3 Stooges=Free Spirit

The other day making rounds on the ward I meet a relative of one of the 3 Stooges. When I asked him how he got to Germany the answer was simple; I’m a free spirit. Now I’m NOT a 3 Stooges fan by any means but I sure wish that I was then. He was quite the funny guy and showed me a hand trick that I have yet to figure out.

I know that I have been distant the last 2 weeks. I had a complaint against me supposedly from a patient. It has been investigated and it was not from the patient but a member of the staff who it seems was jealous over the support I was giving, compliments that I was receiving from patients and the concern she had since she belongs to another group like this one and felt I was invading her area. The last bit of it was cleared up just yesterday from an Army member who actually is stateside. However, the stress that this added to my stay was more than I thought I could handle at times. I want everyone to know that we all support the same person. It is the person that wears the uniform for the U.S. Military and those that support the U.S. Military. This is the second time that I have been attacked due to people feeling there is territory when it comes to supporting. There is no territory; America supports our Troops, one person can not do it all and I hope everyone in this group knows I can’t do it without your help. This group is not mine it is ours and it is only as good as WE make it.

I want to thank each of you that helped out while I was here. I want to especially thank Jennifer for going to the post office and carrying the boxes back and forth and back and forth.

Be back stateside soon.

Karen

It Is The Not Knowing

The last day is finished and I have mixed feelings.

Glad to be going home so we can hit the ground and get these items out to where they need to go and start raising some money but sure going to miss these guys and gals.

Friday I had a senior enlisted member come in and after getting his bag filled he asked me for shoes. I went in the back to see if we had his size and we were in luck. While he was trying them on I noticed that his legs were shaking really bad. When I bent down to put the shoes in his bags I put my hand on his knee and asked him if he was ok. He told me it was the not knowing what was wrong. Then he burst into full tears. I moved in front of him and he hugged me. He told me it was his heart and he was scared. I asked him if he had just come in that day and he said yes. I told him to let us wait for the doctors to do their test and make a decision before we worried. I told him that stress could cause lots of problems and that being down range caused enormous stress on the body and soul.

I told him I was in Bosnia and I understood the senior position he was in. He started crying again. He leaned forwarded and starting hugging me again. I told him that this was his time to take care of himself. I asked him to take some slow deep breaths with me, which we did. I asked what time his appointment was and since it was in 10 min I got him inside and showed him how to get to where he needed to go. Later in the afternoon he came back and was smiling. I just knew it was not as bad as he thought. He said that the one test turned out good and the other was not so bad. That he had more test on Monday but he felt much better. We gave each other a hug over the good news and he promised to take the news as it came. Then after about 5 more minutes of talking he said “You know I don’t even know your name.” I smiled and told him Karen. He told me his name. He comes in now after each test to give me the updates. He will be going back home to have his thyroid taken out but he is ok with that.

It is the leaving his guys in the field that is difficult and gives him the guilt that we talked about today. This baggage is not as easy to get rid of and talk through. On one hand they know that they have to take care of themselves but that guilt does a lot of eating up inside. They feel they are worthless if they can’t be with their unit doing their job. Add to that the desire to protect their friends and not have one fall or God help them another one fall in the line of duty and the guilt is difficult. Physically they are here but mentally they are still in Iraq or Afghanistan.

I think I have seen a good many patients with bad shrapnel wounds, spinal injuries, burns, limbs missing, eye sight and hearing loss, broken bones, gun shot victims, and those that need mental support one thing remains the same. They all want to know they are supported, loved, cared about and that the American public knows that they are doing good things. I have listen to so many young and old talking on the phone with loved ones back in the States talking about divorce. Spouses not wanting to wait, not understanding, or just not being able to handle being alone. It is sad to hear a man plead for his wife not to file divorce papers or a woman to hear that her husband cheated.

Support goes from the packages we send to the emotional knowledge that our loved ones will be there when we get back, to supporting those left at home. If you know someone that is alone and trying to make it while their spouse is deployed, step in as a babysitter so they can go to the store without the kids, take them out to dinner to let them talk, pay for a hair dresser appointment, the list goes on and on.

Karen

If Only 5 Minutes

He is now stateside at the hospital. He is no longer here. I can not help them from here. As soon as I hit U.S. soil I will see what I can do for them.

My favorite patient this week was leaving tomorrow, but has now been postponed until next Tuesday due to a large number of others that must leave before him. Every time I see him we talk, if for only 5 minutes. I have seen a huge change in him in the week that he has been here. He says that I lift a burden from him just by talking, but he has made this week very worthwhile for me.

5 minutes is all it takes and why do people not seem to have that time to give it away?

I watched two people pass an older gentleman in uniform this week that was bent over in pain and both of them passed him and did not ask if they could help. When I stopped to ask him if I could help, he told me he just needed to take a break. He had hurt his back down range and had to take it slow. I told him I understood back pain and that I had hurt mine and it was no walk in the park. I told him I could get a chair and he reassured me he was fine. I told him that I could walk with him for support and he told me, “Miss, you don’t know how much it means that you just stopped. I thank you just for checking on me.”  Can you imagine how he must have felt seeing those two pairs of boots walk right past him and not even ask if he was ok? OK his face was to the ground; he still saw those boots walk by!!!! He did not look and see their faces and they never have to answer to him about why they did not stop and ask if they could help, but the ALMIGHTY ABOVE SAW !!!!!!!

5 minutes and the man that could not see because his face and eyes were so pitted from a blast could have had the phone next to his bed when his family called today. Instead he was reaching into thin air and did not get to the phone in time. I put the phone on his table talked to him softly and took his hand and put it on the phone so he would know where to reach. I described the fabric his quilt was made out of and colors and woodland scene on it for him. I told him the color of the clothes that he would be flying home in tomorrow and what he had in his bag so he did not have to worry about what he actually had or did not have. I told him where his bag was located. A tear rolled down his face as I asked him if I could do anything else for him. He squeezed my hand and said no mama. I don’t think he realized what he said. I whispered to him to have a safe trip home.

5 minutes and the kid who lost his hand had a pillow for his half an arm to rest on; had an extra blanket to get him a little warmer and a fresh glass of water.

5 minutes and the kids who will lose their father in a month or so could share their story and we could exchange addresses, phone numbers, hugs and smiles.

I may give away my 5 minutes more freely than others and it really hurts when I do at times. But I would rather be the person that gives that 5 minutes away, gets sick from the sadness and worries over those I gave those 5 minutes to than the person that does not give that 5 minutes to anyone.

Sorry this is not an upbeat and cheerful post, I have a very young kid very much on my mind.

Karen

His Condition Is Unknown

02-22-06

I just wanted to pass on to everyone that I have been able to see the work Karen is doing here in Germany at the Chaplain’s Clothing Closet for our soldiers. I stopped by to just say hello and she had a few come in. She sure does know how to work her magic with them. The ones I saw today were so appreciative of the help and thoughtfulness she gave them. One gentleman was in just to tell her thank you again for helping him at another time. Didn’t need anything, just wanted to say hello. So seeing it close up now I have to say this is a great program even though I had no doubt before, but seeing it in action is amazing. Also, she only has a week left here in Germany so I am sure will be busy making sure the clothing closet has what it needs and getting ready for the trip back to the States. I am glad I was able to meet her while she was here and will miss her. She is a super lady, 🙂 Ok I will hush just had to share with everyone.

Sheila R


02-23-06

Sometimes checking my email just sucks. I was getting ready to post an item of interest to you guys tonight and checked my email first and got a very short note from the mom of the patient that gave me the angel that I told you about. Justin was doing good and she had just come home after spending a week with him at the hospital stateside. It looked like smooth sailing for him other than rehab. The email states that he has had a stroke due to a blood clot. His condition is unknown. She flies in the morning back to the hospital. I had to reread the email several times to make sure I had it right. It could not be XXXXXX that she was talking about.

I will try the items of interest later.

Karen

Patients Always Leave With Somthing

OK been busy the last couple of days. I have the boxes that have come in sorted and the boxes that had to be mailed out finally finished and Jennifer mailed them all this morning. We mailed 4 boxes total. The tampons and pillows are on the way to the 1st hospital. Some phone cards and blankets are on their way to the hospital in Afghanistan. One large box is on its way to the 2nd hospital in Iraq full of woman’s clothing. I have more women’s clothing that I picked up today to mail to this hospital that I have to find a large box for shipping. I also got the phone cards from Kathy and the church members at Riverchase and if they don’t mind I think will mail some of these to Afghanistan also. I’m still waiting on our sweats to arrive here and hope to see them early next week before I leave. I have the cereal for our AF guy coming soon to also mail.

I have a reputation in the closet for finding something that these patients need even when they say they need nothing. Today I thought I was going to lose that rep though. There was a young Army troop in the WWMC for a good hour just talking and every time someone would say “Oh I don’t really need anything” I would say “Oh do you have a hat” or “Do you need gloves,” “What about dental floss”, “Chap stick.” Each time the patient would say “Sure I could use those” or “Yeah, I could use some of that”. This kid would laugh every time the patient would leave. The other volunteer told him that I always find something that they need and no one leaves without getting something. Well, this group of 4 walked in and I said how can I help you? The last guy said “Oh I don’t need anything”. The kid that had been in there for the hour started laughing. He said you will walk out of here with something; she will make sure of that.The 4th young man again said you will not find anything I need. I asked the other volunteer if she could help the other guys and I turned to the 4th guy and said lets have a talk. Everyone started laughing. He was half in the door and half out of the door and he started to leave and said we can talk out here. I said what are you scared of “ME?” He looked at me and said “OH I was going to play that card.” He came into the closet and I started with my normal list that always gets everyone. He was not going to take anything just because he knew I was working so hard at it. So we played this game back and forth for a while and then I noticed he did not have a pen in his arm pocket. I said you need a pen for writing. His buddies all chimed in and said “YES HE DOES” he always has to ask for ours. Before I could just turn around and grab one he was out the door. So of course I had to purposely walk out the door and give it to him as his buddies were all chiming in “SHE GOT YOU.”

We got everyone to sign out and he gave me a hand shake and hug before he left. Had to work had for that one, but my record still holds!!! LOL The young man in the closet was laughing when those guys left. He could not believe that I got another one.

I need everyone to keep all these patients in their prayers. I meet a man Monday that was not doing well. He was crashing right in front of me and there was nothing I could do to help him except get the doctor in the hallway.

Karen

This is from the nurse that was the escort that I told you about that I meet last fall while I was at the hospital.

Karen, I was laughing when I read this email because it is soooo you! You are a Mom/Sister/Buddy for anyone who walks in there…it is too bad you only get to be at “the closet” for a few weeks at a time…those guys need that kind of support everyday!

I pray for all my fellow soldiers over there- and please let the guys know that there are lots of us great nurses here stateside who will take great care of them OK?

Luv,

Michelle
2nd to
1LT Michelle XXXXXX AN, BSN 

Bring Me Up To Date On Fashions

I got 3 emails from Don today for the box that we sent. He was so excited I guess he could not put it all in one. LOL

Wow….Thanks for the box Karen

Today was like my B-day

I have a new stuffed friend on top of my PC

I really like these shoes….they are so Cool.

Thanks for helping to bring me up to date on fashions

Karen, you are a very nice lady to do this for me.

Many thanks to you and yours.

Thanks

Don

I’m truly sorry about this and I did look at the name on the quilt, but that was many hours ago and I guess I’m old because I don’t remember now, but it was a solid powder blue quilt. The 20-year old female that took it said to say THANKS. She came back from the down range, had surgery and found out she has cancer and is heading back to the States. But she said to tell whoever’s name was on that quilt thank you so much that she really liked it.

If anyone is interested in more pillows, we could use 10 full pillows. 20 of the half size pillows.

Kathy, a National Guard member from the 167th said to say “HI.”

We need jersey shorts in 3 hospitals, including here at LRMC.

Karen

Just One Smile For Ape

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone!!

I have received the box of pillows, the box of blankets, the box of pj’s and boxer/briefs and socks, the phone cards, the box of tampons. I have my work cut out for me tonight doing sponsor labels.

The rest of the apes went out today along with enough candy to have everyone in the hospital fail their pt test. We still have more!!! We had one group send 6 large boxes of candy here. That was enough for everyone, but of course others sent some also.

Just in case you did not know, we still have troops in Afghanistan. I know that might sound stupid to some of you, but I talked to a troop yesterday who said he went home in Nov for his mid tour. He was wearing the digital uniform and someone asked him what uniform he was wearing. When he told them the Army uniform, they did not believe him and then asked where he was at. When he told them Afghanistan the reaction was that, “Hey right, we don’t still have troops there.” I have a request to supply a small list of items to the hospital there if anyone is interested. The items are FLAT sheets (NO fitted), phone cards, blankets and electric blankets, letters of support.

The last two days we have been swamped with patients. The buses are full and more than usual. Last week and this week seems to be a lot of shoulder injuries, dislocations, tears, etc.

I had a heart-wrenching experience today. A patient that I have seen for a couple days was to go home today. He has both arms and hands wrapped thick in bandages. He also has half his face and neck burned. When I saw him today as I was giving out the cards, candy, and apes, I said something about I thought you were to go home today. He said that he guess that it was wishful thinking and too positive an outlook. He was so depressed and sad, but a hug was not possible due to his injuries. I noticed that the bag of candy was not open from yesterday’s rounds and asked if he wanted me to open it for him.  He said no that he just did not feel much like eating. I gave him two apes one for his wife and one for him but I just felt like crap leaving him there by himself.

Our very last ape went to a young man in the mental health ward. I was giving everyone an ape and everyone was smiling when we were handing out the candy and cards. There was one kid that would not smile and some one told him that he had to smile to get the ape. He was not going to do it. So I gave everyone else one and went to his side of the table squatted down next to him and said that this was the last ape that I had and it needed a friend. Just one little smile and I could give my friend away to another friend. HE SMILED!!! Not even a fake smile but a real one with a small laugh. Everyone was like XXXXX smiled. I gave my ape friend away to live with a new friend and gave the young man a kiss on the cheek. These wounds are rarely seen by the human eye but cause just as much pain for our troops.

I could have easily given away twice the number of Valentine Apes as want I brought. They were the right size; color and the face seem to have everyone just fall in love with them. Not something our troops could wear to protect them from the cold or something to put on their feet but the Valentine Apes sure warmed a lot of hearts and put a smile on a face that no one thought could smile.

I have to go and start the sponsor labels so Good Night and Happy Valentine’s Day again everyone.

Karen

The Way To A Marine’s Heart Is Through His Stomach

Ginger, your Burger King lunches are done. One Navy, three Marines, and one Army.

Sharon, got your box and got the shoes for Don and they were mailed with the sweats and socks today.

The Marine I sat with for surgery is now on his way home for recovery and physical therapy. As I was walking to his pre-surgery room, I saw another troop that I knew who was also having surgery that morning, so I stopped in to say hi and I would see him after surgery. The morning of surgery, this young man found out that his mom was also having surgery, so his mind was more on his mom than his own surgery. We did talk for a while about his little brother joining the military and how he felt about that and now he knew how concerned his parents were about his safety, because he felt the same way about his little brother. I sat until we found out that his surgery was not going to be for quite a while longer and he said that he was going to try to sleep. I left and went to try to find the chaplain for him. By the time I got back, they were ready to take him, so it was perfect timing. After they gave the meds to relax him, he took my hand, I said I would see him in his room and gave him a kiss on the cheek. I went to check on the other patient and he was not out of surgery yet, so I went to the WWMC to work for about an hour. I then went back to the ward to see if he was coming back soon. He was just leaving post op, so I waited in the hallway for him. He was awake and doing well. He told me he was hungry and I told him we would have to wait and see what they allowed him to eat. I told him I would see him after they got him settled in. I went to go check on the other patient and he was already in his room. He just wanted to eat also and was allowed to eat, so BK chicken fingers it was. His roommate asked if I could bring him a Mountain Dew. So……first to the Shoppette then to BK then back to the room. There was another patient that was also in a wheelchair, but was very mobile. He was a character and loved the apes. He gave his first one away to his roommate who did not have one and was leaving that morning on the flight back to the States. So, I gave him another before he went down for the casting on his legs.

It was time for the cart to go around the wards, so I went and did that and saw the first patient again. He just kept saying how hungry he was and I was joking with him that he only had 2 ½ more hours left. I told him at 1630 I would be back with his BK. Then his liaison came in and handed him a huge subway sandwich. I just looked at him and he grabbed the sandwich and hid it under his sheets. He had 3 other roommates and they were laughing. I walked up to the bed and said, “Son, turn it over.” He gave me that look like, “PLEASE.”  I just stood there with my hand out and told him that there was a reason that the nurses did not want him to eat yet and we did not want to make him sick. He gave me the sandwich and I gave it to his roommate on the other side of the room, with instructions he had to wait until 1630. As we were getting ready to leave the room with the cart I told him where the sandwich was and was it safe to stay there and he said probably not. So I took the sandwich and told him it would be safe with the nurses. “The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach” is very true with a 26 year old Marine.

After rounds I visited the other set of guys and they wanted to go outside for fresh air. So, we got all three of them in wheelchairs and away we went. Going outside was not that difficult, but coming back in was a chore. The hospital is not level and there is an incline to the floors. We were going up hill now and I’m trying to push two wheelchairs at the same time. (leg and arm injuries on both patients). It was a site to see, I’m sure. We took up every inch of the hallway and good thing we had not been drinking, because they could have gotten us for swerving, reckless driving, crossing center line, hitting park anything and I’m sure numerous other infractions. Got everyone back in bed, 2 in one room and 1 in another and the one young man kept thanking me and said that he wished he could give me something for helping him so much that day. They just don’t get it!!! It is me that they are helping. I went back to make sure the guy in the room by himself did not need anything and he was on the phone with his mom already telling her about me. He wanted me to send a picture to his mom which I was glad to do. The next day one of them gave me a little gold angel that was on a quilt that he had. They have all been discharged back to the States now.

I had an Army Sgt come in the other day that has half his face paralyzed. He said that the IEDs first just made him deaf in one ear. Slowly, the hearing started to come back and then one morning while he was brushing his teeth he saw one side of his lips just drop and then also that side of his face. He was waiting for MRI results and I told him that I would be thinking about him and if he needed anything just to let me know. He just stood there a minute with his head down, so I gave him a hug. This guy was big but even the big guys like little hugs.

There was a young man that came in Tuesday that was just in the hospital gown, hospital pants, and flip flops. He was shaking so bad due to the cold weather, the first thing I did was grab a zip up hoody and put it on him. The other volunteer went to go get sneakers and I grabbed a pair of socks and sweat pants. We put the sweat pants right over the hospital pants and then the socks. We then did the normal boxers, more socks, house slippers, hat, gloves, etc and he wore the winter jacket out the door. I saw him again tonight at the bus stop. He was talking with another troop about how cold he was and that he got dressed right there in the WWMC. The guy he was talking to said you were that cold and he said, “Hey, I’m from Texas.”  I spoke up and said, “Yes, he was that cold.” He looked at me a minute and said, “Oh yeah that was you.” He did not care who dressed him––he just wanted warm clothes.

Two day ago doing rounds with the cart, we had a gentleman that just wanted aftershave with alcohol in it. That’s it!! Three days before we had some Old Spice that had come in and I was “HA” I have this covered. I told him that I thought we might have some Old Spice and was that o.k.  He said he liked Old Spice but if we didn’t have it, anything with alcohol would do. I told him I liked Old Spice also. That the younger guys were saying it was an old scent, but they didn’t know what they were missing because it was one of those scents that just causes woman to get closer and closer. He said shhhhh we can’t give them all of our secrets. When I went down to the WWMC, it was gone. The one thing he wanted and we had. Now this is not a usual request and “no” we will not ship it, but just the same I felt bad. The next day we had some Musk aftershave that came in a box. Now this came from the dollar store and I was not sure if I should take it up to him, but it was aftershave with alcohol. I took it to him since there is usually another volunteer in the mornings, but not afternoons. When I walked into his room, I smiled and asked how he was feeling. He said much better since they had just given him morphine. I said well I had something that might make him feel better yet, but that it was not Old Spice. I sat it on his bed side stand since he looked like he was still in pain. I thought he was going to shake my hand to say thanks but he gave it a kiss, for a bottle of $1.50 Musk aftershave, MUST HAVE BEEN THE DRUGS!!! LOL

We were also visited by a 1 Star this week and several Full Birds.

Today I worked just inside the Chaplain’s office and not in the WWMC. There were a lot of boxes that needed to be sorted and distributed. After doing this all day, I’m just going to say one thing. DO NOT MIX LIQUID WITH FOOD ITEMS or ANYTHING ELSE IN YOUR BOXES. Nasty mess box after box!!!! Powder does not do well either. Even with our post to the web page for no more toiletries we are still getting them. The chaplains were sending them to hospitals and units down range but got emails to stop that. I guess they are still over flowing there also.

I have the last 3 dozen apes to give out next week on Valentine’s Day. We have received hundreds of cards from schools, churches, civic groups, and other individuals with Valentine wishes. If you or someone you know sends these kinds of items to our troops, please keep something in mind. Glitter is not friendly to patients or our troops. It sticks to bandages, cast, tubing, uniforms, and everything else it comes in contact with. I also wonder about in the field and how/if it would interfere with night time/covert operations as it may be seen since it is shiny. Have you ever got one speck of glitter on your self and just keep chasing it to get it off?

Our large and x-large long sleeve shirts are gone!!! We need more and we need sweats of all sizes. A couple days ago we got hit with 3 buses of patients. I think that is probably one of the largest groups at once I’ve seen.

We have the sweats that Kathy has sent due in here soon and that is it for shipping items here. Anything else you want to ship, please do so to my stateside address. I would like to ship more sweats and XL-L long sleeve t-shirts as soon as possible.

I can’t go into details about what happened this week to make my week suck, just remember that what comes around goes around and usually 10 fold. So be careful, someone upstairs is watching!!!

Karen

A Beautiful Heart

Karen, the following story reminds me of you. Take care of your beautiful heart.

–Rachel

A Beautiful Heart

One day a young man was standing in the middle of the town proclaiming that he had the most beautiful heart in the whole valley.

A large crowd gathered and they all admired his heart for it was perfect.

There was not a mark or a flaw in it.

Yes, they all agreed it truly was the most beautiful heart they had ever seen.

The young man was very proud and boasted more loudly about his beautiful heart.

Suddenly, an old man appeared at the front of the crowd and said, “Why your heart is not nearly as beautiful as mine.”

The crowd and the young man looked at the old man’s heart.

It was beating strongly … but it was full of scars …it had places where pieces had been removed and other pieces put in …but they didn’t fit quite right and there were several jagged edges.

In fact … in some places there were deep gouges where whole pieces were missing.

The people stared … how can he say his heart is more beautiful …they thought?

The young man looked at the old man’s heart … and saw its state and laughed.

“You must be joking,” he said. “Compare your heart with mine …mine is perfect and yours is a mess of scars and tears.”

“Yes” … said the old man … “yours is perfect looking but …I would never trade with you.

You see … every scar represents a person to whom I have given my love …I tear out a piece of my heart and give it to them …and often they give me a piece of their heart which fits into the empty place in my heart …but because the pieces aren’t exact …I have some rough edges … which I cherish …because they remind me of the love we shared. Sometimes I have given pieces of my heart away …and the other person hasn’t returned a piece of his heart to me. These are the empty gouges … giving love is taking a chance. Although these gouges are painful …they stay open … reminding me of the love I have for these people too …and I hope someday they may return and fill the space I have waiting.

So now do you see what true beauty is?”

The young man stood silently with tears running down his cheeks.

He walked up to the old man … reached into his perfect young and beautiful heart …and ripped a piece out.

He offered it to the old man with trembling hands.

The old man took his offering … placed it in his heart …and then took a piece from his old scarred heart …and placed it in the wound in the young man’s heart. It fit … but not perfectly … as there were some jagged edges.

The young man looked at his heart …not perfect anymore but more beautiful than ever …since love from the old man’s heart flowed into his.

They embraced and walked away side by side.

-Author Unknown-

Knowing Their Comrades Are Remembered

Message from field hospital

Karen,

We got the pillows just in time!!! We were down to three when they arrived. I can’t figure out how you managed to stuff all those pillows into that box. You should have seen us unpacking them. It was like watching popcorn pop (or something like that) they just kept growing. One of our patients almost fell out of bed laughing at us. It was a sight to see. Thank you so much! On behalf of the XXXX staff, YOU’RE THE BEST!!!

XXXXX

Many of you do not know how I do the honoree address labels. Let me see if I can describe it for you. It is a full sheet of paper and at the very top it says THIS SHIPMENT IS IN HONOR OF ************** then their age and who they were deployed with. Then the most difficult part for me is to pick personal information about them. How and where they died and how they are remembered by their family and friends. This section can take up about 1/3 of the address label.

Then comes of course my return address and the address of where we are sending it.

I got an email from one of the hospitals this morning and this is an excerpt from it

“I save the stories that you put on the boxes and hang them in the ward so they can read them. It makes the guys feel better knowing that their comrades are remembered.”

XXXX XXXXXXXX

It is difficult and I often cry when I do each one of these labels but they (the families and all those serving) don’t have to worry that their comrades are forgotten.

Karen

You Can’t Do That!

The motorcycle rally is still in the process of being planned and we are still not sure of a date yet, maybe the month of April. However, I met two patients, one from the D.C. area and one from Michigan. Both said they would like to be there with us. The one who was probably hit with an IED and has scarring to his face can ride, but the other said IF he can not ride his own bike by then, he would like to be a passenger with someone else. Please keep him in your thoughts for a speedy recover so he can ride his own bike at the motorcycle rally.

Kathy, can you keep an eye out for the break-away pants that you found last year? If you find a deal on them let me know please. THANKS.

Two guys came into the clothing closet both in wheelchairs. I had to laugh because they were trying to help each other, but each could barely take care of themselves. The one would say you can’t do that I will help you and would hurt himself and the other one would make fun of him with some joke. Then the next time the second one would say I can help you and he would hurt himself. The first would laugh at him. Neither would let me help until finally I just said O.K. guys, enough is enough!! They had me in stitches telling jokes. What a funny pair and they did not know each other before coming to the hospital. They were both in the same room and both going to D.C. on the same MEDIVAC flight. The friendships made down range and here at the hospital I hope last the test of time.

Karen

Refused Two Medivac Flights

I don’t want you to think that our U.S. military does not have those that whine, we do. Anyone that has been around the military long enough knows that. I’ve even listened to a hand full from down range, but I think the majority follows in this kid’s boots.

He refused two medivac flights until his replacement could come into the field. He was finally ordered by two COLs to leave the AOR and get on a MEDFLIGHT. When the liaison brought him in, he did not want anything. He said he would be going back down range ASAP. Now, this late 20 to early 30’s man had an injury that is life altering. The liaison had been trying to explain to him that he would be there for a while and he would need clothing other than the uniform he had on. She told me, “I need your help!” This is where the “MOM,” not “mommy” hat comes out. I put hands on hips and say, “OK, Why are you here?”  He tells me. I just give him the “MOM” look. The one he has obviously seen before because he starts in about he is the only one that does his particular job for his unit. His buddies needed him. They depend on him 24-7. His is the one on call. So I listen intently to his babble about his injury was not so bad that he could not do his job. I waited for him to totally finish.

Then it’s my turn. I told him, “I understand your concern for your buddies. However, if you do not get this fixed, you never know when it will get to the point that you can’t do your job. It may be during a period that is quiet, but it may be during a time that your buddies need you more than they have ever needed you before and you’re not able to be there for them because you waited too long to get this fixed.”

This soldier just stared at me for a couple seconds and then asked me if I knew COL Xxxxxxxx. I said, “No, why?” He said, “That is the exact same thing he said.” I said, “GREAT, now if I think like the COL, how about helping me, help you put this bag together.” He looked at me, we stood quietly for a little bit and he said, “I would like medium boxers.”

Another point for all the MOMs out there; we won another one. Hoorah!!!

Karen

Hug So Tight

01-31-06

Short and sweet tonight as it is late, I’m tired as I’m still waking up at 0430 and not able to go back to sleep.

Today was slow, but Sharon B., I wish I could have seen the expression on your APE recipient’s face today. I was walking to the clothing closet this morning and there were 2 guys sitting waiting for appointments. There are usually some of our guys waiting in this one area, but this morning one of them was sleeping. I smiled and nodded my head at the other one and then that light bulb went off. The bright idea one of course, but more the one like I can get away with some thing here. So I put my finger up to my lips like to say shhhhhh. I took one of the APES out of the bag, looked to see who the sponsor was, and VERRRY gently placed it on this kid’s lap. The older soldier smiled as I walked away. I LOVE IT when I get away with something good. I just wish I could have seen his face when he woke up.

Kathy has ordered our sweats; they are being sponsored by the Lorton American Legion.

That is it for the night, told you short and sweet.

Karen


02-02-06

It is so cold here. It never got above 21 degrees today. I’m freeezzzzzing. All the trees are covered in ice. It is supposed to warm up slightly this weekend (2 or 3 degrees) and the temperature is to get even colder the next two weeks.

I met Xxxxxx the other day. Very nice young man. You know they are either in pain or really just need to talk when they ask if they can sit. I had been busy all day, but everything just stopped when he came in and needed time to vent. I gave him one of the apes and he asked if he could have one for his wife who was coming in the next day. As he sat there and talked, he played with those apes. He was wrapping their arms around each other as to give each other a hug and back and forth. When he started talking, he seemed to be on the verge of losing it, but those little apes and talking calmed him. We talked for about 30 minutes before I had a patient come in for help. Xxxxxx hung around until I finished with the patient and said he had to catch the bus, but he just wanted to thank me for the apes. You know that was not the reason, so Dianne, for you baby, I gave him a hug, and he squeezed so tight I was not sure he was going to let go. I just held on until he did. I walked him to the bus stop and said goodbye again. (24 and missing everyone he loves and everything he knows as being normal.)

This morning I carried in another dozen apes. Each time I passed a military member in uniform, doctors, nurses, patients, etc, I would say, “I have a gift for you,” hand them the ape and keep on walking. The response after they looked at it was, “OH Thanks, how cute.” After getting the keys to open the closet, I turned around and two officers were standing there.  I gave them each an ape and kept walking. I was about 20 steps in front of them. I heard one of them say she must be Sandy from FL, and then the other one said no mine says NY. The response was then, “we won’t ever know who that pink ape woman was,” I had to laugh out loud, but kept right on walking. I’m so glad we did the apes.

I made rounds yesterday with our quilts and blankets that came in. What a hit!!! Especially the deer, beers, wolf, and woodland colored ones.

Today we finally got 3/4 of our long sleeve t-shirts in. All the rest of the shipment – pj’s, gold bond powder, winter jackets are in. I was starting to worry. The shelves look great now that they are all filled with the right items on them. We should all be proud to know that we put them there.

The 3 winter jackets donated from Stafford, VA came in and went out today. The guys loved them.

The Gold Bond powder was only on the shelf about 5 minutes when 2 containers went. Thanks Bernie.

The men’s lounge pants from MN, WOW are they going too. They were put out first, but the guys were dealing on them. I will switch this color for that color. We can always use more of them and in the small sizes too.

I want to thank all those that were stateside to pack for this shipment. It was so nice to not have to fold today, but straight out of the box to the shelf. LOVED IT!!!

Heads up, Monday will be a long day starting at 0530 and I do not expect to post Monday night. I will be with XXX before and after his surgery. This young man has a tumor. Keep him in your thoughts and prayers.

Ginger, your Burger King lunches will start with this young man and when he is able to have his first regular meal after surgery.

Good night everyone

Karen

A Flag Stood Watch Over America’s Sons and Daughters

01-27-06

I was going to write an update tonigh,t but after reading this email I can’t.

Dear Karen,

I am LCPL XXXXXX’ mother. I want to thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for being so kind to my son! I also want you to know that you are an answer to my prayers. I’m sure that you understand how difficult it is to have XXXXXXX so far away from home, possible hurting, and not be able to be with him. It is like torture to know that he has been going through all of those tests and not being able to be there to talk to the doctors and make sure that he is being taken care of. I have prayed for God to put someone there with him who would care for him as a person. Not just another Marine who needs to get back out into the field, but someone’s son; you are that person. You’ve proven it by taking your time to send this picture. My prayer will be that God blesses you abundantly and just as you have provided for my son that there will always be someone to care for you and your children. Thank you!

Kind Regards,

XXXXXXX
Executive Assistant

01-30-06

Hi,

My name is Sgt XXXXX. I recently had surgery in Landstuhl hospital in Germany. I was a soldier that was hurt in Iraq. I would like to thank you for all the support for the troops. It is such a warm feeling, knowing that some people really care. When I received clothes and hygiene products from you at the store I was amazed. I had no clue nothing like that existed. It brings tears to my eyes knowing you want to help. I will be heading back down range here soon. I will never forget the care I received from your organization. Tell everyone I said thanks. May we never forget freedom isn’t free! GOD BLESS AMERICA AND PEOPLE LIKE YOU!!!

FIGHTING FOR FREEDOM!!!
 
SGT XXXXXXX
UNITED STATES ARMY
1071ST MAINT CO.
GRAYLING MICH.

You know that little voice inside of you that talks to you. It speaks of hope, love and sharing. Some days it seems like it is too much. Today this young kid came in and he just looked scared. When I looked at him you just knew he needed a hug. (Of course he got one.) I asked him if he was ok. He said he was just a little scared. I asked him why. He said that the last thing he remembers was being in Iraq. Now he is here and he is not sure what is next. He received a blow to the head that was so severe that he had a concussion and woke up in Germany. The fear was so evident in this young man. I got everything he needed and sent him out the door but not before making sure he knew where he was going and how to get there. (He just was not sure.) So I followed up with making sure the second man in the closet followed him to the bus stop and introduced himself.

I spent about half an hour cutting clothing for a man who needed both wrist bands cut from sweat shirts and a zip up hoody so that he could get them over two bad arms. He also needed break-away pants for the long brace on his leg. Do you think that they know when I pack their bags or when we ship our boxes that they overflow with wishes, prayers, respect, honor and gratitude?

Tomorrow is Lawrence’s birthday. He will be 25. Say Happy Birthday to him when you get up and I will let him know if I see him tomorrow that all of you wished him a Happy Birthday. He arrived from down range today.

We have no med. sweats again and about 8 small left. I have asked Kathy to purchase about $300 worth of small and med sweat pants for here. We also need white med. t-shirts if I have not posted that already.

Every morning on the bus I hope that my actions here show these troops that our hearts shine for them and ache for them in their period of pain. I also hope that though some may be crying silently, they know they are not alone. I want to thank all of you that support this project while I’m here.

I also received a VERY special gift from the field today in the mail. It is an American flag from a Marine Detachment that we supported. It was flown in honor of our unwavering support. The letter says

This Flag has stood watch over America’s Sons and Daughters who are in harms way in the country of Iraq. It has stood watch through the joys of the Holidays and sorrow of Marines giving the ultimate sacrifice that can be asked of them. It was flying when the Iraqi people voted in the first free election in over 50 years. It has been a beacon showing us the way home and an inspiration of things to come for the People of Iraq. It has flown high and protected us from harm. I’m sure after being packed in a box and shipped halfway around the world it will be a little wrinkled and still have sand in its folds, but it is our most prized possession. It was flown for you, for the uncompromising support you have shown us. May it always protect you and those you love as it has protected us.

The papers with the Hadji script are actual voting ballets used during the election. Hopefully they have started a chain of events that keep us from ever having to return here again.

Xxxx xxxx
GySgt USMC

This flag represents the heroism and sacrifice of the men and women of the Armed Forces of the United States of America. Many service men and women have paid the ultimate price by giving their lives in defense of the Iraqi people during their fight for freedom.

Whenever and wherever this flag is displayed, it will always carry with it, the memory of those who were lost while bringing freedom to those who have never known it.

Karen

Colonel Takes The Pink

This morning leaving Ramstein we followed a bus with wounded on board and then passed it. The bus pulled into the ER entrance shortly after I entered. It is heart wrenching to see the buses come in and deliver patient after patient. At the same time heart warming to see nurses’ techs, chaplains and assistants throughout the hospital be standing ready for them when they arrive. One of the COL, I love him dearly, was standing there waiting for the second bus of patients. I was carrying the Valentine apes in this morning and gave him one. He stuck it in his jacket pocket with the arms sticking out. Everyone was awwww, then the second chaplain looked at me and so I gave him one. Same reaction from everyone again. Now there must be 20-25 people standing there saying awww. A little female tech was looking at them so I walked over and gave her a different color one. Day in and day out these troops serve our wounded with such care and dignity. I could not help but give out about 18 apes this morning waiting there at the door for our wounded to arrive. I spoke with a very young man that works in L&D. He worked in ICU for one day and commented that he was not sure he could do it. The stress and pace at times can be overwhelming, so let us remember not only the troops, but the staff of nurses, doctors, ambulance drivers, and all those that support in the back ground. (By the way, the COL took the pink one.)

I spoke with one of the liaisons and he has a family arriving today from the states, that means that their family member is in ICU and not good. I asked him to give an ape to the family for their son. The flight is long here and I can not imagine the pain of knowing my son, daughter, or husband is in ICU and counting the minutes until I landed to get to their side. Not knowing what is wrong. How bad is it really? What will happen when I get at the hospital and will I have support? I can tell you the first couple questions would drive me crazy no matter what I was told and could be there myself.  However, the last question I can answer.  The support these families receive is awesome.  They are cared for in every way possible.  The only need that the hospital can not fill is the desire to have their military child/spouse back to before the incident, which put their child in ICU or this hospital.

We got snow last night and more this morning, about one inch. I stood outside last night thinking how beautiful, but then realized it would make it more difficult for those on crutches and wheel chairs to get to me. I will keep a close eye out on the long side walk to assist the next couple days until it is gone.

Today we have a woman in the hospital from the field. Her brother also happened to be serving down range and is now here to be by her side after an IED explosion.  After he left the clothing closet, I was unpacking more bags thinking what a close relationship they should have after this.

I met a young man last year who told me he would have no family when he returned back to the States with both hands and part of his face burned. His family did not support the efforts of our troops or HIM.  How sad!!! I feel they are all my family. We all have been given gifts over the years and these visits to LRMC to serve our wounded military is one of my most precious.

This afternoon I made the rounds to the wards with the apes. I think the guys might have liked them more than the women. We have enough to make rounds once a week through Valentine’s Day. I put sponsor labels on them and when the patient receives one I would tell them where it was from. Some of the apes were from Ballston Spa, NY. I had two patients that were surprised and thrilled because they were also from NY. That small little connection made faces smile. What an honor to be able to make that happen.

Well, it is 7:40 and the last meal I had was breakfast, so I must go.  Oh, if anyone wants to pick up some MED t-shirts, we are out.

Karen

The Toe Lady?

Here is an email from a troop that came in yesterday or the day before.

I received the items from your store/shop the other day just prior to boarding my bus back to XXXX. Besides the items, the people who worked there were very supportive and just real friendly. For the 2 minutes I was there, I felt somewhat normal again and not as if I was in a uniform and had been in a combat environment for past 6 months. I thanked all who were there and I in turn was thanked for what I did. I didn’t leave without a hug either.

I also found that one of your staff was there on a volunteer basis. She said that she was to be there for 6 weeks and I thought how great is that that someone volunteered to help me in some way shape or form. It was really good to hear.

Know that your service is a great one to provide to our injured service members. I cc’ed my wife because I want her to know as well that there are people here besides the MD’s who go the extra mile.

You rock!

Sincerely,

JEDI 36

Sorry I have not posted in two days, but I have been busy with some behind the scene things. Dianne S., you are a true life saver and I know that this family feels blessed for having your help.

For those of you new to the project, please read the Blog on the web page from my last visit. For those of you that have been around since last fall, I was known as the “Name on my briefs lady,” this trip it is the “Toe Lady.”  The young man I told you about with the hat on his foot with the tassels is making quite the rounds. I have had several people coming in asking if I’m the toe lady. I have to laugh, because, can you imagine the look on my face the first time I was asked that? The second guy said yea this guy had this hat on his foot to keep his toes warm and said that this “very nice, rock on, cute woman” gave it to him from the clothing closet. (The nice and cute I understand the meaning of, but the “rock on” I just have to hope is also good. LOL) The problem is that XXXX does not remember names and could not remember mine so he calls me the “Toe Lady.”  So 3 patients later and I’m the Toe Lady.  I have been known for lots of different things, but this is a new one to add to the book. LOL.

Last fall it was the name on the boxers, yesterday we were a little busy and this man says, “Hey this couple in Stafford, VA by the name of GRIMORD sent these socks here.” I turned around and asked if it said Mr. and Mrs. Brian Grimord.  He said “rock on.” (Someone has to tell me what the means.)  Everyone looked at me like, how did you know that. So I told them I was Karen Grimord and what we did and why I was there. I was told to let each of you know how much this means to each of them. Dianne, you have two more pairs of ankle socks before yours are gone from the shelf.

I waited on a young man yesterday who had surgery two days ago. Very nice and very polite!  We had our small chit chat and said our good bye. Today, I found out that he worked for one of the Generals and I got coined for the support this young man was provided. It is a very nice coin from the Third Infantry Division, Outstanding Soldier, “Rock of the Marine” General. I wish I could “coin” all of you for the great work that you do to keep our shipments coming in here and down range.

Four nights ago a young man, XXX, came down from the mental health ward. (some of them get 1 hour passes). I waited on him and he was very nice and quite the joker. He told me that he has been diagnosed as being bi-polar. The next night he came back with someone new to the ward. Now remember this kid has been “SHOPPING” already once, as I’m helping his new friend he looks around and picks out some CD’s, sun glasses, and a sweater. The next night XXX comes down with the friend from the night before and another new member of the ward. Again the same thing, I help the new patient and XXX goes checking out everything, keeping everyone laughing the entire time, but picking up this little thing here that thing there. XXX asked if he could exchange his small black bag for one of the larger ones (they are only allowed one bag). I told him sure bring the small one back down the next day. Yesterday afternoon XXX came down and tried to tell me, in a very round the bush way, that he had so much wonderful stuff that he could not fit it all in the bag. I laughed and said of course you do, you are worse than any woman I’ve ever met about shopping. I told him to keep both the bags, but his shopping was shut off, no more, done, finished. Everyone started to laugh and he looked at me and smiled and said well can I still come down here and talk with you? I gave him a big hug and said of course you can, any time. So tonight, he brought back all the friends from the nights before and another new member of the ward. He started to go shopping, he had his back to me and I looked at him and his friends were, “OHHHH” XXX look at Karen.” He turned around really slow and had this smile on his face that he thought would melt me. I told him I have a son that used to try that and it just would not work. Everyone was laughing and told him he had met his match. He leaves here in a couple days and I will miss my 4-4:15 appointment with this very wonderful young man.

Tomorrow is my 25th anniversary. I will deliver some of our Valentine apes early. Patient load is light compared to last fall and we have enough to go around the hospital now and then also on Valentine’s Day. This will give the guys going home a small gift for Valentine’s Day also. One of the chaplains’ assistants told me today that the apes were very appropriate because she did consider me ape for our soldiers. My 25th may not be spent with my husband, but I guarantee you it will be spreading love to the wounded military personnel here at LRMC.

I promised a young man today that I would ask all of you to say a special prayer or take a moment and think about his friend who has all four limbs broken and is in bad shape. I will not post the name, but I’m sure the man upstairs will listen anyways.

That is it for the night, time for bed.

Karen

A Foot With Personality

01-22-06

I worked on Saturday and we had about 20 patients come through. We got a lot unpacked and put in the closet or in the storage room. I also met a nurse from down range at one of the largest hospitals in the field. She told me that we can support them by sending shorts, pillows, and pants (NO SHIRTS). She also told me that they DO NOT NEED TOILETRIES OF ANY KIND.

I sat here all day today and got all the labels on our apes for Valentine’s Day.  I have some pictures I will send Ray to put on Jonathan’s page as soon as I get them out of the camera.

This group [the Yahoo Group] got quiet when I came over here. Do I have back up in the States?

Karen


 

01-23-06

Today was a very cold day. We had several ghost flights come in, so it was busy also. I had one patient that came back in for a hat for his foot. One of the other volunteers helped him Saturday and I saw him about half an hour after he left and his cast leg and foot were uncovered, so I told him to come back and see me today and we would put a hat on that foot. Well, we chose two hats one black one for while he was in his uniform and the other had two tassels on top and was multi-colored for his civvies. We talked for almost 45 minutes about everything; he was a preschool teacher before joining the Army. Anyway, a very nice young man, has a great personality and his foot has two hats now, in uniform and out.

I also meet a young man who is from Huntsville, AL, where my folks are living. I may be posting more about him later but it is always interesting to meet someone from some where you know.

Dianne S., your socks are going out the door like crazy. I have seen your labels all day today. Ginger, please let the legion know that their sweats are on the shelf and also being used. The last of the auxiliary quilts are on the shelf now. They don’t last long when they get put out.

I’m going to take a shower, as I have changed many a combat boot today.

Karen

Post Master Pays

Karen & Hat
Karen gets hug from patient “Hat”

I have arrived in Germany and in one piece, 45 min early.

I mailed 20 pillows to the hospital in Iraq on the way to the airport. As I was waiting for the total and the post master to take my debit card, he pulled out his own wallet and paid the total shipping. He thanked us for everything that we do. If someone else could pick up the other 10 and mail them to me, we will be finished with this month’s support for the pillows to the hospital in Iraq. THANKS!

We still have the request for the towels and if you would like to purchase them yourself instead of us purchasing direct from the distro people, I have no problems with that. I would just like to know so that I could let the hospital in Iraq know when they might expect them.

I start work tomorrow, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the time difference does not kick my butt like it did last time.

Karen