Group Provides Clothing, Other Items for Returning Wounded Troops
By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, July 21, 2003 Susan Brewer made a startling discovery during a "Support Our Troops" rally on the National Mall in April. She found out that wounded service members returning from Iraq only have the clothes on their backs and that's if their garments haven't been cut off for medical procedures.
Lisa Lourake, an Air Force spouse, approached and asked Brewer if her organization, America's Heroes of Freedom, could help get a bunch of things for troops returning from the desert for medical treatment. Lourake told her that wounded servicemen and women arriving at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., needed shirts, pants, jackets, underwear, socks, shoes, toiletries and other items.
"I decided to find somebody to help the injured soldiers who come to Andrews from Iraq," Lourake said. "Ever since I told Susan, she has been delivering boxes and helping troops with various items they need."
She said Brewer delivered items the day after her first request. "That's pretty awesome!" Lourake said.
Brig. Gen. Glenn F. Spears, commander of the 89th Airlift Wing at Andrews, and his wife, Kim, met the group when they arrived to deliver the items to the troops. "He thanked us and gave us hugs," Bremer noted.
"Fox & Friends" morning show "announced the project on national TV telling people we needed new items no used items," Brewer noted. "Within about three days, more than 160 boxes arrived packed with different items from all over the country."
The group has also taken about 600 boxes of items for the wounded patients to Washington's Walter Reed Army Medical Center. "And we're getting calls from other bases around the country," Bremer noted.
The wife of a soldier from Bosnia told Brewer and her staff "you touch my heart with your effort to help service members."
Air Force Lt. Col. Allen DeLane, commander of Andrew's Contingency Aeromedical staging facility, said returning wounded service members couldn't get to their luggage because it's put in a secure area. The only thing they have is a small carry-on bag with a limited number of items.
"Their uniform may be soiled because of their injury or the type of medical treatment they received," DeLane noted. "They may have cut away the uniform to get to the injury."
The colonel pointed out that returning troops also have limited amounts of underwear items, toiletries and other items. "We provide a limited amount of toiletries, but this is one stop of many for them and they may have run out," DeLane noted.
"In some cases they don't have any money. So they can't buy things at the post exchange. You see two gentlemen over there that are in wheelchairs. We're not going to allow that person to roll down the street to the post exchange."
One wheelchair patient was Cpl. David Calhoun, 37, of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 3rd Battalion, 7th Infantry, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division. He said after getting treatment for wounds suffered in Iraq July 1, he was flown to the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany. From there, he arrived at Andrews July 9 and was flown to Winn Army Hospital at Fort Stewart, Ga., July 11.
Calhoun said when he arrived at Andrews, he needed clothes. "At the time, I only had my uniform and they had cut it off of me," he noted. "So the only thing I was wearing were the clothes they give you at the hospital. When I got here and saw all this stuff, it was amazing. I needed everything because all my gear is back in Iraq. Some of my stuff is at Fort Stewart, but it's packed away."
The first thing he asked for was "personal hygiene items, some clothes to get out of the hospital in. They gave me shirts, socks, T-shirts everything I could possibly need to maintain myself."
Another wheelchair patient was Army transportation specialist Pfc. Mary Lamkin, 27, who had injured her leg June 27. She was taken to the hospital in Kuwait at Camp Wolf, and then to Landstuhl. She was also flown to Fort Stewart, where she is attached to Company B, 703rd Main Support Battalion.
Asked what items she needed upon arrival at Andrews, Lamkin said, "I needed underwear, shampoo and, like all women, combs and brushes for my hair." Looking at all the items laid out by members of America's Heroes of Freedom, she said, "So this is really great, because my bags are in a shipping container. It's so full I don't want to dig anything out."