne), 91st Cavalry Regiment

From the 173rd Airborne Fallen Heroes site:

SSG Ryan Fritsche was born on February 10, 1984 in Martinsville, Indiana. He entered into the U.S. Army on June 13, 2002 as an 11B. After basic training he was assigned to the 3rd Infantry Division at Fort Meyer where he served in the ‘OLD GUARD’ as a fire team leader. He was promoted to the rank of Staff Sergeant on August 01, 2006. On January 10th, 2007, SSG Fritsche came to the 1st Squadron, 91st Cavalry and was assigned to the S-3 Section as the Schools NCO. He performed his assigned duties with meticulous care and attention, successfully sending Soldiers to various schools in preparation for OEF VII. Once in Afghanistan, SSG Fritsche became the assistant air NCO, helping with all critical air operations in TF Saber’s AO. After a month and a half at that position, SSG Fritsche gained the opportunity to join an Infantry Platoon and assumed duties as a squad leader for 2nd Platoon, Bravo Troop.

SSG Fritsche performed his duty whenever and wherever they needed him. Whether it was garrison duties as the schools NCO, assisting with all air operations on FOB Naray, or on the front lines in an Infantry platoon, SSG Fritsche worked with unprecedented vigor. He was hand-selected by the CSM to take on the responsibility of one of the Squadron’s most active squads in the Task Force. His quick progression to a line unit is only overshadowed by the fact that SSG Fritsche lost his father prior to his deployment and then lost his grandmother a week after arriving in Afghanistan. Even with the burdens of his personal tragedies, SSG Fritsche performed his duty unwaveringly. It was these examples of professionalism and loyalty that brought respect to those who came in contact with him.

SSG Fritsche loved his job and being in the Army. However, aside from work, SSG Fritsche enjoyed the outdoors, often mountain biking, hiking, or swimming during his free time. His PCS move to Germany brought on the new excitement of exploring the various castles scattered throughout the German countryside.

SSG Fritsche’s awards and decorations include the Bronze Star, Army Commendation Medal with 2 Oak Leaf Clusters, Army Achievement Medal with 2 Oak Leaf Clusters, Army Good Conduct Medal with 1 Knot, National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Expert Infantry Badge, Combat Infantry Badge, and the Basic Airborne Parachutist Badge.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Remembering PFC Juan Restrepo

We will NEVER forget!

Today Juan's family is together in Columbia, South America to mourn his loss and to remember his life. 

Today Juan's battle buddies, their families and friends mourn his loss and remember his sacrifice for our nation.

Rest in Peace brave Warrior.

PFC Juan Sebastian Restrepo

7 October 1986 – 22 July 2007

Battle Company, 2nd Battalion (Airborne), 503rd Infantry Regiment

PFC Juan S. Restrepo was born 7 October 1986 in Neiva, Columbia. He enlisted in the U.S. Army on 22 February 2006.

During his time in service, PFC Restrepo completed Basic Infantry Training at Fort Benning, Georgia; Medical Advanced Individual Training at Fort Sam Houston, Texas; and Airborne School at Fort Benning, Georgia. On 22 November 2006, PFC Restrepo’s reported to his first duty station at Caserma Ederle, Vicenza, Italy with the 173d Airborne Brigade Combat Team with assignment to 2d Battalion (Airborne), 503d Infantry – The Rock. PFC Restrepo was assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company with duty as a combat medic in Battle Company. He immediately found his home among the combat tested Soldiers of 2nd Platoon – The Spartans. PFC Restrepo trained, deployed, and fought with his Battle Hard brothers in support of OPERATION ENDURING FREEDOM VIII. PFC Restrepo distinguished himself as an exemplary medic and as one of the finest Soldiers in the Battle Hard ranks.

PFC Juan S. Restrepo’s awards include the Bronze Star Medal, the Purple Heart, National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon, Basic Parachutist Badge and the Combat Medical Badge

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Remembering the Fallen of the Battle of Wanat, Afghanistan & Sending Much Love to the Survivors

I've been on the phone off and on today talking with several of the survivors of the Battle of Wanat.  Tomorrow will mark three years snce that awful day.  I honestly think of the Fallen from that battle every single day.  I think of their families, friends and battle buddies.  But tonight I have them laying extra heavy on my mind.

I hope you will join me in remebering and honoring these brave American Heroes.  They gave their lives that day not just defending our nation but in order that those who survived might do so.  They were heroic in their actions and honorable in their lives.  None of these men have been remembered enough for their valor.

1LT Jonathan Brostrom - Silver Star
SGT Israel Garcia - Silver Star
CPL Jonathan Ayers - Silver Star
CPL Jason Bogar - Bronze Star w/V
CPL Jason Hovater - Silver Star
CPL Matthew Phillips - Bronze Star w/V
CPL Pruitt Rainey - Bronze Star w/V
CPL Gunnar Zwilling - Army Commendation Medal w/V
CPL Sergio Abad -Army Commendation Medal w/V

Last year I wrote this post about the fallen heroes who died at Wanat that fateful day.  I hope you will take the time to click on the link and read about each of them. Google each of their names to read about what incredible men they were. They deserve to be remembered every day but especially on this very sad anniversary.

May each of them rest in peace for eternity.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Fourth of July Weekend in the Company of Heroes, Friends & Strangers - Part II

On Monday, July 4th, MaryAnn and I picked up Frank and Garrett and headed to Saint-Avold, Moselle, France to the Lorraine American Cemetery and Memorial.  It was only about an hours' drive from Landstuhl.  MaryAnn had attended a Memorial Day ceremony there this year and remarked about how incredibly well done it was and about how respectful the French are towards our fallen heroes.

We stopped in Saint-Avold to pick up cheeses, bread, sausages, fruit, etc for a picnic.  That, in itself, was a fun adventure.  Thank goodness we only used a hand carried basket.  I'm afraid if we had used a shopping cart we would have filled it to the top! 

We had driven in what seemed like circles to find a supermarket.  Thankfully one of our paratroopers was able to use his land nav skills to get us back to the cemetery.

From this document I found some history and facts about the cemetery:

Lorraine is the largest American WWII cemetery in Europe
There are 10,489 heroes buried at Lorraine
Most of those interred at Lorraine gave their lives in the spring of 1945
151 headstones mark the graves of "Unknowns"
26 sets of brothers are interred side by side
There are 3 Medal of Honor Recipients whose headstones are inscribed in gold leaf.

We parked, gathered our picnic items and a blanket and made our way towards the cemetery.  We passed through an opening in an immaculately manicured hedge to the most breathtakingly beautify and peaceful sight.  The cemetery is incredibly well maintained and respectful.

We stopped at the Memorial Chapel first.

Inside the Chapel

Inside the Chapel

Just outside the Memorial to the south and north are the Walls of the Missing.  These walls contain the names of 444 men whose remains, at the time the walls were built, had not been recovered or identified. 

One of the Walls of the Missing

One of the Walls of the Missing

As time has passed a few of them have been identified and are now marked with a brass marker on the wall (see below)

The brass indicator that this hero has been identified.  What a blessing!

When we exited the Memorial building we were met by the deputy superintendent of the cemetery.  He is retired from the Army.  He gave us some history of the cemetery.  He also spoke about how the French community there is both supportive and respectful of the cemetery and the heroes laid to rest.  He spoke of an older gentleman from the village who comes to the cemetery most every day and walks completely around the grounds.  We were fortunate to see that gentleman as we were leaving at the end of the day.

As we were talking I mentioned that MaryAnn had attended the Memorial Day ceremony at the cemetery.  I also mentioned the work she does for Soldiers Angels Germany at Landstuhl.  The director turned to MaryAnn and asked, "Did you leave coins here on Memorial Day?"  MaryAnn replied, "Busted".  Then the director asked if she had left three.  MaryAnn replied, "You need to keep looking."  I love it!

We slowly and quietly made our way through the cemetery stopping here and there to read the names of the fallen and pay our respects.

MaryAnn, Garrett & Frank

The grounds

So respecful and well kept

In remembrance of the Unknowns

A few of the graves had fresh flowers on them.  The director had told us earlier that families order the flowers and ask them to place them.

We made our way to the shade of a very large tree near the back of the cemetery and spread out our blanket and picnic lunch.


After eating and without any discussion we each took some time to be quiet.  Perhaps reflecting.  Perhaps remembering fallen friends.  From time to time one or more of us would take a walk to another part of the cemetery.  All was done without planning and in complete reverence.

MaryAnn took the picture below.  It is one of my all time favorites.

After a couple of hours of quiet discussion about the history of the cemetery, thoughts of the fallen and general chit chat about those we know who have served our nation we began to make our way back to the Memorial building for the playing of TAPS and the retiring of the colors.  It was done so well.

Just as TAPS began to play I spotted the older gentleman who makes his rounds most ever day.  He stopped, leaned a bit on his cane and stood in silence as TAPS was played.  So incredibly touching.

We made our way to the car and headed back to Landstuhl.  MaryAnn and I walked over to the hospital to 1) get an idea of how many patients would be leaving on the medevac the following day and 2) check on the husband of a friend of ours who was brought in as a patient a few days ago.  We were thrilled to find our friend, Stephanie, there with her husband John.  We were equally as happy to learn that John's 2 friends who survived the blast were now in the same room with him and they were all alert and joking back and forth.

While on one of the wards I joked with one of the Wounded Warriors about him looking like the type who would want a pink blankets for his trip.  He responded that pink was fine but he'd really like a little purple in it, too.  Little did he know....

MaryAnn and I loaded up the cart and headed into the hospital to pass out hand made fleece blankets, travel pillows and duffel bags to the Wounded Warriors who would be on the flight.  We looked a little like Lucy and Ethel on our first trip in.

Ethel & Lucy

We finally made our way to the ward with mister "I'll take a pink and purple blanket" and I gave him his choice:

He was such a good sport!  Look at that cheesy grin!  We let him off the hook though and gave him a very manly red, white and blue blanket for travel.  NOTE:  I have this Soldier's permission to both take and post this photo.  However, I will not divulge who he is, where he was wounded or the details of his injuries so please do not ask.

After squaring away all of those on the Tuesday morning medevac to the USA, MaryAnn and I went back to the stock room in the Outpatient barracks and loaded up one more time.  This time we had boxes sent from a group of nurses in the San Diego area (I hate that I didn't write down the name of the group).  The boxes were to be distributed among the nursing staff at the hospital on July 4th as a "thank you" for taking such good care of the Wounded Warriors.  We stopped by the ICU and all of the surgical wards as well as a couple of other places.  All-in-all it took us about 4 hours but it was worth every second of the time it took.
MaryAnn and I headed back to the hotel with every intention of stopping in the restaurant and taking advantage of their late night menu.  We were hungry!  Alas, the hotel restaurant was closed.  Hmmmmm.....they usually only close on Sunday nights.  I stopped by my room for a few minutes then was going to meet MaryAnn and find someplace to grab a bite.  It was around 10:30 PM.

MaryAnn came knocking on my door to tell me that the owner of the hotel was having a 4th of July party and cookout on the roof of the hotel.  He, Gary, had thrown a couple of steaks on the grill for us and was expecting us.  So up we went.  Red, white and blue streamers, balloons, cups, plates, napkins, etc.  American flags flying everywhere.  Kegs of beer.  Wine.  Sparkling wine.  Soft drinks.  Steaks.  Brats.  Potato salad.  Slaw.  Bread.  Make your own ice cream sundaes.  Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!  Absolutely delicious!

So, just to review....I spent my 4th of July at an American War Cemetery in France with OEF XIII and X Veterans followed by the opportunity to meet incredible American Wounded Warriors at a hospital in Germany topped of with a traditional 4th of July style cookout on the roof top of a hotel owned by a Canadian with some of the greatest friends.  Does it get any better?

I remind myself every day of how fortunate and blessed I am.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Fourth of July Weekend in the Company of Heroes, Friends & Strangers - Part I

On the Wednesday before 4th of July I got one of my wild ideas and decided to hop a flight to German for the holiday weekend.  I had a buddy pass (thanks to my awesome friends at Delta Air Lines) that was about to expire so I decided to take advantage of it.

My dear friend MaryAnn of Soldiers Angels Germany and I had been tossing the idea around for a couple of weeks but on Wednesday I emailed her that I was coming.  MaryAnn has an excellent group of volunteers who help out at Landstuhl but extra hands are always needed.  Plus, I love spending time with MaryAnn.

With bags packed and hopeful that I would make it, I left work at noon on Friday and headed to the airport.  There are no guarantees with a buddy pass.  One only gets a seat if there is one available after all those who pay a fare for their tickets are accommodated.  Made the first flight to Detroit.  Flight from there to Frankfurt was "iffy".  I strolled the airport for 2 1/2 hours.  At one point I decided to go to the ticket counter to see if they could let me know where I stood on the "stand by" list.  While there I witnessed quite a comical event.  Some lady had been dropped off at the airport with FOURTEEN bags and a tropical bird in a small dog carrier.  I got to witness the "show" as the airline employees attempted to explain to this lady that she could NOT check 14 bags and that birds are never allowed to fly.

I made the flight from Detroit to Frankfurt and in International Business Class!  YAY!  Bonus!  Alas, just as we began to board the gate agent announced that we would be delayed due to mechanical problems.  No worries for me.  I knew I was lucky to have such a great seat and would, eventually, get to Germany.

We finally got underway.  I enjoyed a delicious 5 course meal then laid my seat flat for a 6 hour "nap" while wearing the noise reducing headphones provided.  Not sure if I snored like a bear and kept others awake but I slept well.

Once in Frankfurt I found the shuttle service and was on my way to Landstuhl - excited as heck to see MaryAnn and get to the hospital to do whatever needed to be done.  After the hour's drive we were in the town of Landstuhl and I began to notice landmarks near the hotel where I would be staying.  I started to gather my purse, book, etc then...............whizzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.................the driver drove right by the hotel.  What?  The driver took a couple to their home first.  As we were leaving their home the driver got a call.  I don't speak German but I understood "five minutes."  I laughed.  Yep, MaryAnn had called the shuttle service wanting to know if I was en route.

We pulled up to the hotel and MaryAnn was sitting on a rock retaining wall waiting.  What a wonderful welcome!  She came walking over and gave me a big hug then asked why I was so late?  I explained.  We got me checked in and made a call to a couple of ROCK Paratroopers who are at the hospital for pain management, etc.  They loaded up and drove over to the hotel so that we could go for a late lunch.  Another wonderful bonus to the trip.  I knew they were at the hospital but I wasn't sure if they would be around for the weekend.  If you've read this blog much at all you know how much I love "my" ROCK Paratroopers!

MaryAnn and a couple of the ROCK Paratroopers

One of the ROCK Paratroopers and me

MaryAnn getting a little help with the ketchup.  LOL!

After a wonderful lunch and many laughs we all headed to the hospital.  The guys went there way and MaryAnn and I began opening boxes of mail, taking inventory then heading to the stock rooms to place the items on the shelves. 

As I entered the stock room that holds mostly blankets, sweat pants and hoodies I gasped as I saw this:

Those shelves need to be stocked with sweat pants and hoodies.  I figured there must be some boxes somewhere that just had not been unpacked yet but when I asked MaryAnn about that she said there were no boxes, that they are out of size XL and critically low on all other sizes.  Donations are down and casualties are up.  So PLEASE, if you can spare a few dollars, go to this link from my prior blog post and help.  ANY help is good.

MaryAnn and I then straightened up one of the rooms in the Wounded Warrior barracks where the out patients and family members of all of the Wounded Warriors can go to take any items they may need.  We restocked with a few t shirts (very low stock on those, too), socks, toiletries, blankets, etc.  MaryAnn went over to the other barracks to take stock of what was needed there while I continued to open boxes of mail.

Since it was Saturday night and the medevac from Landstuhl Regional Medical Center to the USA leaves on Sundays (as well as 2 others days a week), MaryAnn and I loaded up the cart with blankets, travel pillows and duffel bags to head to the wards to pass those out to anyone needing them for the flight the next morning.  I wrote about this involved process in a prior post here.  And in that same post (link to the left) I also wrote about (towards the bottom) and posted a photo of me with SGT Stephanie McCulley.  I had planned to look Stephanie up on this trip.  Little did I know the circumstances under which that would happen on this trip.  Just a day or two before I left I got a message from Stephanie that her husband, John, who is a former Marine and currently working for a contractor in Iraq, had been blown up.  He was in surgery in Baghdad at the time.  I had very few details.  By the time I got to Landstuhl John and the Soldiers who were with him that day and survived had made it to Landstuhl.  So on our rounds I stopped by John's room.  Stephanie wasn't there at the moment but I was able to talk with John for a couple of minutes.  He was alert but a bit "drugged".  It was SO good to see him!

MaryAnn and I finished our rounds of the wards, took the cart back to the stock room and linked back up with the paratroopers.  We went into town for dinner.  Many more laughs and great memories made.  Only day one and so much packed into it.  I wasn't exceptionally tired for some reason and slept like a baby that night.  I was looking forward to the 3 days left and all that we would try to accomplish.

Most of all I fell asleep knowing how incredibly blessed I am for all of the amazing people in my life and for all of the special opportunities I have had.

We caught back up with the paratroopers and went to dinner in town.  Many more laughs and great memories made.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

CRITICAL SHORTAGE for SA Germany (MaryAnn & her volunteers). PLEASE help!

I think I may have gasped the other day when I walked into the storage/stock room that MaryAnn and her volunteers need to have FULL at Landstuhl in order to help the wounded transiting through Germany from combat theater on their way to the USA and saw this:

The shelves that NEED to be full of sweat pants and hoodies - BARE!

Not good folks.  Not good.  As MaryAnn and I began to refold and straighten the bins where the Wounded Warriors that have arrived via medevac from Afghanistan, Iraq, Horn of Africa, etc (often without anything more than what they were wearing) should be able to grab a t-shirt, sweat suit, etc. the stock was not just low but, in many cases, non-existent.  Plenty of socks, shorts and toiletries right now but almost nada on the above mentioned.

Then this morning I stiood outside the ER door as the ambulances began arriving from Ramstein Airfield with the Wounded Warriors from the combat theaters.  There's another whole story in that experience but for purposes of this post - many were "wearing" only medical equipment and a sheet.  Granted, once they arrive at Landstuhl they are given a $250.00 shopping card but that's another story in itself.  Many need clothes ASAP.  Being able to wander into the basement of either of the Wounded Warrior barracks or to have a family member hop over there for them OR a nurse call MaryAnn and say, "if you have "so and so" would you please drop it by the ward is essential to those Wounded Warriors.

So................PLEASE go to this link and read the most needed items, sizes, etc.  PLEASE note the following from the link:

MOST-NEEDED ITEMS FOR JULY 2011, listed in order of need

Thank you for your help with these items!

- Sweatpants and Zippered Hoodie Sweatjackets (M, L, XL - grey, black, dark blue) Sweat clothing, especially size XL, is urgently needed at this time.

- Undershirts and plain T-shirts (M, L, XL - crew neck, any color)
Especially needed at this time.

Now PLEASE go on line and place an order those items or any of the items on the list and get them shipped to:

Soldiers' Angels
CMR 402
APO AE 09180


- Please notify us when items are shipped

- Include a note with your name, Email address, and brief description of items sent in your packages. Without this information, we will be unable to confirm their receipt.

- Please allow 6 - 8 weeks for receipt confirmation.

- Priority shipping is not necessary. Consider using Parcel Post to save shipping expenses. Ask your Post Office for details.

Just by absolute fate, while I was at Landstuhl this time a friend of mine's husband and 2 of his battle buddies arrived here after being seriously wounded in Iraq.  Three of their battle buddies died in that attack.  (May God Rest Their Souls).  I saw with my own eyes, once again, how much the work that MaryAnn and her volunteers here do MATTERS!  They cannot continue to do this work without OUR support.

Link to order sweat pants - here or here  (or vendor of your preference)
Link to order zippered hoodies (MUST be zipper as many cannot pull them over their heads for many reasons - here or  here (or vendor of your choice)
Link to order crew neck tshirts - here (or vendor of your choice)