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Volume 15, Issue 27 ~ July 5 - July 11, 2007

Helping Our Heroes

Chesapeake women turn caring into healing

Time heals all wounds.

Generally, over time, wounds to the heart, pride and psyche cure themselves. Four Deale ladies have been spending much time of late on those afflicted with physical wounds. They are trying to make life easier and better for recuperating wounded soldiers at the Army’s Walter Reed Hospital.

No, they’re not playing Clara Barton or Florence Nightingale; the Army has doctors and nurses. Their role is to raise the morale of the wounded men and women who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. They believe life-changing wounds heal more quickly when soldiers learn they are not forgotten.

Military hospitals of today have some of the best doctors, nurses and equipment to be found, but nothing is more lonely and boring than one of their beds so far from family and loved ones. It can be inconvenient, if not scary, when no one is around to help with small and big necessities and to relieve the boredom of long periods of hospitalization so far from home.

Before long, perhaps in the next couple of weeks, Pamela Parks, once an Air Force brat, and friends Geri Dove, Denise Oldham and Ellie Osborne will learn that appreciation can be a two-way street. That’s when they get to play Santa Clause at Reed. They deeply appreciate the service of the soldiers, and surely, the hospitalized soldiers will deeply appreciate being remembered. Big time.

Geri Dove is the grandmother of Staff Sgt. Michael T. Calub; Denise Oldham, mother of Sergeant Jonathan S. Payne; Ellie Osborne, a former Army master sergeant and at times a patient at Walter Reed. Being treated at the hospital gave Osborne an inside track on the military route to helping the soldiers. One just can’t arrive at a military installation with a sleigh full of goodies.

From Small Beginnings

It all started when Pam heard on her car radio talk about how the citizenry should be doing more for wounded troops. The idea stuck in her mind, and she talked it over with Osborne. They decided they would do more, and Dove and Oldham signed on.

Born this past March was Helping Our Heroes, a non-profit organization devoted solely to Walter Reed patients A bake sale in April was what Parks called “a wonderful success” despite a surprise snow storm; $1,200 was raised. Another sale in May on Armed Forces Day was even more successful; then came another a couple of weeks ago at Parks Liquors. In three months, more than $6,000 was raised.

Okay, they have the money; what’s next? What to get soldiers suffering horrible war wounds and undergoing months of extensive therapy?

DVD Players in Place of Guns

Things have changed much since World War II when I spent many months in navy hospitals from Hawaii to California, Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Then it was candy, cigarettes, tobacco, toiletries, pens and stationery, most of it coming courtesy of the Red Cross and big companies. Such things are no longer on the list for the hospitalized.

Today’s wounded have different needs, Parks found after talking with hospital personnel. They primarily want phone cards to call home, bank cards with the Visa logo so they can buy a piece of clothing, or perhaps head to a restaurant for a meal. After all, how long can one get along solely on eating from a hospital tray?

Sure wounded soldiers are paid, but in wartime when one is wounded, followed by the trip back home and not infrequently with a stop in Germany for initial surgery, pay and other records don’t follow immediately. It’s bad being in a hospital with nothing in the billfold.

Also on the list are DVDs to pass the time. The hands on hospital clocks move slower than a snail.

The army provides soldiers with guns but not DVD players, so add that to the list. The players are big-ticket items, but for the bedridden wounded, they can make a big difference in how a day passes. Who deserves one more?

Obviously the people of Southern Anne Arundel know the answer. Parks tells of the outpouring of support from the people of Deale; she says not infrequently her eyes moisten. This isn’t about a popular or unpopular war, she says, it’s about soldiers who answered the call to duty and were wounded.

At a bake sale, a local businessman bought a $10 pastry, paid her with a $50 bill. He didn’t want any change. A few more buyers like that, and there’s a DVD player at the bedside of another soldier fighting homesickness, worries about what the future holds and physical pain. There have been more people who have opened their hearts and pocketbooks.

“John Q Public has been very supportive,” Parks said.

She hopes to have stories for her fellow citizens about the difference they are making for the wounded when they make their first delivery. “Our goal is to hand deliver,” she says. “We want to personally meet them, see what else they might need.”

On the Double-Win Calendar

Helping Our Heroes is not about to rest on its laurels. Parks said it will continue its campaign for as long as there are wounded soldiers who need help.

She hopes we will never forget these soldiers who will never be the same again. “We have taken our freedom for granted,” she says. “Now it’s time to let them know you are not forgotten, you are our heroes.”

So what’s ahead is more fund raisers, all of them family-style fun and each and every month, and country-style like Deale is. July 21 and again in August at a time to be announced there will be bike/poker runs. September 8 there brings a Hawaiian luau with Michael Hoover presenting Memories of Elvis at the Deale Elks Lodge.

The biggest event of all comes September 29, an old-fashioned barbecue cookout with food, music, car show, pony rides and such. October will bring turkey shoots.

Surely, all will be fun. But I dare say the fun will go far beyond taking part; there will be the satisfaction of lending a hand to the wounded, letting them know about people who have not forgotten their sacrifices. It’s a win-win situation — and there aren’t too many of those around these days. Enough said.

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