Navy Warrior Transition Program

2013 farewell from LHCP
2013 farewell from LRMC

“WOW! I have just met the most amazing group of people”. Karen Grimord, Founder and President of Landstuhl Hospital Care Group is talking about the Navy Warrior Transition Program at Sembach, Germany.

The WTP was started in 2007 and was located at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait. In December, 2012 the Program moved to Sembach. The mission of the WTP is to transition Sailors from combat to more normal activities when they return to their units, home and community.

While Karen was volunteering this year at LRMC, she met the folks at the WTP and toured the Warrior Transition Program facilities at Sembach. Karen writes that during a normal ship deployment, as Sailors returned to homeport the Navy would fly social workers out when the ship approached port. The Social Workers would do a Return and Reunion briefing as the Sailors came into port. When on deployment and working 12 hours a day, 7 days a week, Sailors become locked into a circle of comrades and supporting friendships. Leaving this environment and returning to their own families has the potential to bring up grief issues. This point is emphasized during the Social Workers Briefing for their return home to family and friends. The hope is that will recall the messages given them the Return and Reunion brief and use them if or when needed.

Both Navy mental health providers and Navy Chaplains have been working with returning service members since the beginning of the current conflict. Navy mental health providers realized in 2003, while working with Marines and Seabees, that when service members fly home rather than sail home, the transition provided by the ship-board experience with comrades and buddies doesn’t happen. That’s where this unique program (WTP) comes in as an important step of helping returning sailors.

The Warrior Transition Program is critical to the continued health and readiness of Sailors. WTP follows the Sailor’s completion of his or her tour and prior to their return home. Sailors travel approximately 3 days from Afghanistan to arrive at Ramstein Air Base and then to Sembach, Germany. Each Sailor is provided 3-5 days of decompression time, which helps them get prepared for their return to “normalcy”.

Karen writes about her visit with the Warrior Transition Program, “I have to admit that I have not been as impressed, or felt so in awe of such an operation/program for several years now. Not that LRMC, or other installations/facilities do not have good programs; but maybe I have come to expect it. However, the devotion, commitment and most importantly enthusiasm the staff at WTP have towards their fellow battle buddies, left me speechless. As a Navy Mom, I sat in their short briefing to the redeployed troops and was not only proud of this fine group of people, but also very comforted by the words of the skipper and his staff. This comfort translated into knowing that not only my son, but also others are being well taken care of by the Navy through this initiative.”

Karen continues, “William Butler Yeats once said, ‘A symbol is indeed the only possible expression of some invisible essence, a transparent lamp about a spiritual flame…’ This was very evident as they did their “bag drop”, gear and weapons put down and stored away at the end of their mission. I was struck deeply by a staff member who said that, ‘When they drop their bags, they leave more than their gear.’ It can be emotional for many. As for those at the WTP there is no way to express my feeling of amazement and respect. As a Navy Mom, my most sincere thank you.”

Landstuhl Hospital Care Project is committed to providing comfort and care items to service members serving so far from home. We are happy to partner with the Warrior Transition Program to aid transitioning Sailors and the team that supports them through the WTP.

Reported by Donna Bolen as told by Karen Grimord.

Attached are some photos of our wounded warriors on their tour of Germany but more importantly away from the hospital and war zone. The inside of the bus is at the end when we got back to the hospital.  In the morning everyone is quite and keeping to themselves.  As you can see on the way back they all are talking and having some fun.

LRMC Staff and Patients Enjoy Day Out
LRMC Staff and Patients Enjoy Day Out
Bus Tour
Bus Tour

Walking with Patients
Walking with Patients

Patient Tour
Patient Tour

 

Someone’s Son or Daughter

This morning started with refilling shelves at the CCC. As I was heading to lunch I walked into some troops with that “lost” look on their face. I asked them if I could help them find something. Yes, they were looking for the CCC. I told them to follow me and I went back to the CCC to help them. As we walked the hall one of them explained that they were Georgia troops. Not the Georgia north of Florida and south of Tennessee but the Georgia that is North of Turkey and South of Russia. Georgia covers a territory smaller than South Carolina and slightly larger than West Virginia, with approximately 4.5 million residents. If I understand what I have been told in the past from Georgian troops, Georgia is the largest non-Nato contributor to the Afghanistan mission. I have never met a Georgian patient that spoke English. There is a Georgian translator here to help the Georgia patients. I first introduced myself to the Georgian wheel chair patient and then to the other 3 Georgian troops. I asked the translator to explain everything to the patients. I gave a very short explanation of the CCC and then went about filling the duffel bag for the patient in the wheel chair. He had a trach in and was having some difficulties. As we moved around the CCC I noticed he had a very large round scar on his chest. When they are sitting in front of you in a hospital gown I don’t look at them as US troop, Canadian troop or Georgia troop. I look at them as someone’s son or daughter and this one had at one time a massive blast to his chest. As we moved around the CCC he was amazed at the items available for free. He was hesitate to take items but I explain that some little old grandma sent these items for him and once the interrupter told them what I said they smiled and took a pillow from Judy in Michigan and a blanket from a LHCP church group in Arizona. As they were leaving, the patient reached up to shake my hand. He had a little bit of a problem reaching out to my hand so I bent down and forward to him and told him THANK YOU and it was my pleasure to help him. I also told him (through the translator) that if he needed any more help to come back. That he did not need the translator with him that he and I would figure out what he needed. He may have been very thin and weak but he made sure he shook my hand with a firm grip.

Saturday we had a patient trip. We had approximately 17 patients. LHCP is paying for the lunch these wounded warriors eat at a local German restaurant, thanks in part to Callie in North Carolina. As they all sat down at their tables one of the chaplain staff explained to them where they were at and what the building was. It was also explained that LHCP was paying for their lunch. They were asked to show by hand how many had been to the CCC. 75% raised their hands. They were then told that 95% of the items in the CCC was donated by LHCP. As their lunch was being placed in front of them I was introduced to them. I did not stand or speak as we are not there to be in their face. We are here to have their backs. However, as each of them left the restaurant they came by to thank LHCP for their “day away” from the life at the hospital. As one of them left, he thanked me. I told him it was “our pleasure”. His battle buddy turned back around to face me and he said “ma’am you have no idea what this means to us”.

Today was a rather busy day it reminded me of the times in 2006 and 2007 when it was routine for 14 to 20 wounded to come in to the CCC for help at one time. It still amazes me after all these years that the patients are amazed at the support that is provided by us at home. I am very proud and honored to be part of LHCP. Every pillow except one that was taken today was a LHCP pillow. Approximately 50% of the quilts and fleece blankets that were taken today were made by LHCP members. Every duffel bag that is taken is due to LHCP monetary donors. 90% of the zip-up hoodies and winter jackets are again from LHCP donors.

The CCC has some items that they will just never run out of due to the quantity that has been sent here over the years such as socks, shaving cream, under shirts, just to name a few of the items. There are needs that seem to always be on their wish list and I hope that I can turn to you to help us collect these items. We are in need of toe nail clippers, black shorts in all sizes and travel size mouth wash.

Leave With A Smile

Wednesday

I arrived in Germany about 830 am. We drove to LRMC; gave and received hugs from many that have been here for years. I was introduced to many new volunteers and staff. I helped several young men but three kind of stood out to me. The first one was a Marine who was brought in by his Marine liaison. He was being discharged as an in-patient and was moving to the out-patient barracks until he could go home. He was still very sore from his surgery so we took it slow around the different aisles to get sweat pants and shirt, boxers, socks and undershirts, a few long sleeve shirts, pillow and blanket. He was not feeling well and had to excuse himself to the rest room as I continued to put toiletry items together. When he felt better I asked him about tennis shoes and he said he would love a new pair but the pair he had on was good. They were rather worn so I asked him what size and found him a pair that put a smile on his face. It does my heart so much good to see these young men and woman come in sore, tired and worn out but leave with a smile.

The second patient came in and gave me one of the firmest handshakes I have had in a long time. His whole body was tense and everything began or ended with “Yes ma’am” or “no ma’am”. I asked him how long he had been at LRMC and where was he coming from. He told me he was a 9 Charlie patient. That means he is a mental health patient. They have a special place in my heart due to a very early LRMC trip experience with 9 Charlie patients. We can see the physical damage but the mental health problems can be harder not only for the patient but for us to understand. As a 9 Charlie patient they are not allowed all free access to every item the Clothing Closet has to offer. We started the process of filling his bag with sweats, shirts and socks. After the first couple items went into his bag and 20 or so “ma’ams”. I stopped took a couple steps toward him put out my hand and introduced myself again as “Karen”. I looked him straight in the face with a slight smile and waited for his reply he gave me his first name and I told him it was very nice to meet him. His back was half turned to his escort and I leaned in and told him that I did not wear a uniform. I was at LRMC to help and be a friend if he wanted. He smiled and from that moment on I was “Karen”. He asked for a couple of the restricted items and either I or his escort told him we were sorry but he would have to come back after he was discharged from 9 Charlie to receive those items. I asked him about new sneakers and he said he would love a new pair. When the shoes were on, his facial expression changed. The only way I can describe it is as a glow of joy. I asked him if there was anything more he could think of or that he saw that he might like. He picked out a winter jacket and was finished with his bag of joy. I told him that if there was anything else he needed to come back and see me. He said he would like that and put out his hand for me to shake. I looked down a little to see his face that was facing the floor and told him that a hand shake was such a formal gesture that as a mom would it be ok to give him a “mom hug”. He immediately leaned forward and I gave him a hug. I have to say that was the strongest hug I have received in a very long time. He held on for a good while and I could feel his shoulders and back muscles release. When we released he looked up at me and then bent down to his bag to zip it up. As he was standing up he said “I feel happy, I have not felt like this in a very long time.” Since most of the items on the Clothing Closet shelves were sent by LHCP members and donors I want to thank you for making this young man “happy” for making his face glow with joy as he left the CC.

LRMC 2013
LRMC Chaplain Clothing Closet staff with
LHCP President, Karen Grimord