West Coast Wounded Warriors
September 8th Dinner: "Just Like a Fireside Cookout"
“Souplantation,” a restaurant in San Diego, prepared another fabulous meal for nearly two hundred wounded Marines and their families on September 8th. The fare included multiple salads, pasta, pizza, soups, stuffed baked potatoes and chili plus lots of deserts contributed by the volunteers. The dinner was just beginning when all the lights and power went out…just a fuse in the building, we thought. Outside temperatures were in the 90-100 degree range, and all the air conditioning units in every nearby building were running at full blast. Fortunately, there were a few backup utility lights and windows. The dinner crowd grew quickly as classes and therapies were canceled and TV and video games were also out of the question. We assumed the problem was probably caused by a bigger blown fuse on the hospital campus.
As the sun began to set, we got the news: The mother of all fuses had blown and the power was out for nearly five million people living in San Diego County, parts of Orange County and western Arizona. Our dinner became cozier, just like a fireside cookout. The Marines enjoyed another leisurely trip through the chow line and everyone, volunteers and Marines, kicked back and relaxed. With nothing else to do, we all ate, joked and had a good time in the Liberty Center.
Meanwhile, at the main hospital, the elevators didn’t work properly and much of the air conditioning and lighting was sporadic. The private contractors who maintained the backup power systems raced around frantically. They looked nervous, as well they should. Never, ever should there be a sustained power outage, especially in a hospital.
These mechanical problems provided our tireless PHHS manager, Joyce Orrell, the perfect opportunity to review the dedication and strength of two male volunteers…Alan Fischer and Buck Ramsey. “So what if the elevators don’t work! Hump that food up those stairs …five floors!” With 16 foot ceilings on each floor, that’s the equivalent of nearly eight floors. “Make it snappy, boys,” echoed through the stairwells. Not only had the patients not been fed, but neither had the staff.
Patients, friends and family members of patients and the staff greatly enjoyed the food, and Joyce’s “can-do” spirit made everyone’s day a little bit better despite the last-minute snafu.
- Reported by Buck Ramsey
September 29th Dinner: "Chinese Food and Sports"
Marines love Chinese food and sports, of this we PHHS volunteers are certain!
Panda Express provided food for about 250 men. My quarter-ton pickup was packed with trays of food, as was PHHS manager Joyce and Curtis Orrell’s van. Who could eat this much food? There was orange chicken, sweet fire chicken, walnut chicken, broccoli and beef, shrimp, mixed vegetables, chow mien and all kinds of rice. There was enough food to serve a battalion ! Not so, 150 men devoured every last noodle.
The wounded warriors were in for another special treat: Jeff Moorad, the owner of the San Diego Padres, joined the Marines for dinner.
To provide a little background on the Padres and the military, San Diego is and always has been the home base for Navy and Marine operations on the west coast. The Padres are well aware of this, and over the years they have generously supported the military in many ways through free baseball tickets and meals, accommodation of military reunions and the recognition of individuals, ships and units. Plus, the Padres enjoy one very unique and much appreciated gesture. They have a camo military jersey that they wear during official games to honor our troops! There are 30 teams in major league baseball and the Padres are the only team to wear such a uniform.
Jeff Moorad’s arrival was quiet and unpretentious. There were no announcements and no traveling entourage. It was just him, and he seemed to like it that way. He pulled up a chair at a table full of Marines and chatted easily with just about every one of them, asking questions like, Where are you from? Do you like baseball? What’s your favorite team? How is your injury healing? Is this your wife or girlfriend with you? How are you, ma’am?
The Marines shared a high school sports highlight with him. And for a time, they forgot their injuries as they laugh together. When he got up to visit another table, he handed out his business card. “Let me know if I can help you,” he said. His offer was genuine and sincere, and the mutual admiration was plain to see.
- Reported by Buck Ramsey
East Coast Wounded Warriors
September 4th Dinner:
The East Coast Purple Heart Hero Support team served suppers at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda on September 4, 2011. This was the first time the team had served suppers since the merger between the National Naval Medical Center and the Walter Reed Army Hospital, both located in Bethesda, Maryland. We are honored to be given the opportunity to serve not only wounded Marine patients and their families, but also those in other branches of the service. On September 4th PHHS volunteers served many Army patients and families in addition to Marines and their families. We hope to be able to continue offering our services and support to a larger group of military families. At our most recent dinner the newly arrived Army medical staff greeted the volunteers warmly, saying they had heard about the PHHS group and the work we did at Bethesda.
California Tortilla of Bethesda delivered a record number of burritos and the accompanying salads, chips and salsa. The PHHS volunteers brought homemade desserts, fresh fruit and drinks. Volunteers also arrived with their arms full of the last two cases of Girl Scout cookies donated by the Girl Scouts of St. Mary’s County, Maryland. The buffet supper was set up in the 5th floor conference room as usual. As soon as the doors opened, families began flowing in to the room. PHHS volunteers went to the PTSD ward on the 7th floor, the ICU unit waiting room and the 4th floor where many Marine Corps wounded warriors had been moved. The volunteers invited patients and family to join us for supper on the 5th floor.
After the first rush of families left the buffet, PHHS volunteers went down to the 4th floor with second helpings of burritos desserts, copies of The Wounded Warrior Handbook, magazines and puzzle books. They visited the hospital rooms of wounded Marines. The volunteers gave out 10 copies of The Wounded Warrior Handbook to very grateful family members. The patients themselves were delighted with the choice of magazines, crossword or Sudoku books. Some of the families had not heard of the suppers available on the 5th floor and appreciated the chance to go and get a hot meal. Some of the younger, recovering patients were very happy to have ‘seconds’ on California Tortilla’s oversized burritos. We PHHS mothers understand that teenagers and young men are always hungry, even though they are confined to bed with missing limbs. Young parents visiting with little children welcomed the crayons and coloring books that the PHHS volunteers provided for them.
PHHS volunteers also took trays of food to Mercy Hall, the barracks for the long term convalescent wounded warriors. The staff in the large, friendly lounge greeted us warmly, saying the barracks were “packed” with patients.
Wounded warrior families enjoyed the respite that the PHHS volunteers offered them. The September 4th dinner really accomplished the MarineParents.com goal of providing families with “a Place to Connect & Share.”
- Reported by Peggy Densford
September 18th Dinner:
PHHS East served dinner to Marine and Army families, wounded combat patients and medical staff in its new locale on the sparkling fourth floor of the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (WRNMMC) in Bethesda, Md. on September 18. We had previously toured the floor with our new Marine Corps Liaison Officer and the new Wounded Warrior Battalion Family Readiness Officer, Bonnie O’Leary. Both are very grateful for the support provided by Marine Parents, and we look forward to working with them.
The new room has space for families to come in and sit for a spell if they choose to, and the newly renovated private patient rooms are also pleasant and spacious. The hot food at our September 18th dinner smelled inviting and drew some curious people down the hall to check out what was going on in the conference room.
The new Army medical staff who have moved over from Walter Reed were pleasantly surprised to find that a Mexican dinner was being provided to them and their patients. The old Bethesda staff was happy to see us, relocated one floor lower. We supplemented our burritos, chips, salsa, and salad—with three choices of dressing!—with homemade chocolate chip cookies, along with brownies, Girl Scout cookies, jam thumbprint cookies, grapes and bright red Gala apples. The lemonade and Mountain Dew were big hits, and the salad got a lot of compliments. Thank you, California Tortilla! You are so dependable.
We have a menu assignment for next time—a Marine patient said to one of our volunteers, “Ma’am, I hate to ask you this, but I would really love some oatmeal cookies.”
There was a steady flow of families, a few with babies in strollers or older children, although we didn’t see the large family groups that were at Bethesda over the summer. We provided coloring books for the children and new magazines for the adults. Nine copies of The Wounded Warrior Handbook were given to families, along with a few Marine Parents business card holders. One woman said that her girlfriend already had a copy, and she had been wondering where to get one. A patient in a wheelchair came in with his wife, and joked with the clinician standing in line next to them about why she was getting food for someone else instead of taking care of him. The sister of a patient told us that she was looking forward to her brother being able to eat solid food soon, so he could enjoy the dinner. We hope he’s ready by next time!
We visited with folks from all over country at the dinner. The family of a wounded Army Explosive Ordinance Disposal Expert from Alabama came in from the CCU to eat and talk with our volunteers. They had flown over to Germany and then had to immediately turn around and fly to Bethesda. They spoke highly of the care their son has received so far. We also spoke with the wife and two young children of a news photographer who had been wounded last year and has returned for more treatment. There were two families from Oklahoma who also took some time to eat and talk in our conference room space. One of the soldiers from Oklahoma was the very last patient to leave Walter Reed. His parents said that “all the generals were there to salute him on his way to be loaded into the transport to Bethesda,” and so his picture is now part of history.
We were happy to see our partner group, Veterans Moving Forward, with four dogs—Josh the black lab assistance-dog-in-training, who has grown by leaps and bounds, Derby, a Golden puppy in training, Edwin, a golden-lab mix who is a big favorite at the hospital, and Tanner, a beautiful Golden. The dogs with their trainers made many friends in the hallways.
Twenty-nine meals were sent up with corpsmen to the seventh floor Behavioral Health patients, and a number of burritos were delivered to a grateful receptionist at Mercy Hall, the residence of recovering patients. He said he would go and knock on everyone’s door to let them know that dinner had arrived.
One final thought—given all the joking about rivalry between the services, and all the discussion about the merger of the two hospitals with two different cultures, it was heartening to see families representing both Army and Marines joining together for mutual support during a difficult time.
- Reported by Susan Kristol