25 July 2005

4th of July Visit to Outpatients at Kleber near Landstuhl

As we sit outside the barracks on this beautiful Independence Day 2005 the planes heading into Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany fly overhead. Each time, we all look up. “C-17”, comments a Soldier, “much more comfortable evac than a C-130”. “C-5”, says another, a few minutes later. Then, “another C-17”, says a Marine. Each time, we fall silent for a moment before we start talking again.

They talk about how weird it is to ride on the bus from Ramstein to the hospital on a public highway with non-Military vehicles all around them. One says, “I’m like, those vehicles are so close to us! Where the %$&§ is the gunner - why isn’t he firing warning shots at them?!?” He’s been here for two days now, so it’s funny.

I look over at a guy with a cast on his arm who’s really quiet and ask, “When’d you get here?” “A couple of hours ago”, he answers. I hand him a beer and welcome him ‘home’.

As always, they can’t quite figure out what we’re doing there. “You guys aren’t Military, are you?” “Is your husband down range?” “Are you a Military Mom?”

“Then why are you here?”, they eventually ask.

“Well, we’re Soldiers’ Angels and we’re here because we love and support you.”

A chorus of, “Wow, that’s really nice”, “Cool!”, “We get so much stuff from ya’ll down range”, “Damn… ”

Willie, Rudi, Natalie and I arrive at 10am because we know the staff are busy with new arrivals in the afternoons. We have snacks like brownies and chips in baskets decorated with red, white and blue ribbons, 5 more pictures for the Wall of Thanks, and 10 more Transitional backpacks for the hospital.

That’s Natalie on the left and me flanked by Air Force and Army.

Rudi’s probably thinking that if I have one more comment about how he’s hanging the pictures then I should do it myself...

The pictures are part of the ongoing Wall of Thanks project. Our goal is to fill the hallways of the barracks with pictures from people back home as a personal expression of thanks and support.

After we’re done we go out to the picnic table outside the barracks. Willie and Rudi have brought soft drinks, beer, and picnic baskets full of food, plates, silverware – even a tablecloth. We know there are lots of guys who don’t feel up to leaving the barracks and don’t have much to look forward to this 4th of July.

As guys come out for some sun or to smoke, we round them up. Here we are with one Soldier (in the red T-Shirt) and trying to convince another (in the background) to join us. Despite my threatening gesture with a fork Willie is able to persuade him to come over.

The group gets bigger…

… and bigger. It’s like a big backyard picnic with a bunch of strangers who come and go, but everybody has fun and is able to forget about other stuff for a little while.

It’s after 9pm and time to go. Rudi says a last goodbye and Willie gathers up all the picnic stuff.

If you would like to help support our projects for the soldiers in Kleber barracks email me.

No comments: