10 January 2009

Linda's Visit to Landstuhl

Mother of fallen soldier hands out donations at Landstuhl

By Steve Mraz, Stars and Stripes
Mideast edition, Friday, January 9, 2009

LANDSTUHL, Germany — On Thursday afternoon the mother of a soldier killed in Afghanistan lent a hand to a soldier wounded in Afghanistan.

Linda Ferrara, the mother of the late Vicenza, Italy-based Capt. Matthew Ferrara, helped Spc. Stephen Stout sort through a box of donated goods at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center. Stout will fly back to the States soon for surgery, and wanted to find a teddy bear for his son — whom he’ll meet for the first time.

"I’m a big believer in God and that’s how God works — through somebody with her strong will," Stout said. "I don’t think I’d be able to do that. I’d still be in deep depression if my son died."

Ferrara, of Torrance, Calif., has been interacting with soldiers and handing out donated items at Landstuhl all week during a Soldiers’ Angels-sponsored trip to Landstuhl. Soldiers’ Angels is a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting U.S. troops.

"I’ll hone my operation to suit what [Soldiers’ Angels] needs," Ferrara said. "Every day we come down here, talk to the guys and see what they need."

The trip came about because of a series of improbable events surrounding Matthew Ferrara’s 2007 death in Afghanistan, a robbery in southern California and a blog run by an American living in Germany.

Steve has written a great story covering Linda's visit with photos from S&S's photographer Michael Abrahms, so be sure to click through and read the whole thing. In addition, he also wrote an article prior to her visit and published on January 4 which a lot of the Landstuhl staff had seen, so many of them already knew about her as we made rounds during our visit. Thank you, Steve!

I'll share some photos of the behind-the-scenes stuff. It's been such a full week I don't know where to start. Hmmm... how about some of that "interacting with soldiers" Steve mentioned?

Here we are in the outpatient barracks kitchen the other night with our buds Kev (left) and Davey (right). Russo, the guy in the ACUs, had just arrived from Afghanistan a couple of hours before and is enjoying a bowl of Lucky Charms.

Linda's friend and fellow West Point mom Nancy Brewer was baking cookies and every time a Soldier came in for some she tried to make him take a glass of milk. If you're wondering why we're all so squished together it's because 5 of us are sitting on 3 chairs :-)

I swear they must have pumped laughing gas into the building or something because we kept posing and taking pics and just could not. stop. laughing.

Linda with Stephen, whom you'll recognize from the Stars & Stripes article. All he wanted was a teddy bear for his new baby and kinda fell into the whole Stars & Stripes and AFN thing. Thanks for being such a good sport, Stephen!

This is Lewis wearing a Soldiers' Angels shirt he received in one of our First Response Backpacks downrange. He's with the 1st ID in Afghanistan and, in another incredible coincidence, his unit relieved Chosen Company, 2-503rd, 173rd ABCT, which was Matt Ferrara's unit. Lewis, you just concentrate on getting better and try not to worry too much about your guys downrange.

We'd like to give a shout out to someone else we spent time with - milblogger John of Two Brothers, Two Countries, One Army. Hope all is going well and our best wishes for a speedy recovery!

The Commissary Run. Linda is shelling out $700 of the donation money to buy fruit, microwave meals, break 'n bake cookies, and other snacks for the "boys" back at the outpatient barracks. There's a DFAC in the hospital, of course, but it's always nice to be able to run a midnight raid on your own kitchen.

Looks like register 6 is going to need another bagger.

Linda, Nancy, and Becky Kendrick of SA Germany discuss how this is all going to fit into 2 POVs. The guys at the barracks got a big kick out of our "discussions". They told us they'd watch us from the barracks windows walking across the parking lot to the hospital building and take bets on how many times we'd stop to talk.

The Commissary thanks you for your business... and the customer behind us is definately having a "what the heck??" moment.

Heading over to the Service Liaisons to deliver some backpacks for their inpatients. Because it was about 10 degrees and there's a lot of walking between buildings at Landstuhl, the California girls are bundled up against the cold.

Quilts from Soldiers' Angel Nancy McHenry. I asked Linda to unpack the box and inside she found a note which read,

"13 handmade quilts from Nancy and the "Band of Quilters" in Lancaster County, PA. This shipment contains 3 more quilts than we originally planned. We kicked into "high gear" to help replace some of the blankets taken when we heard about Linda."

That note is a fitting way to wrap this up because it's so typical of the outpouring of support Linda has received since the theft of her donations in late November.

Words cannot convey how grateful we are for all those who turned the robbery into a blessing in disguise. And we'd like to send a special hug to Patti of Soldiers' Angels who sponsored Linda's trip to Germany.

We'd also like to thank everyone at Landstuhl for their gracious hospitality. Linda and Nancy had the opportunity to meet dozens of patients and most of the Service Liaisons. We spent almost an hour with the Commander and the First Sergeant of the Medical Transient Detachment for outpatients. The DWMMC staff gave them a briefing on their operations, which track and manage all incoming and outgoing medevac flights. They experienced patients' arrival at Landstuhl and had a tour of the medevac bus from two wonderful Air Force Med Techs. We made daily rounds to the wards delivering phone cards for the patients and coffee and other treats for the nurses.

Finally, as promised, "Hi Nancy, Hi Linda!" I miss you guys already.

My prior posts about Linda and her family can be found here (keep scrolling).

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