January 29, 2012 – 4 East
Happy New Year!!! New Year, New Beginnings! We are pleased to be returning to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (formerly Bethesda National Naval Medical Center) for the sixth year in a row – eight if we count the two years previous when it was Janelle and I and sometimes Brenda, popping in to visit people we knew there in 2005 and 2006. Serving our Nation’s Wounded Warriors and their families is something that Marine Moms-Bethesda’s volunteers consider an honor and a privilege, a way to give back to them for their tremendous sacrifices to our country.
Did you know our luncheons don’t “just happen”? Lots of thought and planning and past experience goes into them. We planned our 2012 schedule this past summer at Deb’s during our summer get together, aka the “Tiki Party”, in July. This year’s schedule is pretty much the same as 2011′s schedule. We tried keeping the same weekends and week days that worked for us in 2011 along with some tentative dates added for Richmond. By the end of the evening at Deb and Scott’s, some of the volunteers were already planning February 2012′s luncheon!
After the WR/Bethesda schedule was tentatively set by our luncheon coordinators it was passed on to the Marine Corps Liaison Office for approval. The transition of Walter Reed to Bethesda Naval took place in September and it was sent again to double confirm the dates. Came back a second time approved. *whew!* I wouldn’t have wanted to be the one telling these Marine and Navy Moms and Dads we couldn’t go back… especially knowing the cafeteria is closed on the weekends to the family members.
Marine Moms-Bethesda currently has over 50 names on our “hands on” volunteer list with many “Elfs” in the background supporting our endeavors. Some of the hands on volunteers specifically work with the WR/Bethesda luncheons, others work the Richmond luncheons, and others float between the two hospitals.
Because our dates are limited and because we are limited to the number of people allowed to go in with our group, the wait for new volunteers to attend a luncheon with us can be months. Our experienced volunteers have first choice of dates and we fill in with new volunteers as openings are available to help keep the continuity and quality of the luncheons going.
Choptank Marine Corps Leaguers (LOVE those guys and gals!) have spots automatically reserved for them in August and December for the WR/Bethesda luncheons, and we always have an opening on the roster for our volunteers with deployed family members.
MM-B’s hands on volunteers come from a large geographic area surrounding the DC area, from the Baltimore area to the Stafford, VA area to southern Maryland to the Eastern Shore of Maryland. In the Richmond area we have volunteers who help specifically with the Richmond luncheons although they are welcome to drive that long drive up to Bethesda and help there, too! .
There are three sets of supply boxes housed with our luncheon coordinators which include everything from electrical cords and power strips to platters, bowls, serving utensils, and everything in between that is needed to host a luncheon. Add in the donated warming tray, Vitamix, popcorn popper, four new chafing dishes and three portable tables that we share and it is quite an undertaking to keep everything coordinated. It’s not unusual to have four or five cars loaded to the max when arriving at the hospitals.
We feel it is important that each luncheon be of the same quality so the basics in the supply boxes are the same. However the fun comes in when luncheon coordinators plan the menu with the current month’s luncheon crew. Stephanie’s sausage and gravy was quite a hit last March and I have heard through the grapevine that it will be on the menu again this year. Lew’s BBQ chicken has a reputation that extends to Florida because of an “Elf” who asked for the recipe after seeing the picture of it. Robin and Grace’s cuisine is exquisite, looking like something out of Bon Appetite and smelling like something out of one of DC’s finest restaurants!
Our volunteers are humble and are not doing this looking for recognition. I have asked several times for a short bio to go on the “About Us” page so that our readers and supporters could know more about who we are and what motivates us to continue with the luncheons.
Writing mine was like sticking needles in my arm to draw a few gallons of blood… I preferred not to… Gladys and Bob have their cookbook supporting the Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund and never turn down an opportunity to promote it. We are happy to help them with this. Their bio does not do their story justice and hearing first hand of their life before they came to the United States will raise the hair on your arms.
So, I will just say that I am honored to work with our volunteers, couldn’t ask for a nicer group of people to be involved with. Caring hearts with the needs of the patients and their families first and foremost. Privacy is important to them and we respect that in our organization.
Even when someone says, “But as one Marine to another Marine, can I take a picture of a wounded Warrior with their permission?”
Privacy is soooo precious and important to our Warriors and their families and our volunteers respect this. They live in a fish bowl during their recovery in the hospital. Doctors, nurses, Corpsmen, Medics, aides, therapists, counselors, special visitors, VIPs, friends, visitors they do not know, in and out of their room all day long.
I follow a few families on their personal blogs and Facebook pages and read a few weeks ago on one where someone left their Warrior’s room for a short time while he was sleeping, and they came back to find someone trying to take pictures of him. While he was sleeping. The photographer was shewed away. Can you imagine? How would you feel if you were in their shoes?
The heartfelt donations from small groups and individuals across the country that are given to us to distribute at the luncheons are one of the things that I love about Marine Moms-Bethesda.
An example would be the gorgeous quilts made by a church group in Pennsylvania that Mike brought to give out at Sunday’s luncheon. This one went to a Tennessee Marine. Another one went to an Alaskan Marine.
Quite a few of the baby quilts and little cloth bags made by Bayside Quilters were given out.
Hand-knitted slippers made by Carole and her Castaways group in Illinois found new homes. Warm and cozy for these cold Maryland days!
Jack had given me some books on tape from the driver of the local VA bus to hand out. Such a great idea for the patients with eye injuries!
these small gestures of appreciation and thanks are deeply and gratefully appreciated by the patients and their families.
The emailed notes of support and encouragement we collect for the luncheons are also appreciated! The notes are handed out personally to patients or family members. Also, as we hear of patients at or headed to the hospital, we put their name on a packet to ensure they receive one, sometimes with special messages inside for that particular patient from people who know them.
Notices about the notes are sent out through our very modest newsletter. Nothing fancy about the newsletter, comes through like a regular email, no pictures, just MM-B updates, a request for notes, a few links that hopefully are helpful or encouraging to military families, Veterans, and patients, maybe a YouTube link or two. We also post on our Facebook wall when we are collecting notes.
Short notice seems to work best for the note requests, so the newsletters usually go out about a week to five days before a luncheons. Terri, a PROUD 1/6 Marine Aunt down in Florida, recently came on board with Marine Moms-Bethesda. She formats the notes into a word document for us, then we print them out up here in Maryland.
If you would like to subscribe to Marine Moms-Bethesda’s newsletter, you can do so from any of our main webpages on the site. See the box up in the right hand corner under the header? Just be sure to check your spam folder after you subscribe for the confirmation email and follow the directions in it to confirm your subscription. To find us on Facebook (another modest endeavor – nothing fancy) just do a search for “Marine Moms-Bethesda”, then “like” our page. Again, privacy is important and email addresses from the senders are not shred or sold and we won’t spam you with “stuff”.
By the way, did I say Terri is a PROUD Marine Aunt?
From the time we arrived Sunday morning we were busy. Not only are the luncheons sometimes emotionally exhausting, they can be physically exhausting. Some of us arrived early to get the carts (Carts? There was one cart – with a flat tire, and we were grateful to have it!) ready for the trips up and down the elevator and to set the room up, then others began arriving with the rest of the stuff. We began serving right at 11:00. With very few breaks during the luncheon, we began packing up around 1:30, leaving the leftovers in the pantry, and were outside ready to leave at 2:30.
Our protocol is to serve patients and families first. We invite the TBI patients down and the ICU families up in addition to the families and patients on the 4th floor. After they have been served – this takes about an hour and a half, word can be slow to get around that we are there, staff are welcome to join us. If a family member joins the line when the staff is being served, we bring them to the front. The staff is always very accommodating with this and understands why we would do this. They are so helpful to the family members, sometimes coming in to fix plates for the patients under their care.
Sunday’s theme was football. Wings, bourbon chicken, fried wings, chili, potato chowder, pickles and olives, pizza cups, fresh fruit salad, garden salad, peas, pasta salad, pizza cups, assorted wraps and sandwiches, chips, popcorn, pies, cake, pudding, smoothies and assorted drinks were on the menu. One little girl about 7 or 8 years old came back 4 or 5 times for popcorn. She didn’t want a big bag of it, just kept coming back. A Soldier came by several different times. There is always plenty of food so we encourage the patients and families to make up extra boxes of food for later. He was wearing special glasses and took one of the books on tape. Such a sweetheart and gives the best hugs! Barb had the pleasure of carrying a 6 month old sweet little baby back to the hospital room for the mommy. Pam ran soup duty between the luncheon room and the pantry a little ways down the hallway for Mary. All of the pantry bags made up by our Bag Lady, Julie, were given out by Mike. Bob taught John how to make smoothies. .
We had four special guests with us, Mike and Pam, and John and Ginny. They were a tremendous help and brought a new kind of synergy to the event. Combat Veterans and their wives “know” – I think even more so than we parents know… Thank you so much for being there. Mike, thank you for the use of your great pictures!
This month’s luncheon was sponsored in part by Mike’s friends in Pennsylvania, and WA State Operation Thank you, Joanna and Joel in Florida, and from Maryland, Mary T. and Guy E. Thank you!
Our next luncheons will be at Mercy Hall on Thursday, February 16 and Sunday, February 26 on 4 East.
What are our plans for 2012? MORE of the same with hopefully luncheons specifically on the TBI ward, more dates at Richmond, and some Parent to Parent Mentoring when needed. The war is Iraq is “over” and the war in Afghanistan will begin drawing down soon. The need for support of our HEROES and their families will continue long after everyone comes home… Marine Moms-Bethesda hopes to be there supporting them.
Until next time, continued prayers for our military and their families – may ALL come home safely!
Love and hugs,
January 2012′s Luncheon Crew
Never hesitate when you need help!
For Marines and their families:
You do NOT have to be a Marine to call – just someone who CARES for and is CONCERNED about a Marine.
24 hours a day – 7 days a week 365 days a year contact: Anonymous.
Sergeant Merlin German Wounded Warrior Regiment Call Center
1-877-4USMCWW or 1-877-487-6299 A Marine WILL speak to a Marine if they call.
This is a pilot program available in certain States. Complete anonymity.
“From the everyday stressors of life to the stressors related to combat, stress can affect even the strongest Marine. The DSTRESS Line was developed by the Corps to provide professional, anonymous counseling for Marines, their families and loved ones when it’s needed most. Call today to speak with one of your own.”
(NOTICE: THE DSTRESS LINE IS A PILOT PROJECT CURRENTLY AVAILABLE TO CURRENT AND VETERAN MARINES, ATTACHED SAILORS, AND FAMILIES WHO ARE LOCATED IN THE FOLLOWING AREAS: OR, WA, CA, NV, AZ, ID, MT, NM, UT, CO, IA, KS, MN, MO, ND, NE, SD, WY, HI, AK AND WEST TEXAS (FORT BLISS, EL PASO AREA).
For Navy, Coast Guard, and their families:
For Army and their families:
For Air Force and their families
For Special Ops and their families: