Tonight I met a young man who asked me if I knew Jim. I told him I did, that he was the VP of LHCP. He told me that he was deployed in Afghanistan and was staying in the same hotel that Jim was while he was here in Germany. His wife had come up from Italy to visit him while he was receiving care here at LRMC. He told me that Jim had given him and his wife 100 Euro and he did not know how to tell him, ‘no he did not want it,’ but he thought it was very nice of him to give it to his family. So Jim gets an “Atta Boy” for his donation that made a family’s trip to LRMC from Italy a little bit easier.
It is still very cold, windy, rainy, and just plan ugly weather here. We have been busy with new patients, combat stress classes, and then the weekend patient trip to Trier again. I don’t know how many trips I have made to Trier, but I am sure my feet have hit most of the cobblestones taking patients from one place to another.
I thought I would let someone else speak for me this blog. Holly is a patient who came in last week. I met her Tuesday at a Combat Stress class. She was to head out right away, but due to a change in her medical condition, she got held here for a few more days before going back to the states.
I was sent to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center because of seizures and lower back issues. I was in an IDF blast last October while serving a tour in Iraq, and while I had no external injuries, I had internal injuries that I tried to hide for fear of being taken away from my team. I held on for over 5 months, and was 11 months into my tour before being sent here to Germany. I was scared and ashamed, I felt as though I had let my team down because I could not “tough it out.” When I got here, they tested me for Multiple Sclerosis and Lupus. I screened negative for both, but I have a tear in a disc in my lower spine that will need surgery, and I will need physical therapy, quite possibly for the rest of my life. I may also have developed a seizure disorder, but I am waiting on test results to confirm the diagnosis. While I was here, I had a great support system, to include the cadre that worked the CQ desk to the volunteers that work here; specifically, Karen Grimord. She volunteers at the Chaplain’s Closet, and they offer everything from undergarments to jackets to toiletries that wounded warriors might need. When I got here, I had no shampoo, soap, jacket, or civilian clothes; just basically what I had on my back was what I carried with me.
We receive vouchers for military and civilian clothing so you have what we need. What I have found to be helpful in my recovery here is the support that I received from the Chaplains who work the Combat Stress classes, and Karen. They offer hope when you feel hopeless, and with the emotional support and the things they supply, they make you feel like it will get better. Anything that you may need, they do everything within their power to get for you.
I also was able to take a trip with the Chaplain’s group to Trier, Germany. It was a great trip, and I got to see one of the first Roman Catholic Cathedrals, named Dom St Peter, it was built by Constantine. It was unbelievable, and taking a trip out in civilian clothes made me feel like a human again. I am so thankful for the support that I have received here, it’s hard to get wounded in battle, but these people have made a difference in my life forever.
I thank each of the LHCP members and donors for making it possible to support our wounded troops such as Holly.
Thank you Bernie, Diane and Frank Lane, Larry Walley, Stephanie, Callie Waddell, and Maria Waddell for supporting my trip this year. You also helped purchase Holly lunch the other day as we sat and talked about her medical condition, the son she left at home, and what she has to look forward to.
SANTA ROSA, Calif. — A 24-year-old Army paratrooper who grew up in Santa Rosa and died last month in Afghanistan was buried Monday with full military honors.
Ryan James Connolly had recently been promoted to sergeant and had 14 days left in his tour in Afghanistan when his vehicle struck a roadside bomb on June 24, according to the Department of Defense. He was riding with four other troops when the bomb went off in the town of Khogyani near the border of Pakistan, killing him and another soldier.
Connolly served with the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, based in Italy with units in Germany. His widow and 1-year-old daughter were brought to California on a military flight from Germany.
Ryan James Connolly, Medic, United States Army, KIA in Afghanistan
June 26, 2008 by Da-Chief Filed under Army News, Corpsman.com News, Military Information
Ryan James Connolly, a 24-year-old Army medic who grew up in Santa Rosa, was killed by a plastic land mine in a remote area of Afghanistan, family members said Wednesday.
Connolly, who was promoted recently to the rank of sergeant, served with the 173rd Airborne Brigade based outside the town of Khogyani in eastern Afghanistan near the Pakistani border. He was riding in a vehicle with four other troops when the mine exploded Tuesday afternoon (Afghanistan time). One other soldier was killed and three were wounded, said his stepfather, Robert Nelson of Vacaville.
The combat medic had just two weeks left on his one-year deployment to Afghanistan, with orders to report to the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center in Monterey. Improvised explosive devices, including plastic mines that are virtually undetectable, have become a constant source of bloodshed in Afghanistan. According to the Associated Press, nearly 2,000 people have died in insurgency-related violence this year in Afghanistan – many of them killed by mines and bombs detonated next to convoys.
“He was a really strong young man – strong physically, mentally and morally, heart and soul – and a loving father,” Nelson said. He said Connolly’s wife, Stephi, lives in Bamberg, Germany, with their 1-year-daughter, Kayla.
Connolly graduated from Piner High School in Santa Rosa, and joined the Army in 2005.
He had survived multiple firefights in Afghanistan. Just a few days ago, he phoned his father, mortgage broker Jim Connolly of Santa Rosa, and described being ambushed. His unit was pinned down in a firefight for hours after they walked into a village.
Connolly had taken a leave in April, bringing his family to Santa Rosa. During that trip, he bought a 1970 Chevy Nova and began to restore it. He had a passion for baseball, classic muscle cars, NASCAR racing and all things mechanical. “He was in good spirits then,” Nelson said, “and looking forward to finishing the last three months and coming back home.”
Soon after Connolly returned to Afghanistan, Nelson said, a 10-year-old boy with a bomb blew himself up in a crowded square. Connolly was among the first medics on the scene – rescuing about 20 Afghans. Nelson said his stepson had grown weary of the abject poverty and violence in Afghanistan, which Connolly described as “11th century with cars and cell phones. He hated the way women and children were treated there as chattel. He was a good man.”
The medic apparently never tired of practicing his trade. “He loved helping out in Afghanistan, sewing up the kids,” Nelson said. “It broke his heart when he didn’t have enough medicine for a whole village.” Connolly’s mother, Robin Nelson, lives in Vacaville. His brother, Mike Connolly, lives in Santa Rosa, and his sister, Kelly Connolly, lives in San Francisco.
“He was the best brother anyone could have,” Kelly Connolly said. “Very protective, always looking out for my best interest. He was a great husband and father. He loved his daughter.”
Today was oh so very slow in the WWMC and that is oh so very good in terms of wounded arriving, but oh so bad for making the day extremely long.
I did have some patients come in just to talk or give me feedback from their doctor’s appointments. Yesterday, we had two patients arrive at once. I was working on a project as another volunteer explained the WWMC to the patients. She asked them what they needed. The one patient knew he needed sweats and a jacket, but the other said he did not know. She told him they had toiletries, snacks, and clothing and he could look around. He said he just didn’t know what he needed. I turned around and left my task, as I have heard that plea before. I went to his side and slowed things down a little bit for him by going over each item, one at a time.
Sometimes we are in such a hurry to help, we forget to slow it down just a little. Many patients with Post Traumatic Stress or Traumatic Brain Injury cannot process more than one thing at a time. They cannot take a list of 5 or 6 items and decide if they need each of those items. It must be broken down for them. They cannot process putting a bag together, talking about their tour, their family, or even the weather outside at the same time. Many put on a really good “puppet” show, as one patient called it yesterday, but they are very lost.
Once we got the bag together, he felt a little more comfortable and told me that he had been in the dining facility and had a little bit of a panic attack. This is completely normal and is actually part of lessons they are given to get back into a crowd and be able to work through it. We talked for about 20 minutes when his wife called. He shared with her what happened, but she had her own crisis happening at home and it was very unfortunate that she could not listen to what he was going through, since he was in no position to deal with what was happening at home; so he hung up on her. As he sat with his head hung down, I asked if he wanted a hug. He said no, which did not surprise me since he had already had a panic attack, so I held out my hand, allowing him to take it if he wanted to and we sat there holding hands quietly for a few minutes.
We have combat stress classes on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. It is a one-hour informal class with patients that wish to attend. It is not mandatory and many only come because on Tuesdays we have Popeye’s Chicken, on Wednesday we have pizza and Thursday we have Subway sandwiches. It is an open forum to talk about some of the issues they might be struggling with.
Guilt seems to be number one on the list. Guilt for leaving their unit, for surviving an attack, for being away from their family, for what they did – or maybe they feel they failed to help a battle buddy. The second seems to be anxiety. This can be anxiety for their own health, their career, their family at home, or their unit “family” downrange. Then follows hyper-vigilance; I call this always having the ears on. Even sleeping, you can hear conversations and respond, you become overly security conscious.
Other issues are obsessive-compulsive behaviors, isolationism, difficulty sleeping, flashbacks, nightmares, intrusive mental images and memories, anger at themselves or God for letting this happen, or for not stopping it, depression, avoiding emotional intimacy, reluctance to get close to people, short term memory loss, confusion, lack of concentration, continual fear for those left behind or for what is ahead in their health care, denial of any health problems or personal problems,
We then give them some good tools to use. Some work better for one patient than they do for another. Each patient can discuss what tools they think would work best for them. We also talk about what tools are ineffective tools. I have been known to use some of the ineffective tools and learned they just cover up and extend the recovery from any combat stress.
The class usually starts very slow as no one is willing to share, but by the end we usually have everyone participating. It is the beginning of what might be a long trip back to a new normal.
The first time he saw her, dancing at a nightclub, Ben Rowella knew he had to meet Katie Soenksen.
She reminded him of actress Jessica Biel.
And, oh, that smile.
“In my 30 years, I’ve been all over the world, seen lots of places, met lots of people,” Rowella said. “There was just something that hit me when I saw her.”
Rowella proposed to her that night. They married two weeks later, on June 23.
Soenksen, 19 and a private first class in the Army, was deployed to Iraq six days after that. Rowella, 30, and a specialist in the Army, was deployed for his second tour in Iraq during October.
They worked in the same area of the country, Rowella said. He last saw her April 30.
Then, on May 2, he heard her battle roster number called out on his radio, followed by an order for a MedEvac.
“I knew something was wrong,” he said today.
Soenksen died that day of injuries resulting from a roadside bomb explosion in west Baghdad. She is the 11th female member of the U.S. military under the age of 20 to die in Iraq.
Tonight, Rowella stood in the auditorium at Davenport North High School, greeting hundreds of people he had never met before, people who came to offer their sympathy.
He stood next to Katie’s parents, Ron and Mary Ann Soenksen, her sister, her brother and a host of other family members.
Outside the auditorium stood Tim McCoy.
He and his wife, Chris, came from Lansing, Mich., to honor Pfc. Soenksen.
Tim McCoy’s son was a member of the same military police company as Katie Soenksen.
Staff Sgt. Greg McCoy was 26 years old when he and another soldier were killed by a roadside bomb in November.
Soenksen was in a truck right behind him.
“She was there for my son’s service in Iraq,” Tim McCoy said. “We made the trip to honor her for my son. Something pulled me here. Maybe my son was pushing me here.”
McCoy stood outside the visitation, holding a large American flag for most of the afternoon. He was one of about two dozen fellow Patriot Guard Riders who stood guard.
The Riders escorted Staff Sgt. McCoy’s remains to his final resting place on their motorcycles. They will do the same today for Pfc. Soenksen.
The last time Soenksen came home, in February, she brought a video of McCoy’s memorial service in Iraq, a recording the McCoys have not seen.
Soenksen’s mom still has the video, the McCoys learned at the visitation Wednesday.
Memorial in Iraq
The memorial for Soenksen in Iraq was held Tuesday.
Pfc. James Alaimo was there. He was one of her friends in Iraq.
She was a joker, he said.
She used to set his leg hairs on fire with a lighter. She helped him party with water on his 21st birthday. Soldiers are not allowed to consume alcohol in Iraq.
“I know she’d kick me in the butt if she knew how sad I am right now, but I can’t help it,” Alaimo wrote in an e-mail. “It’s like she’s taken a piece of my heart with her, but it’s okay, ’cause mine is so much bigger for knowing her.”
Glancing sporadically at the pictures of Katie’s childhood flashing on a screen on the auditorium stage at Davenport North, Ben Rowella talked about how he enlisted in the Marines for four years.
He then spent four years managing a Taco Bell. Late at night, after closing time, he would go to eat at a café and watch the war in Iraq rage on CNN. He decided to join the Army.
Rowella will return to Fort Hood after he buries his wife today. He plans to return to Iraq eventually. His unit’s stay has been extended to January 2008.
“It’s my job. It’s my career,” he said.
Then, before going outside to take a break from the crowd, he said he will never marry again.
“She was that one special person everyone needs in their life.”
Source: Quad City Times
Congressional Record > May 10, 2007
CELEBRATING THE LIFE AND MEMORY OF KATIE M. SOENKSEN
The United States House of Representative
May 10, 2007 Section 27 In This Section… Rep. Braley [D-IA]: Mr. Speaker, I rise today to celebrate the life and the memory of PFC Katie Soenksen, who graduated from Davenport North High School in 2005 and died in an explosion…
Rep. Bruce Braley [D-IA]: Mr. Speaker, I rise today to celebrate the life and the memory of PFC Katie Soenksen, who graduated from Davenport North High School in 2005 and died in an explosion on May 2 in West Baghdad, Iraq, while conducting a security mission in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Katie was a 19-year-old woman from Davenport, Iowa, who was a member of the 410th Military Police Company from Fort Hood, Texas. She left behind a loving family, including her parents, Ron and Mary Ann Soenksen, a brother, Matthew, from Davenport, and a sister, Sarah, from Blue Springs, Missouri.
Katie’s friends and family remember her as a fun-loving, energetic young woman who loved bowling, playing softball and spending time with her friends.
Mr. Speaker, as we come to the floor every day and decide important public policy issues that affect the lives of people like Katie Soenksen, I hope we all remember that this is something we are all in together, and the lives of future generations of Americans are affected by the policies that we set on this floor.
DAVENPORT, Iowa. May 10 — The long black hearse did not belong in the picture, parked outside Davenport North High School on a day more suited to a picnic than a wake. As students spilled into the afternoon sunshine and did a double take, a family gathered to mourn an effervescent teenager taken too soon.
Pfc. Katie M. Soenksen, a 19-year-old soldier serving with the 410th Military Police Company, died last week in a Baghdad explosion not two years after she graduated from North High. She enlisted and wrote recently that being in Iraq “makes me realize how good we have it in America.”
She was the 71st woman killed in Iraq — 45 by hostile action — and the 246th teenage soldier killed in Iraq or Afghanistan. With women serving in combat in unprecedented numbers, the number killed in action is higher than in previous wars, roughly triple the number of female casualties in Vietnam and the Gulf War combined.
Soenksen’s death cut deeply in Iowa, which buried another 19-year-old soldier on Wednesday. In the Quad Cities, which straddle the Mississippi, 14 fighting men and women have been buried since the Iraq war began, breaking hearts and driving political attitudes.
Anger over Iraq was decisive in November, when the Democrats captured the 1st District congressional seat held by Republicans since 1978. Losing GOP candidate Mike Whalen said it was “the overwhelming issue,” a predicament all too familiar to anxious Republican moderates who warned President Bush this week that patience with the war is waning.
But the days since a homemade bomb killed Soenksen have been more about pain and hugs than politics. Support for the family has been overwhelming. Hundreds of people streamed into the high school on Wednesday, the day before her military funeral, to offer comforting words and heartfelt embraces.
As lights on a signboard flashed, “We’ll Miss You, Katie,” one administrator said the experience of burying a student who had been so vibrant and alive was “very surreal.”
When the news reached Davenport on May 2, Brandon Concannon Colter was with his best friend, Marco Torres, who had dated Soenksen for two years. They were riding bikes at the Bettendorf skate park when Torres’s cellphone rang.
“It just got kind of silent,” said Concannon Colter, 17, a senior in North High’s Junior ROTC program. “He was like, ‘I’ll be all right. I’ll be all right.’ He got off the phone and he was [teed] off and sad.
“I said, ‘What is it?’ He said, ‘Katie died.’ It was a silent ride home.”
Concannon Colter told his parents and his sister, but Soenksen’s death did not compute.
“It was more shock than devastation. ‘They’re lying,’ ” he thought.
The next morning, when Gunnery Sgt. Greg Livingston drove into the school parking lot, his ROTC students burst from the doorway to tell him. He said it must be a bad rumor.
“I didn’t want to believe it. The kids didn’t want to believe it,” said Livingston, a Marine who oversees three platoons of ROTC students. Later that morning, confirmation arrived. He addressed the young students, telling them this was the reality of war.
“Every day,” he told them, “somebody’s dying over there for us. She was willing to stand up and do what she believed in. We should be a grateful nation for what she did. If you live the right way, the correct way, I believe we’ll all be together again.”
Students were devastated. Many cried. Just two years earlier, Soenksen was a leader in the same room. The juniors and seniors knew her. Others remembered her stopping by school when she was home on leave, proud in her Army uniform.
“I’ll always love her,” said Livingston, his eyes reddening. “You can’t forget her. She made you feel good, no matter what mood you were in. I’m a moody person, but she wasn’t like that. She set the example for others to follow.”
Monsignor James F. Parizek, who led a funeral Mass on Thursday at Our Lady of Victory Catholic Church, said Soenksen could be “strong-willed and stubborn,” butting heads with people who stood in her way. She had an impulsive streak, marrying Army Spec. Benjamin Rowella, 30. It was six days before her deployment and two weeks after they met at a nightclub. At the Mass, he sat in the front pew.
Soenksen did not need to look far for military models. Her aunt, Air Force Lt. Col. Rose Ramirez, will soon complete her 34th year in uniform. She flew to Davenport with Soenksen’s remains.
Ramirez was with the family on Wednesday as an army officer presented Soenksen’s parents with a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star. The certificate said, “Her commitment contributed to our Nation’s continual war on terror and her actions represented her dedication to the security of the United States of America.”
Countless friends and more than a few strangers waited patiently in the North High auditorium for the chance to walk past Soenksen’s ashes and a stage full of flowers and tributes. One who had not known her was Pat Clayton, who served as an Army MP in the 1970s, shortly after the Vietnam War ended. A government employee, she is seeking work in Iraq, to help the troops.
“If you don’t feel it, you would never understand,” Clayton replied when asked why. “Just a need to go over and support ’em. God and country. That’s what it’s all about.”
Standing nearby, accepting condolences, was business teacher Jeff Manders. He coached Soenksen in basketball, soccer and softball from the time she was little. In high school, she played outfield and “had a cannon for an arm.” He adored her.
“There are special kids you always remember. She was one of those kids,” Manders said. “A fun kid. A teaser. She would tease her friends, tease her teachers, tease her coaches. Could Katie push it to the limit? Yeah, but she always had a way of coming back and making amends.”
Soenksen’s sudden death crystallized Manders’s misgivings about the war. He said it will “definitely” influence his 2008 vote.
“This one hurts. This brings the war to your front door. It’s no longer someone else’s kid from a distant place. It’s the kid next door who’s died,” said Manders. He described Iraq as “a mess.”
“How are we going to get out of it? I saw the Republican debate: ‘We can’t pick up and leave or it would be chaos.’ I understand, but what’s the tradeoff? How many American lives are we going to lose? [I] just want to get the hell out of there.”
Manders took in the auditorium that had been transformed into a funeral chapel, the line of people studying Soenksen’s cheerful portraits, the scrapbooks of photos from childhood and from war, her softball trophies, the flowers, the simple wooden box holding her ashes.
“It’s sad, but unfortunately I don’t think this is going to be the end of it, not for Iowans, not for the United States.”
Concannon Colter will turn 18 on Sept. 6. Three days later, he leaves for Marine Corps basic training and, he expects, deployment to Iraq. Since Soenksen died, his commitment to the military has grown stronger.
“It’s helping her out,” Concannon Colter said, “fighting for her cause, too.”
Staff researcher Madonna Lebling in Washington contributed to this report.
It has been a while since I have made an entry from this trip. Jim has kept you up to date on his trip and I have been busy with working at LRMC also.
We have had many volunteers spring cleaning and sorting through items not needed here at LRMC. Last week, I sat with a patient before he went in for a procedure. He was supposed to be out before 10:30, but it went much longer than expected, so I had to leave before he came out. I felt horrible to find out later he went for lunch and passed out as he was standing in line for his Burger King Whopper.
Jim is right when he told his story about the young Marine who wanted to stand on his injured half casted foot. I imagine they do feel like they have their “mom” here. There have been many here that stand on a splinted foot or rest their bodies/arm pits on their crutches and get a lesson on proper care of their leg or use of crutches to prevent crutch palsy or nerve damage. Mom is not here, so someone has to make sure they wear their jackets when going outside for a smoke, tie their shoes so they don’t trip and hurt themselves again – or worse, cause another injury; even if we know how tired they become walking on one leg and using the crutches.
I helped one of our Polish coalition forces last week. His translator was with him, but I feel it is better to talk directly to the patient. So I have found over the years, it is very easy to ask if a patient needs a razor by “shaving” my own face, or “brushing my teeth” with hand motions and the coalition forces always seem to know what I mean. I am sure it must be quite the sight to outsiders to see a woman act like she is putting deodorant on or clean her ears with Q-tips, but the patient is number one and unless they ask the translator, the patient is who we should look in the face with a smile and treat with respect.
We had 4 battle-injured Marines come in at one time. I helped put their duffel bags together. As I asked them if they needed shirts or sweat pants, one told me he did not need a shirt, so we moved on. Before they left, I learned that he only had the shirt on his back, which was stained with sweat and blood. After giving him a smile and a pat on the back, I gave him the “what for” on the donated items that were sent for troops. I told him he needed to take what he needed and that meant that he was not to walk around in dirty clothing. So we then began adding to his bag. One of the Marines needed break-a-way pants due to a drainage tube. I was happy to find a pair that LHCP had sent. I explained and showed him the easiest way to put them on. It should not surprise me, but he wanted them on then and there. So we got that task accomplished with him first unfastening the right side, sitting and putting his good leg in the still fastened side. Then he stood, and I brought the back around as he held the front and we again fastened the right side around the tubing. He was so very happy to have pants on instead of shorts.
Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, we have a Combat Stress Class for those wishing to attend. So after I get done at the WWMC, I go and help set up for this. We have Popeye Chicken one night, pizza another night, and Subway sandwiches the last night. This class gives those patients and escorts time to talk about any concerns they may have with their deployment. Next week, I will take some more time and go over Combat Stress in this blog.
Thanks to Callie Waddell for helping to sponsor this trip. She has been an LHCP member for two years, and is one of our biggest Stitches of Love contributors. Thank you for all your support, Callie!
I was privileged to have been asked to go on the Chaplain’s Office Saturday excursion with the wounded from the LRMC for a tour of Mainz, Germany. When we arrived in Mainz, we made our way to Cathedral Square, where about half the group went to the Gutenberg Museum and the other half to the Cathedral for tours. We had a chance to spend about 40 minutes in the museum before going to our assembly point for lunch. I walked with one of the Chaplains in the back, making sure everyone was accounted for. At lunch, I sat and talked with service members from Texas, California, Wisconsin, and Washington. What was funny was the look on their faces when I brought up a few personal details on two of them, until they recognized me as the “guy” from the Clothing Closet.
After lunch, I walked with a small group around downtown Mainz. There was a little rain during the afternoon and I was glad I bought an extra umbrella and raincoat to hand out. One of the favorite shops the group went in was the “Everything is 1 Euro,” or the European equivalent of the “Everything is a Dollar” store in the United States. Everyone walked up and down the aisles, joking and seeing what 1 Euro would buy. One of the nice ladies with us wanted to visit a shoe store, so the gentlemen politely waited near the store door and we talked about our families and what souvenirs we were going to buy for our children. We eventually stopped at a small café and ordered mega-calorie desserts and hot chocolates. Another small group joined us, and as I was sitting there with my slice of cake, I enjoyed watching our service men and women just making small talk with these big smiles on their faces. They all told me how much they appreciated getting away from the hospital even for a little while to just be tourists. To get the chance to sit outside a café, even with the cool rainy weather, and watch the world go by was very special to them and I was grateful to have had the chance to share the experience.
This is my last blog, since tomorrow I start packing for my flight back home to Idaho. I didn’t know what to expect before I came to work at Landstuhl, but it has turned out to be a unique week-long personal journey for me. I met more outstanding individuals, both as patients and support staff, then I can count; and made a few new friends. And to all our Wounded Warriors – Semper Fidelis.
It was my last day working at the Wounded Warrior Ministry’s Clothing Closet. I was met by one of the chaplains first thing in the morning, who let us know that a flight of wounded had come in during the night so we could be prepared. An older couple and four hard working missionaries from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints also arrived as volunteers this morning, as part of their normal Friday activities. The four missionaries spent a few hours opening, sorting, and storing numerous boxes of clothing in one of the store rooms. It was very impressive to see how much they accomplished in such a short time period.
All of the unspecified cards and letters received for the wounded must be individually opened, screened for content, and checked just in case someone included items like phone or iTunes cards. This is a daunting task since the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center receives thousands of pieces of mail annually and the volunteers are generally tasked with this job. I was told when these young missionaries would find a phone or iTunes card, they would start singing the “golden ticket” song from the Willie Wonka movie. I guess they work for one box of Samoas Girl Scout cookies – a very good deal for the Clothing Closet.
We had wounded service men and women come to the Clothing Closet throughout the day. As with the other days, they would come in just wanting a few items, but with a little encouragement, leave with a duffle bag full of much needed clothing and hygiene items. Many of them were in amazement at the generosity of their fellow Americans in providing them with these items. Later in the day, we had four Marines from the previous night’s flight come in to get clothing, because all of them had nothing but hospital gowns to wear. Karen assisted one Marine in a wheelchair with a pair of breakaway pants while I searched for a pair of size 14 men’s shoes. All of the Marines left the Clothing Closet with clothing they could comfortably walk around in.
Near the end of the day I restocked a few bins and made sure there were plenty of duffle bags and jackets ready for the weekend. My time volunteering at the Wounded Warriors Ministries Clothing Closet has come to an end and I cannot believe how fast the time went.
Today was a little slower than yesterday’s big Spring Cleaning day at the Clothing Closet. We had several servicemen and women come through to pick up a few items they needed and didn’t get their first visit. Also today, I was walking down the main corridor and saw some of the service people who had been to the Wounded Warrior Ministry Clothing Closet this week and we knew each other by sight. One soldier in particular was shy the other day and said very little, but this time when I met him we stopped to talk.
On the lighter side, Karen asked me to collect several items while she escorted and stayed with one of the patients through his medical exam and procedure in the morning. One item on the list was various sizes of sports bras, and I can honestly say my expertise in this area is limited. It was humorous to the staff to watch me as I went through newly arrived boxes looking for ladies undergarments while referring to my list of women’s regular and sports bra sizes.
For lunch, we traveled to the Pfalzer Stuben Hotel, which is where I am staying during my visit to Landstuhl. The owners of the hotel, Gaby and Gerhard Mueller, received a special Certificate of Appreciation and challenge coin at lunch by the LRMC Chaplain’s office for the kindness and support they have shown Karen over the last few weeks. I can honestly say that both Gaby and Gerhard have been superb hosts during my stay in Germany. After this presentation, both Karen and I received Certificates of Appreciation from the Chaplain’s office for our volunteer work supporting the Wounded Warrior Ministry, too.
This afternoon I had two patients, one with a cast on his right foot, and one with a cast on her left foot. Both of them were looking for one shoe. Unfortunately, they didn’t have the same shoe size, as he was over 6’ tall and she was around 5’2”. There are two special bins at the Clothing Closet, one with single right shoes and the other single left shoes. These bins are the result of the amputees coming to the Clothing Closet needing only one shoe and they are a reminder to every one of the sacrifices being made by some members of our military. We finally found a shoe to fit my 6’ tall friend, but the other one was proving to be a bit more challenging. She had very petite feet and said she needed a very small shoe. Just after she said that, I found a tiny baby shoe in the bottom of the bin. No one knows why it was in there to start with. I brought it out and asked if she would like to try it on, but our little group just started laughing and she declined.
I am a little saddened to know tomorrow is my last day working at the Clothing Closet.
It is Spring Cleaning Day at the Wounded Warrior Ministry of both the Clothing Closet and onsite storage areas. Several other volunteers showed up and everyone worked hard all day, ensuring that all the areas were cleaned and all the storage racks straightened out. All of the clothing on the shelves was checked, organized to ensure everything was in the right space, and clothes neatly folded. The bins with the hygiene items, such as toothpaste and soaps, were inspected for outdated items and wiped clean. In the afternoon, all of the clothing shelves and hygiene bins were restocked. As part of this effort, I helped move the clothing storage racks and scrubbed the floors underneath, including a few hard to clean places. A chapter of the DAR generously sponsored to have the volunteer’s lunch catered.
During all this, we did have patients coming in and being assisted by the volunteers. One young Marine had a broken leg and was in a wheelchair. He stood up out of his wheelchair to look at some item of clothing, and a few seconds later Karen was telling him to get off his leg and sit back down. When he stood up a second time, Karen gave him another warning to sit down. Both the Marine and I came to the conclusion that it was like having your “mom” watching you.
I must admit that yesterday, after working all day on my feet at the Wounded Warrior Clothing Closet, I was very tired. It was early to bed last night after almost falling asleep at the hotel restaurant.
When I arrived this morning at the Clothing Closet, there were patients already getting items. One thing I learned yesterday was to be sure they tried on clothing items like the jackets, because they tended to be on the small size and we would need to go to the next larger size to ensure it fit properly. I was assisting one soldier in finding items and found out that he originally was in the Marines from 1978 through 1985. After discussing where he was stationed, it turned out he started boot camp in San Diego just as I finished and was graduating.
This morning we had a contractor from Fiji that was in a wheelchair because of leg surgery. All he asked for was a small backpack to help carry a few of his things. I got him the bag he wanted and asked if he needed anything else. He just looked around and asked how much he needed to pay for the bag. One of the other volunteers told him everything was free. It took a couple tries, but she finally convinced him that everything was free. In the end, he got a couple pairs of ankle sock, a new t-shirt, and a washcloth; still a little shocked he was getting these items with no strings attached.
This afternoon, I assisted in unpacking items that had been received in the mail. There were probably a couple dozen boxes that needed to be opened and the contents sorted and stored. Of course, for the couple boxes of Girl Scout cookies, it seemed everyone had an opinion on which were the best. While we were opening the boxes, there were two issues that came up. The first one was the number of boxes that contained materials on our website’s “Do Not Send List” for Landstuhl Region Medical Center (LRMC). Several packages had books and puzzles, which they cannot use, and Karen had one with movies on video tapes. To be honest, LRMC does not have a single video machine on site to play these tapes. As with many of our field units, storage space is at a premium, so boxes of bulky items that cannot be used is a problem. The second issue came up when I was unlucky enough to open a box with a lot of toiletry items like shampoo, conditioner, and hand lotion. I had emptied the box in a container we were using to sort the hygiene items when I noticed everything on the bottom of this box was covered in hand lotion. One of the tops came off of a bottle and leaked on many of the other items in the box. This was a reminder to me, if you are going to ship liquids like lotion, be sure to use Ziploc bags which will contain any accidental spillage. Taping down the tops before going into a Ziploc bag is a good idea, too.
Tomorrow is the big Spring Cleaning day at the Wounded Warrior Clothing Closet and I found my name on the signup sheet to help. I guess I will need to wear some clothes I don’t mind getting dirty.
This was my first day working at the Clothing Closet at the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center. It was good to spend the day assisting all of the Soldiers and Marines that came in looking for civilian clothing and hygiene items. All of them were grateful for everyone who spent the time and effort to send these items and for all the volunteers working at Landstuhl. One nice thing about being here is that I do not miss the snow that is at my house.
It was interesting to see the items that the Clothing Closet has way too many of, or just not enough. This morning I helped sort hundreds of decks of playing cards. There were two large bins full of playing cards, so many that I think I could hand one out to everyone on base and still have some left over. One item that is just gone is men’s medium sized underwear. This bin was empty the whole day and we needed a dozen pair before I went home at 4:30pm.
Size does make a difference with items such as duffle bags. The largest duffle bag LRMC has in stock is 25” and these were popular, but all of the 30” black bags were gone even before I got there. What a couple of soldiers told me was that they needed a bag to carry the items not only from the clothing closet, but also their personal armor and helmet. In this case, a black 30” duffle bag, like the ones LHCP sends, would work much better.
As a board member of LHCP, I was proud to note there was very nice pillow with a label from the Mounger Family of Texas and one that said it was from a “Stitches of Love” member. Next to the pillows, there was a lovely quilt made by the Antelope Valley Quilt Association in California.
The chaplain’s office is planning for their annual spring cleaning this Wednesday, so this should be interesting. I am looking forward tomorrow to assisting our soldiers and Marines, and working with all the volunteers and military personal that keep this small part of the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center organized and running smooth.
This is a difficult entry for me to write. Not because of the day I have had or the wounded I have met, but because I have to come clean with the Yahoo LHCP members. I just realized that as I was going to tell you about the interview Armed Forces Network (AFN) filmed with me today and next week when I post the link to the AFN interview, you will all find out my secret anyways. I am the patient going through Landstuhl Regional Medical Center that I have been blogging about.
Last Friday was a beautiful day, that was the truth. I was going back and forth from the Wounded Warriors Ministry Closet (WWMC) to the storage rooms gathering items and stocking shelves. I was well rested and happy to be back. Then it happened, my foot twisted and I landed on the outside of my ankle. It was one of those “oh my gosh..breath…that really, really hurt…get your balance…ok composure….oh crap look around and see if anyone just saw you make that stupid move” moments. Nope, I was in the clear, no one saw. I stood inside the storage room for a couple of minutes, drew a couple deep breaths and got what I needed and went back to the WWMC.
About 15 minutes later, the foot started swelling so I took a long tube sock, some ice, and wrapped it around the ankle. All is well!!! Later the ice had melted, so I went to ER and asked for some instant cold packs that I could use as I continued to help patients and stock shelves. The pain wasn’t horrible. Then mother Silvia saw me. I was limping and she asked me why. I told her and she wanted to see it, so off came the tube sock, my shoe, and my sock. There is a very big egg on the side of my ankle. She had a fit and told me to go to the ER. I told her it did not hurt too bad and if it was broken, I wouldn’t be able to walk on it. She kept bugging me over the next 2 hours. So, at the end of the day I decided I was going to go to ER to prove her wrong. I did not want to listen to her all day on Saturday on the tour for the wounded troops.
You know the rest of the story from my past blogs. I went to the ER and the tech ordered the x-rays. Doc comes in and tells me the ankle and knee are broken. Can you imagine my surprise when I went there to prove to mother Silvia that I was ok? I was wrapped and splinted from mid thigh to toes. I was in the hotel bed all day Saturday and Sunday except for a trip to the ER Saturday night due to loss of capillary refill and pain. Monday I went to orthopedics and found out my knee was actually alright, but the ankle was broken. I was put into the walking brace and life continues here at LRMC.
The reason I didn’t want LHCP members to know is because I felt stupid for getting hurt, felt like I was letting you and others down. I didn’t want someone taking care of me because I believed I was tough enough to take care of myself, and then followed the spectrum of feelings from anger, to guilt, to embarrassment, shame, all of it. However, I realized that I couldn’t keep it a secret because of the interview that AFN would be doing.
While I was still stateside, I was contacted by AFN. They were told I was coming in and asked me if I was willing to do an interview while I was there. I told them that I was not the story and gave them email addresses of those we support and wounded that keep in touch with me. They told me that they understood, but they still wanted to do the LHCP story. If you have been with LHCP very long, you know we do not put our logo on every item we distribute. We do not advertise on TV, radio, magazines, newspapers, internet, etc. I truly believe that the story does not lie with Jim, Rachel, Sharon, Maria, myself, or any other LHCP volunteer, but lies with those that sign on the dotted line to serve our country with the US military.
I finally agreed, and the interview was scheduled for this past Wednesday. I thought they would be there about 30 to 45 minutes. Well, this trip is full of surprises. AFN and I were attached at the hip from 10:30 to 2:00. Now those that know me are laughing, so get it out of your system, have your laugh. I always have a camera in my hands so I never have to be in front of the camera, so this was horrible for me. The young man I told you about with the Nobody’s Hero tattoo came in while AFN was there and they talked to him. It gave me a small break so that was nice. So here is the link to the story
I also met a young man with the same ankle break on the same leg that I have. I am now up and walking on the cast with no crutches and all is well. The ankle is still swollen and starting to become the most beautiful shades of blue and purple, but as we all know, it could be so much worse.
Last night, I was at the USO watching a movie when they had to bring in a wheel chair for a young man who was dizzy and not feeling well. He came in yesterday from Afghanistan due to seizures. They needed a volunteer to go with him to the ER. I said I would, but another military member said he would go. Good enough, until I found out that the other military member was at LRMC as a cardiac patient. I got up and started to follow them to ER. I got to ER just as they arrived. I asked the escort if he was a patient at LRMC; he said he was and I introduced myself. I told him that I would stay with the young man so he could go on back to the USO, that I did not want both of them laid out somewhere. He laughed and said that his doctor gave him a clean bill of health that afternoon. Since both were patients, I stayed. We took the kid into the exam room and when they got his vitals all looked great. He was still complaining of being dizzy.
When the doctor came in and had the kid sit up, I knew right away what was wrong. His blood pressure went up, the doctor looked at me and said hypertension and I said dehydrated. Doctor ordered blood work and then two bags of IV fluid full bolus. Since this was going to take about an hour, we left the patient to rest and then came back one hour later at 8:30pm. He felt better and we took him back to his room. I did not post last night as it was a long day with this unexpected event.
Today (Thursday) was a very busy day. I started work about 8:15am and left at 4:30pm to go over and help set up for the Combat Stress event.
We had so many patients today, I can’t even tell you how many, but one stood out to me because when I turned around to see if anyone needed help, he was just staring at the socks. I went up and put my arm around his shoulders and asked if he was ok. He just stood there a minute and looked at me. I asked him if he was tired, confused, lost and didn’t know what he needed. He said “yes.” I then started where I have started so many times before. “Hun, are you a boxer or brief kind of guy.” He smiled and we packed his bag with socks, a full size towel, XL house slippers, a winter jacket and some toiletry items. I helped him do his inventory list and out the door he went with the rest of his group. He was probably 10 years older than me. I always hear from people that they want to support our young men and woman who are wounded in OIF/OEF. I cannot imagine how this war has affected this man at his age.
We received approximately 20 boxes in the mail today. Some were LHCP boxes. We received more paperback books. I am unsure how or what to do about this. Paperback books have been on the do not send list for years, but people still send them. I can’t even imagine the amount of money spent on sending paperback books here that we cannot use, nor have a home for. Same thing goes for playing cards. Last month the WWMC had approximately 8 large bins of playing cards. I found a home for all of them, and now one month later, there are 4 more large bins of playing cards and no one wants them. If you belong to a DAR, American Legion, VFW, Blue Star Mothers Group, Church Group, or any other non-profit directly supporting LRMC-WWMC, please pass the word to NOT ship playing cards, stationary, blank cards, paperback books, or other items on the do not ship list. Three quarters of the largest storage room at the WWMC is not usable because these unneeded items are taking up the room. If LRMC cannot use them and LRMC or LHCP cannot find a home for the items, they must sit. The workers and volunteers at LRMC do not have the time or resources to try to redirect these items when they arrive, so please just don’t send them.
Thank goodness there is a lot of work for me to do in the sitting position with my leg propped up.
I would like to thank Stephanie in Texas for her contribution to this trip. Without the loyal support of people like Stephanie, I wouldn’t be able to be here helping our wounded troops and hopefully making their time here a little brighter. Thank you, Stephanie!
We had two planes come in today but it was kind of quite in the WWMC. Tomorrow I guess they will all come in at the same time.
Lori B. I thought about you and your question about how to thank the troops. You asked:
“I have been thinking for a while that I would like to say something to the military personnel that I see in airports, etc., along the lines of ‘thank you for your service,’ with no further discussion expected. But, I don’t want to sound condescending. I have no-one serving in the military in my family to ask if this would be appropriate, appreciated, or considered rude. “
I talked to a young man earlier tonight who is on his 3rd tour. This is not the interesting fact, since I run into many wounded that wish to return to finish the job they started. What did surprise me was that out of the blue he said that he used to get really embarrassed when people would come up and thank him for his service. He never knew what to say. He told me he was doing his job. He showed me a tattoo on his arm which says ‘NOBODY’S HERO.’ He explained that it makes him uncomfortable at times, because he came from a country that treats him completely different and to walk into a place where people clap or line up to shake his hand for doing his job is unnerving at times. We talked about the fact that it takes all of us to make it work, no matter the job at hand. He needs vehicle mechanics to make sure that his vehicle gets him where he needs to go. He needs cooks to feed him, he needs chaplains to provide spiritual support and he needs people back home to send things he and other servicemen cannot get their hands on. He said it took three tours, but he finally figured out how to reply and it is with, “thank you for your support.”
We talked about AFN coming in tomorrow to do an interview with me at the WWMC tomorrow and how I had tried to get out of it; that I had sent the AFN names of military members who were serving in the Middle East; patients and others I had met, who I thought were the real story. He told me that he thought I would be an interesting story. I told him there was no way to make unpacking, packing, folding clothes for shelves into an interesting story. He asked me why I did it, and then I remembered what I had told Maria. It is like the master card commercial that says something like: hot dog 2.99, team’s jersey $30, tickets to the game $150, catching the home run ball priceless. Well, this job volunteering at LRMC goes something like this: Car rental – $800.00; Hotel room – $100/day (so I can unpack the mail, stock shelves, clean store rooms); Plane ticket – $1500; seeing the look of appreciation of the wounded warriors face – Priceless. That is why I do it; helping me become a better person is priceless.
So for all my LHCP supporters, I thank you for your support and know that you are priceless to a wounded warrior and they “thank you for your support.”
I’d like to thank Larry Walley for helping make this trip possible. He has been a member of the LHCP Yahoo Group since March 2008. Thank you for all your support, Larry!
It is a grey, cloud-covered day. Not much got accomplished today, but I did a lot of stuffing envelopes for mailing that was past due since the secretary has been out ill. Glad I could be of help there. Then spent some time at the shredder, until I broke it. I was told it was old but I still feel responsible.
I talked to a patient today with a torn ACL and he will be here for a couple weeks going through rehab. They were going to send him home, but he wants to go back down range. So, he will do his rehab here to build muscle strength and then have surgery later. He has his ticket home, yet does not want it.
I have finally started meeting some of the liaisons that are here this trip. One that stands out so far really seems to go out of his way for his patients. One of the other volunteers asked him where he was from and he said, “where your mom patted you on the head if you were good and kicked your a** if you were not.” I laughed a little and said that sounded like he grew up in the military and he said close, he grew up in Georgia.
Our patient went to ER Saturday night with loss of blood capillary refill and increased pain. She was put in a new splint and today went to orthopedics. She arrived around 2pm for her appointment and at 2:30 still had not been seen. The tech came out and told us that the doctor had to admit two patients and so it was taking longer than expected. About 20 minutes later, back to the exam room. Good and bad news. The ankle is broken, but the knee is not. Into a walking boot and the patient can start putting weight on the foot tomorrow. The orthopedic clinic seems to work pretty well. They are busy, but they still thought about coming out and checking with patients that had been there a while and how to best serve them with any changes they could make.
How you can help from the states? We are in need of break-a-way pants. These are the basketball type pants that have snaps on the sides. We have some that have been homemade, but the guys look at them and say “pass.” They are walking around in shorts and it is still quite chilly here. We can use M, L, and XL. The snaps must go all the way to the waist.
My hotel neighbor is a wonderful woman who is an OR nurse at LRMC. She said that she ran an OR in the states in the plastic surgery arena. She said before she retired she wanted to do more with her life than work with rich women looking to improve on what they had, so she decided to bring her talents here. She did not think she would be accepted and was so happy to find out she was. She loves her job and will be here for 2 more years.
I hope the weather is nicer for spring cleaning. It was chilly, chilly, chilly today.
Today, I’d like to thank Dianne and Frank Lane for their donation to my trip. Dianne has been a Yahoo Group member since July 2007. She and her husband Frank have been constant supporters of LHCP. Thank you Dianne and Frank!
Today was a great day. The weather started with just a little bit of snow and a bite to the air, but it was a good day. You know it will be a good day at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center (LRMC) if you find a parking spot within the first 10 minutes.
The Wounded Warrior Ministry Center has not changed since last year. Of course new volunteers, new chaplains, and staff, but the process is the same.
We only had about 10 patients come in today and most were repeat patients looking for another bag since they were going home and they had to condense their “stuff” from many bags to one larger bag. As many of you may know, airlines charge for all those different bags you carry and military flights are no different in the sense that they limit the total bags the patients can take with them; which is not a bad thing if you saw how much some of them want to take home from Germany. 😮 Many supporters of the wounded troops send smaller duffels and they just can’t hold the gear and personal clothing the guys and girls come in with. Remember, many of our patients come in with full gear on their backs, so when they fly home they need a bag for that gear and clothing they have purchased or received from the WWMC. LHCP sends bags no smaller than 28′ or 30′ duffels and what is called a parachute bag, which is great for gear.
The other hot item of the day was gloves for the chaplain’s trip on Saturday. I was going to be going with them, but things have changed and I will be staying put and getting caught up on computer work this weekend. We have PLENTY of the gloves, so no problem there.
The WWMC has scheduled their spring cleaning for March 24th. I do not believe I will be helping with that, as they have some other projects that need doing. I guess we will find out next week.
I thought it might be interesting this year to follow a patient through LRMC. So…that is what we are going to do; it will give you an up close and personal insight into the operations of LRMC.
The patient has a leg injury, the only thing we can see is swelling around the ankle. The patient has to be taken to radiology for x-rays, then back to the doctor. They said the patient would be “fast tracked.” I am not sure what that means, but will ask. I was surprised that the patient did not have to wait for the doctor to order the x-rays. Any time I have had x-rays in the states, the doctor has had to order them, but here at LRMC the tech orders them based on the symptoms. I imagine that cuts down on a lot of wait time for patients here. The doctor comes back to the patient, and sure enough, the ankle is broken. All this decided in less than an hour, OK, I am impressed. As the doctor does the physical exam, the patient says there is pain around the knee, so back to radiology for more x-rays. This is a new department for me, as I have never taken anyone there before. They are set up nicely, depending on what type of test you need. After our patient gets x-rays of the knee, we go back to the doctor. OH NO, a second break, same bone broken at the top and the bottom! That has got to suck, really how do you do that without major anguish? Makes me shiver just thinking about it. Anyway, the patient is put in a splint and arrangements are made for the patient to see an orthopedic specialist on Monday. I will try to keep everyone up to date on the status.
I have not had a chance to really dig into the store rooms yet, but I will have some “special” help in a week, so I am going to leave that to our VP Jim Spliedt, who has decided to pay his way over here to help out. He gets store room and spring cleaning duties. They do have a volunteer now who does nothing but store room twice a week, so it should not be as backed up as it has been in the past.
I cannot wait to see what my duties will be next week. They are down several people, so I hope to get a chance to slide around and do a little of everything.
I would like to thank Bernie for her donation for this working trip. Bernie has been a member of LHCP since August 2005. She has been a great asset to our American troops and our allies. The great thing about Bernie is, she is a true French beauty and supports our troops with more gusto than some Americans. Thank you Bernie!
Joseph M. Hernandez was an animal lover. He once saw a dog fall through a frozen lake, so he jumped in and saved it. At one point, he and his wife shared a two-bedroom apartment with four cats and three dogs.
Hernandez, 24, of Hammond, Ind., died Jan. 9 of wounds suffered when a bomb detonated near his vehicle in Jaldak, Afghanistan. He was assigned to Hohenfels, Germany.
He studied mechanical engineering and biology at Purdue University for two years. In 2002, he surprised his friends and family when he announced he was joining the Army.
“He said it was something he felt he had to do,” said his wife, Alison. “He never had anything bad to say about the military. He just decided to join. He felt it was his duty.”
Hernandez also is survived by his sons, Jacob, 2, and Noah, 9 months.
He enjoyed working on old cars and teaching his older son how to fly mini model airplanes. When Hernandez was younger, he badly wanted to play piano. The family finally bought one, and he started playing it as it was being carried into the house. His mother asked him how he knew to play, and he said he had been practicing on paper.
Hammond soldier dies in Afghanistan
January 13, 2009 By Christin Nance Lazerus Courtesy of the (Indiana) Post-Tribune
Alison Hernandez usually received a call from her husband, Hammond native Specialist Joseph M. Hernandez, every two days while he was stationed in Afghanistan.
Hernandez was waiting for him to contact her on Friday, but she felt something wasn’t right. “My stomach hurt. I wasn’t feeling well. I broke down and cried to my dad, and said ‘I need my husband’,” she said. That night, Army representatives delivered the solemn news to her that Joseph was killed earlier in the day in a roadside bomb attack.
Major Brian M. Mescall, 33, of Hopkinton, Massachusetts, and Specialist Jason R. Parsons, 24, of Lenoir, North Carolina, also died when an improvised explosive device detonated near their armored Humvee in Jaldak, Afghanistan.
Hernandez, 24, is survived by his wife and two sons — Jacob, 2 , and Noah, 9 months. He is also survived by his parents, Elva Hernandez and Jessie Hernandez; his two brothers, Jesse and Jason Hernandez; and other relatives.
Specialist Hernandez was recalled as a dedicated father and husband and someone who loved cars, music and animals. Hernandez joined the Army in 2005 and he was in Afghanistan for the past 6 months. He was stationed in Hohenfels, Germany, as part of the 1st Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment, and he lived in military housing there with his family. Alison and the boys traveled back to Northwest Indiana for the holidays, and Joseph was scheduled to join them in early March.
Hernandez played soccer for four years at Mount Carmel High School in Chicago, and he boxed at Whiting Boxing Club. He was an altar boy and sang in the choir at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church in the Hessville section of Hammond. Alice Gordon, Alison’s grandmother, considered Joseph as one of her grandchildren. “I loved him dearly and he spent a lot of time at my house,” Gordon said. Hernandez attended Holy Cross, then he entered the mechanical engineering and biology programs at Purdue University in West Lafayette. Alison Hernandez said that he adopted four cats and three dogs while he was working at the local humane society, including a drowning dog that he saved.
He enjoyed working on old cars and teaching his older son how to fly mini model airplanes.
His wife said she keeps expecting Joseph to text her or get word that it’s all a mistake.
“You plan your life and you just have all these things that you want to do and you don’t have a chance to do them any more,” Alison Hernandez said. “I talked to him on Wednesday, and he told me everything was fine, but he also was telling me all of his plans that he wanted to do when he got back.” He planned on taking his family to a Chicago Cubs preseason game and eating at Gino’s East. “He was my soul mate,” Alison Hernandez said.
The family has not finalized the exact date and time of the funeral services. The funeral service will be conducted at Our Lady of Perpetual Help and Hernandez will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery on January 23, 2009.
Hernandez used to serve in the Old Guard, which presided at funerals in Arlington.
Full Military Honors Honor a Soldier’s Full Sacrifice
First Enlisted Soldier Buried Under New Arlington Policy
By Mark Berman Courtesy of The Washington Post Saturday, January 24, 2009
Joseph M. Hernandez, 24, was a family man with a wife and two young sons. But he was also an Army man and a soldier. Yesterday, he became the first enlisted soldier to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery under a new policy that allows those killed in action full military honors.
“He said it was something he felt he had to do,” his wife, Alison Hernandez, 22, told the Chicago Tribune last week about his military service. “He never had anything bad to say about the military. He just decided to join. He felt it was his duty.”
Specialist Hernandez, of Hammond, Indiana, died January 9, 2009, in the Zabul province of Afghanistan after a makeshift explosive device detonated near his vehicle in Jaldak.
Hernandez was the 82nd casualty from Afghanistan to be buried there. The new Army policy took effect January 1, 2009. Previously, full honors were reserved for officers and enlisted personnel who reached the highest enlisted rank of E-9, according to cemetery officials.
In the past, limited resources, among other things, have hindered having more full honors services. A standard honors service includes a firing party, bugler and chaplain; full honors also includes a band, colors team, escort platoon and horse-drawn caisson.
“Arlington National Cemetery is an expression of our nation’s reverence for those who served her in uniform, many making the ultimate sacrifice,” said Secretary of the Army Pete Geren about the policy change in a release last month. “Arlington and those honored there are part of our national heritage. This new policy provides a common standard for honoring all soldiers killed in action.”
Hernandez’s ceremony didn’t include all the elements because of scheduling and weather issues. Both of the cemetery’s caissons were already scheduled for use yesterday, and Hernandez’s widow opted to have the service sooner rather than waiting for a later date when a caisson would be available, said Kaitlin Horst, cemetery spokeswoman.
And instead of a full military band, there was only a drummer because the band doesn’t perform when the weather is below freezing due to the impact of cold on instruments, Horst said. “Anything in addition to standard honors is considered a full honors service,” she added.
More than 100 mourners turned out yesterday to return Hernandez to the place where he had served as a member of the Old Guard. An escort removed his silver casket from a silver hearse and carried it to the grave site.
Flags were presented to Alison Hernandez, their two young sons and her husband’s parents, Elva and Jessie Hernandez. As the flags were given out, 9-month-old Noah Hernandez, wailed loudly from where he was being held in the front row. His older brother, Jacob, stood in front of the seats and accepted a flag that seemed almost as big as his 2-year-old body.
Killed along with Hernandez were Maj. Brian M. Mescall, 33, of Hopkinton, Massachusetts, and Sergeant Jason R. Parsons, 24, of Lenoir, North Carolina. They were assigned to the 1st Battalion, 4th Infant Regiment, based at Hohenfels, Germany. Mescall will be buried at Arlington on Monday.
Alison Hernandez told the Post-Tribune newspaper of Northern Indiana that her husband called her every two days while he was in Afghanistan. On January 9, she waited for the call and felt something wasn’t right.
“My stomach hurt,” she told the Post-Tribune. “I wasn’t feeling well. I broke down and cried to my dad, and said, ‘I need my husband.’ ”
Alison and their sons lived in military housing with Hernandez in Hohenfels. She and the boys came back to the United States for the holidays, and Hernandez was going to join them in March. Instead, on the night of January 9, Army representatives informed her of her husband’s death.
“It was a nightmare come true,” Robert Gordon Jr., Alison Hernandez’s father, told the Chicago Tribune. “I heard her scream from the porch. I got up and she fell through the door. ‘He’s gone.’ ”
Email from Carol Lindsey–Hello I am Anthony’s mother, I am glad to hear that these PKG’s are being sent in Anthony’s name. Thank you
‘He was protecting his Marines’
Haney graduate’s friends remember sailor killed in Afghanistan
August 08, 2009 12:39:00 AM By ROBBYN BROOKS / Florida Freedom Newspapers
PANAMA CITY — Anthony Garcia knew what he wanted to do before he graduated from high school.
He was Navy-bound.
“He was very passionate about it,” said Nicholas Cooper, who went to Haney Technical Center with Garcia. “He wanted to be a SEAL, but being a corpsman was the next best thing at the time. Turned out to be even better.”
Garcia and Cooper joined the Navy together in July 2006, and Petty Officer 3rd Class Garcia reported to Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii, in February 2009. Garcia, 21, was a hospital corpsman assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force, and he deployed to Afghanistan with a unit of about 1,000 Marines in May, Marine officials reported.
He died Wednesday “while supporting combat operations in Farah Province, Afghanistan,” according to a Department of Defense news release. “Tyndall, Fla.” was listed as his hometown.
“There are two things a Marine will ask for in the field: God and the doc,” Cooper said. “He died for his country. He was protecting his Marines.”
Garcia last logged on to his MySpace account Aug. 4. His headline reads, “Turn that frown upside down” and his status is “chill.” Garcia recently married his wife, Jewell, and Cooper said his friend was excited to be deploying when they spoke in May.
“That’s what we joined for. That’s what we were here for and trained so hard for,” Cooper said. “We’re combat medics. We take care of Marines. They protect us, and when they need us, we go in.”
“I think everyone was looking forward to deployment so they could do what we do,” said Patrick Horgan, who worked with Garcia in Hawaii.
HM1 (FMF/CAC) Horgan was an independent duty corpsman with Garcia’s Hawaii-based unit. He recently returned from Afghanistan, so he didn’t deploy with the rest of the group.
“He had a great sense of humor. He liked to joke around,” Horgan said of Garcia. “He had a tight bond with his friends, definitely. He really liked where he was at and had a wonderful camaraderie with the Marines.”
On his MySpace page, Garcia wrote he was born in Denver but “grew up an Air Force brat and moved around a lot,” joining the Navy right after graduating from Haney, where he had majored in the school’s residential electrician program.
“Things would have been rough for me in school,” Cooper said about his high school days with Garcia. “He was the first person that befriended me. He took the time to show me around and helped me out.
“He was a great friend. He was on your side and would back you up no matter what.”
Garcia will be awarded the Purple Heart, the National Defense Service Medal, Sea Service Deployment Ribbon, Afghanistan Campaign Medal and the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal.
Cooper said he has not been able to reach his friend’s father, who is active-duty airman at Eglin Air Force Base, but he hopes to attend Garcia’s funeral.
Attempts to reach Garcia’s family Friday were unsuccessful. Funeral arrangements have not been announced.
“You hear about the deaths over there,” Cooper said. “As a corpsman, you know that happens. But it is unbelievable that he is one of the fallen heroes of this war. He was a hero among heroes. He was defending his country and was taking care of his Marines.”
The members of Landstuhl Hospital Care Project were honored to remember Anthony during the month of January 2010 with our shipments to the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, and U.S. military hospitals in Iraq and Afghanistan. Our thoughts and prayers remain with Anthony’s family and friends today and in the years to come.