A Winning Hand for SoldiersBy ELISA A. GLUSHEFSKI
On Feb. 3, somewhere in Iraq, U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Justin A. Reynolds drove a Humvee over an improvised explosive device. Both of Reynolds’ feet were broken, along with a bone in his leg and shrapnel tore through his knee.
A short time later, the entire left side of his body was paralyzed and the 22-year-old lost vision as a result of a virus he contracted after the explosion, said Reynolds’ father, Bob Reynolds. Had it not been for Karen Grimord and her charity organization, the Landstuhl Hospital Care Project, Bob said he and his wife wouldn’t have known how to manage. “As parents not in the service we didn’t know who to call [for help],” the Ohioan said. “[Grimord] was his mother over there as far as we’re concerned.”
About 80 motorcyclists signed up Sunday morning for the Manassas chapter of Harley Owners Group’s Poker Run – a charity ride to benefit the project. The game was five-card stud poker. Each motorcyclist paid $15 per hand, randomly picking their first card at Whitt’s Harley Davidson in Manassas – where the ride started – then picking the next three cards at various stops along the 120-mile pre-planned route and ending at American Legion Post 364 in Woodbridge, said Mike Lee, coordinator of the event.
Landstuhl Hospital Care Project provides comfort and relief items to sick, injured and wounded military members who served in Iraq, Kuwait or Afghanistan. Before the rally, Reynolds – a soft-spoken, stout young man – sat in his wheelchair and delivered a brief and selfless speech, thanking Grimord and the attendees for their support. “Your support is what makes us men and women do our job,” he said. “It gives us wounded soldiers a piece of home, when our only possessions are cutups and hospital scrubs.” Tears spilled from Grimord’s eyes as Reynolds closed his speech. “Karen was my mother away from home and she will always be in my heart.”
Based out of Grimord’s Stafford home, the organization took form after she took a trip to Germany in August 2004 to visit her daughter and son-in-law who were stationed at Ramstein Air Force Base, about 10 miles from Landstuhl Regional Medical Center. There was no grand vision in Grimord’s mind, though, when she first began sending care packages from the states to the Landstuhl. After sending her first package of about 500 DVDs, Grimord almost immediately called the hospital chaplain to find out what else they needed.
Nearly two years later, the program has expanded to a nationally sponsored organization that makes monthly shipments tailored to the needs of each hospital. “If the hospital needs Colgate toothpaste, we send Colgate toothpaste,” she said. “We don’t send them Crest.” Each Operation Iraqi Freedom or Operation Enduring Freedom patient receives a $250 voucher from the Department of Defense, Grimord said, that can be used at the Post Exchange. Most arrive with nothing more than the clothes on their back, she said, and the needs of the men and women sometimes exceed the allowance.
Kris Paquette, a three-year motorcyclist, said she was shocked to learn the military does not provide the sick, injured and wounded with any personal care items beyond the $250 voucher. “It’s a crime that the military doesn’t provide our troops, with adequate clothing, toiletries and other comfort items,” she said. “This is just such a good cause.”
Dan Sullivan, who retired in September of last year as a lieutenant colonel in the Army, found the cause to be particularly dear to him. “It just makes it a little more comfortable for them over there,” he said. “Makes them feel less like a patient and more like a human.” Reynolds is currently stationed at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune in North Carolina and has a year left of service.