America Supports You: Couple Helps War-Wounded GIs
By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jun. 29, 2005 When Karen Grimord found out in August 2004 that war-wounded servicemembers were spending long days and nights at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany without any entertainment in their hospital rooms, she decided to do something about it.
Karen Grimord, left, who spearheads efforts to raise money for the pastoral services at Landstuhl (Germany) Regional Medical Center and Dianne Cabot of American Legion Post 324 Auxiliary in Woodbridge, Va., share a happy moment during a benefit cookout and karaoke at Legion Post 162 in Lorton, Va., on June 25. Photo by Rudi Williams
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Since founding the Landstuhl Hospital Care Project in November 2004, Grimord and her husband, Brian, have spearheaded sending nearly $20,000 worth of items to the pastoral services at Landstuhl for war-wounded patients and their families. The items include sweats suits, tennis shoes, CD players, skull caps, socks, phone cards, house slippers, break-away pants, winter jackets, board games, hand-held electronic games and decks of playing cards.
Karen Grimord either telephones or e-mails chaplains each month to find out what they need to help hospitalized servicemen and women from Iraq and Afghanistan. Whatever the chaplains need is shipped to them at the end of each month. The most-needed item for June was gym bags, and the chaplains would also like to have more phone cards, puzzle books and DVD players.
"The chaplains requested 22-inch gym bags so when the wounded come back to the states, they have something they can carry their personal items in," Grimord said.
She was searching for ways to raise money to purchase what the chaplains asked for when someone suggested a benefit cookout. The idea for the cookout was voiced when a group of people was sitting around a table at American Legion Post 364 in Woodbridge, Va. Grimord asked Ed "Hook" Hudgins of "Hook & C's Karaoke" if he'd consider doing a benefit to help wounded servicemembers at Landstuhl.
"I said, sure, I'll do anything for those guys," said Hudgins, who suggested having a cookout and karaoke. Hudgins is a tower crane operator and a member of the Sons of the American Legion based on his father's service in the Navy.
Finding a place and host for the cookout was Grimord's next hurdle to jump. Ann Kuntz, operations manager of American Legion Post 162 in Lorton, Va., came to the rescue and agreed to host the event on June 25.
"Karen asked me if I could help her with the benefit, and I said, 'Sure,'" Kuntz said. "So we hosted the cookout and donated the room for karaoke, provided paper products and whatever else we could do to help."
Grimord said she started sending items to chaplains at Landstuhl to help America's wounded warriors after returning home from visiting here daughter, Jennifer Kingham, and son-in-law, Air Force Airman 1st Class Jason Kingham at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, a few miles from Landstuhl. Airman Kingham is a C-130 transport plane engine mechanic at Ramstein.
"When I visited my daughter last August, chaplains at Landstuhl were collecting DVD players and movies for the wounded, because some of the rooms at the hospital didn't have TVs in them," she explained. "So the patients were spending long days without any entertainment in the rooms.
"So I came back here to the states and got my family together and in November, we shipped 485 DVDs and VHS tapes movies to the pastoral services, with the help of the Talakto District Boy Scouts of America in Huntsville, Ala.," Grimord said. "Then I called the chaplains and told them the movies were on their way and asked them what else I could do for him. He said, 'We need sweat suits, desperately.'"
The chaplains told her that wounded servicemembers from Iraq and Afghanistan receive a $250 voucher from the Defense Department that's used at the local Army and Air Force Exchange Service for clothing and personal hygiene items. However, there are times when more items are needed than the voucher amount will cover.
The medical center, the largest American military hospital outside the U.S., receives a steady stream of injured or ill servicemembers from Iraq, Afghanistan and Kuwait. Wounded and ill servicemembers are treated there in preparation for medical evacuation back to the United States.
"When the guys come in from the field, they usually have only the hospital gowns on," Grimord said. "At that time it was cold - the November timeframe. So I went back to my family again and we got money together and shipped 108 pair of sweats. I knew I couldn't keep going back to the family because they still needed sweat suits, so I started trying to get businesses and other people involved. But I wasn't doing too well.
Unwilling to give up, Grimord went to the Stafford (Va.) American Legion Post 290 and the auxiliary and was given $1,600 by the auxiliary and $1,600 from the Legion Post. The next weekend, she visited Legion Post 364 in Woodbridge, Va., and walked away with $2,000 to help wounded American combatants.
"Then I knew where I needed to go for help - the vets - because they're the ones who were going to help us support our wounded," Grimord noted. When she found out that the Athlete's Foot store in Stafford was going out of business, Grimord tracked down the liquidation company in California and got permission to take all the shoes that were not sold.
"I told them that once the store closed down, instead of them tossing the leftover items, we would take them for wounded veterans," she said. "With the help of the American Legion and its auxiliary, we went in that morning and took all of the shoes they didn't sell. We went to my house and matched up shoes, tagged them with the sizes and shipped 284 pairs of shoes to the pastoral services."
The night before, Grimord purchased several pairs of shoes at a 90 percent discount because she didn't know how many would be left over after the sale.
"We put sponsor labels on items we send, so if somebody gives us a donation, their name gets put on a sponsor label," Grimord noted. "The label says, 'In appreciation of your dedication of service to our military, you're receiving this gift from...' and I list the name of the donor. We also include our Web page address. Grimord, her husband, Brian, and volunteers from the Stafford and Woodridge American Legion and their auxiliaries wrap, pack and ship the packages. Retired Master Sgt. Brian Grimord is a former Air Force special agent.
A self-described military brat, Grimord's family has a long military history. Her father spent 22 years in the Air Force, and she was born at McConnell Air Force Base, Kan. She married her husband and spent another 22 years as an Air Force wife. Her son, Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Jeremy Grimord, 23, is stationed at Pascagoula, Miss. Her brothers, Michael and David Bath, both served in the Army Reserve. She has several nephews and cousins serving in the Army, Navy and Air Force.
"The beauty of the whole thing is they started off putting this stuff together as a family, and it grew from there when she realized that she needed more help," said Dianne Cabot, director of public relations for the Landstuhl Hospital Care Project and a member of the Post 364 auxiliary. "They realized that this was a very worthwhile project and it was going to take a lot of money to keep supporting the servicemen and women when they came to Landstuhl. That's when they reached out to the fraternal veterans organizations for help."
In a letter to Karen and Brian Grimord, Army Chaplain (Col.) Eric C. Holmstrom, Landstuhl's chief of pastoral services, wrote, "Thank you for supporting America's sons and daughters who are making hard sacrifices for our precious freedom. Your donation provides both comfort and encouragement for the soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and their family members that come to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center and Ramstein Air Force Base.
"Such generosity makes it possible for us to assist these wounded warriors and their families," Holmstrom wrote.