East Coast Wounded Warriors
October 30th Dinner:
The Purple Heart Hero Support volunteers of MarineParents.com had a big day
on October 30th. Some of the volunteers participated in the Marine Corps Marathon
before coming to the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center at Bethesda
(WRNMMCB). Others met Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter and Vice Chief
of Staff of the Army General Peter W. Chiarelli and Mrs. Chiarelli, who were at the
hospital visiting wounded warriors. The volunteers described the work of
MarineParents.com and the commitment of its founder Tracy Della Vecchia to the VIPs.
They also explained how PHHS offers food and comfort to the families of Wounded
Some PHHS volunteers arranged tables decorated with festive Halloween colors in the 4th floor conference room. They also created furniture groupings where families could sit and visit while they ate. Other volunteers went to the lobby where they met the California Tortilla delivery van. Trays of jumbo burritos, salads and chips were loaded on carts and taken to the 4th floor.
Volunteers from St. Mary’s County delivered two large boxes of books donated
by St. Mary’s College of Maryland to the Wounded Warriors. The boxes were placed in
the family waiting room. The donation was arranged by Ted Pugh, a student at St.
Mary’s College of Maryland.
Volunteer Barbara and her husband arrived with boxes of the new tote bags
MarineParents.com had sent. The attractive bags were filled with brochures, water bottles and new journals designed by MarineParents.com for Wounded Warriors and their
families to keep track of all their medical information. There were so many boxes that
the extras were stored across the hall in the assisted shower room. Luckily no one needed
Volunteers Amy and Gail spent all Saturday baking. They brought in brownies,
cookies, chocolate cupcakes and miniature pumpkin bread loaves. Their yummy desserts
were well-received by the Wounded Warriors and their families. Gail made oatmeal
cookies for a Wounded Warrior who had asked for them specifically after the last visit. He was very grateful that Gail had remembered.
A hospital staff member stopped Volunteer Peggy to tell her he had a bedridden
patient who would appreciate a burrito dinner. Unfortunately his family had just left so
they could not bring him any food. Peggy brought the young Army Lance Corporal a tray
of goodies, including one of Amy’s pumpkin loaves. The California Tortilla dinner
helped cheer up the LCpl. who was disappointed that the visiting general had not brought
him his Purple Heart Medal.
Peggy and her husband Joe visited a friend of their Marine sergeant son’s. The
Wounded Warrior was a Navy Corpsman who had been shot in an ambush in
Afghanistan. The Veterans Moving Forward volunteers arrived with two (rather large!)
puppies in training. These service dogs-to-be were very friendly and happy to visit the
patients. One of the dogs, Derby, immediately became friends with the Corpsman. Karen
Jeffries, founder of Veterans Moving Forward, spent time discussing the need for service
dogs and comfort dogs with the Corpsman, who expressed a professional interest in
The service dogs accompanied PHHS volunteers when they took meals up to the
7th floor Behavioral Health/PTSD wards. One of the nurses enthusiastically greeted the PHHS volunteers, saying that she had heard of the organization but had never had the
pleasure of meeting any of the volunteers. It was wonderful to hear that PHHS is so
welcome and appreciated at WRNMMCB!
The staff on the 7th floor were concerned about the lethargy of one of their
patients. The day before, it had taken four hours for the staff to coax the Wounded
Warrior out of his bed. The staff asked the Veterans Moving Forward handlers to wait at
the end of the corridor while they spoke to the patient. The staff went into the patient’s
room and told him that the dogs had arrived, but he would have to go down the hall to
see them. The patient was up, dressed and down the corridor in ten minutes. It was very
gratifying to see the positive results of VMF outreach efforts.
The PHHS volunteers were joined by visitors from MarineParents.com. Barbara
Gemmell, manager of Operation Prayers and Letters, was a welcome helper, along with her sister Marianne Mitten. They both participated in the 10K race. Barbara Lopez and her son Josef came for the Marathon. Joe, once a patient at NNMC, participated in the Marathon on his hand cycle. As tired as he was after riding 26.2 miles, he still came to visit. Barbara brought an ingenious creation of hers, Foley bag covers for the Wounded Warriors. Barbara had learned that many of the Wounded Warriors were uncomfortable wearing their Foley bags in public. She designed and made covers that look like tote bags. One mother of a Wounded Warrior told a PHHS volunteer that she wished she had known about these totes when her son had to use a Foley bag! She said it would have been perfect for her son.
Betsy Branch and her husband Hayden,who ran the Marine Corps Marathon, came to the hospital. Betty Khateeb, a friend of Barbara Gemmel’s also came. They all pitched in to help and spent time talking to family members. It was wonderful having them a
- Reported by Peggy Densford
West Coast Wounded Warriors
October 20th Dinner:
The wounded warriors enjoyed an Italian dinner on October 20th that featured “Fillippi’s” signature four-inch deep dish lasagna. The Marines loved it as did the volunteers. Loni and Kimmie, two of our younger volunteers, stole the Marines’ hearts as usual as they passed through the serving line. Those who weren’t with wives or girlfriends became absolutely tongue tied when Kimmie asked them a highly challenging question: Would they like extra marinara sauce on their lasagna? Now how difficult is that? But in hearing the Marines responses you’d think they were just asked to command a nuclear submarine. Clearly our younger volunteers enjoy a different relationship with the Marines than the older guys like me!
Stephanie and Thelma also assisted Kimmie and Loni on the serving line and were joined by a special guest from Washington DC, Sergeant Major Michael Logan. After he said his introductory “hellos”, he jumped into the serving line next to Thelma. His huge smile and heartfelt greeting to each Marine genuinely lifted their spirits. Addressing many of them by their first name was also a nice touch.
There were many new visitors at this dinner including a number of recruiting officers who were attending a conference at MCRD. Prior to their current posting, many of them were recent returnees from Afghanistan. They easily mixed and bonded with the Marines, and war stories abounded.
A special guest also attended the dinner, Brigadier General Joseph L. Osterman, Commanding General of Marine Corps Recruiting Command. The general attended in civilian clothes so the warriors wouldn’t have to salute him. Like Sergeant Major Logan, he needed no prodding whatsoever to mix and socialize with every Marine. Sergeant Major Logan and General Osterman are caring, concerned and straightforward men who love their Marines. Each of the wounded Marines was touched by their genuine interest in their healing.
Pictured below are three three of our ‘starlet’ volunteers…’Mother Terresa’ Joyce Orrell and sisters, Lori Bucholz and Christie Lawson with the recruiting officers.
- Reported by Buck Ramsey
East Coast Wounded Warriors
October 2nd Dinner:
PHHS volunteers served meals on October 2nd at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center at Bethesda. The Sunday evening supper was very successful. After much construction at the hospital, our dinners were moved from the 5th floor to the 4th floor conference room. It is a larger room with less furniture, which offers us an opportunity to provide a space for families and patients to congregate while they eat the burritos, salad, chips, fruit and cookies from California Tortilla in Bethesda.
A floor count of 40 patients along with their families resulted in a long line for dinner. The set up was perfect and moved smoothly. Volunteers had worked hard to arrange the room, the food and the extras such as The Wounded Warrior Handbook for families to take, magazines, brochures, coloring books and games. Chairs were arranged in small groups around the room and many family members took advantage of the time to socialize with other families. The new 4th floor design allows each patient a single room and more space for relatives and visitors. However the large, communal Family Room with a television, computers and comfortable couches was eliminated. This dramatically cuts down on the time families have to interact with one another. PHHS volunteers are trying to alleviate the ensuing isolation that families are feeling in the new facility.
Our new location also allows more space for wheelchairs to maneuver. Four or five patients in chairs came to check out the burrito offerings.
In addition to the patients and families on the 4th floor, volunteers took 20 burrito dinners to two wings on the 7th floor serving our Wounded Warriors – Adult Behavioral Health and PTSD/Traumatic Brain Injury. Volunteer Rene went to the Critical Care Unit and connected with about 12 family members who were keeping watch on their wounded warriors. Rene brought some of them to the 4th floor where they had a chance to meet other families. Rene and the families took about 15 dinners to those who stayed behind in CCU.
One woman who had attended our dinner on September 18th commented on The Wounded Warrior Handbook, saying she was so grateful to have it and that it contained wonderful information. Approximately eight books were given out during the October 2nd dinner.
Fourth floor staff came to collect some of the burrito dinners after all the families had passed through. Approximately 15 dinners were given to staff.
One of our newest volunteers sent a note after the dinner saying, “Yesterday was great. Thank you for saving a slot for me. It’s always a very moving, heartbreaking and wonderful opportunity to serve our finest in such a small way.”
A new push cart donated by Marine Parents to the Marine Liaison Office at the hospital was used for the first time during the October 2nd dinner. The cart was assembled by volunteer Joe.
Karen Jeffries of Veterans Moving Forward, a trainer of service dogs, was on the 4th and 7th floors during our dinner. She said her group had great contact with the six or seven patients and families and spent a lot of time explaining about service dogs and demonstrating some of the things the dogs could be expected to do or trained to do to help amputees.
The next dinner is scheduled for Sunday, October 30, in conjunction with the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, D.C.
- Reported by Peggy Densford