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.