It’s hard to believe this will be the seventh year we’ve brought “Holiday Cheer” to Walter Reed/Bethesda! It’s actually the eighth holiday event if we count when Janelle, Brenda, and I were there in November 2005. 3/1 Marines we or our sons knew were patients on the overflowing combat surgical ward after being wounded in combat.
December 5, “Holiday Cheer at Mercy Hall 2013” Luncheon
A Holiday Meal, Stockings, Cards, and Cookies, with “Elfs” providing support from all over the country made for a Very Merry Day at Mercy Hall!
Gladys and Bob, always early, were there and unloaded when Guy and I arrived around 10:15, with Katie right behind us bringing in adorable gingerbread houses from the Calvert County Hospice’s Festival of Trees Gingerbread House contest. Ace and the Sailors set up the two buffet tables and Jaime from “Touch of Relief” arrived shortly after to offer free seated massages to our guests. We missed having Jess with us. She’s being kept busy by “The Littlest Elf”, her darlin’ new Wee One. Jess sent the stockings with Bob she and her “Elfs” put together, made possible by individual sponsors and local organizations.
We covered the tables and started the chafing dishes, then began setting out the food and “niftie-gifties”.
The “Holiday Cheer” luncheon was quieter this year than in past years. The number of troops at the barracks is lower than they have been. Marines and Soldiers we’ve met over the past year or two have recently been medically discharged, and the ones still living there are kept busier than they used to be just a few years ago.
Stockings, cards, and other items left at the end of the day were taken by Katie, Bob and Guy to 7 East (the Traumatic Brain Injury Ward in the hospital) and the Marine Liaison Office for distribution.
A little bit about Mercy Hall:
Individual living quarters in this small out-patient barracks are equipped with a small fridge and microwave in a dorm-like room with a kitchenette. Pots, pans, cooking utensils, plates, cups, and silverware are the responsibility of the residents living there. We recently learned those basic items are no longer provided for them. That ended after the building was remodeled in 2011 due to budgetary restraints.
There is no cafeteria in Mercy Hall. McDonald’s and a gas station, kind of like a “Quick Stop Shop”, are a short walk away – downhill. To get to the hospital cafeteria is quite a walk, and the Warrior Cafe in Building 62 is even farther away – uphill. There is no commissary on base. Unless they’re able or inclined to cook for themselves, choices for food and meals are limited for these mostly young, single, men and women living on their own. Many have told us they don’t like going over to the Warrior Cafe (it’s too busy for them) and after a long tiring day, they don’t want to walk to the cafeteria.
Physical therapy and other things the out-patients have on their daily schedules are also quite a walk away from where Mercy Hall is located. Our bi-monthly Thursday luncheons are “drop in and have lunch with us” on a “catch as catch” can basis. Bethesda Naval Hospital and the old Walter Reed Army Medical Center combined in September 2011 and most events for the out-patients are now held in Building 62, on the other side of the hospital. We are one of very few groups still doing events at Mercy Hall.
One of the 19 year old residents of Mercy Hall said to us,
We love your luncheons! You make it feel like HOME!”
As we were leaving, we told one of the Sailors we met six months ago we’d be back in February. He said,
“I wish you’d come back in January.”
We asked him, “Why? Are you leaving before February?”
No, I just like it when you come. Your food is so good and it beats the Ramen noodles I have back in my room.”
After the chafing dishes start simmering, when you open the door and walk into the lobby the scent of the food reminds you of “Mom’s kitchen” at home on a Sunday afternoon.
Our luncheons are really appreciated by the guys and gals living at Mercy Hall, and we are very grateful for our Supporters and Volunteers who make them possible.
Below is a list of this year’s Holiday Cheer “Elfs”. Thank you, sincerely, for making the day extra special for the Marines, Sailors and Soldiers we served!
The Holiday Cheer Menu:Cheese Spread and Crackers Roasted Turkey Baked Ham Mashed Potatoes and Gravy Cornbread Stuffing Assorted Rolls Green Beans Sweet Potato Casserole Pasta Salad Fresh Fruit Shortbread, Sugar, and Chocolate Chip Cookies Assorted drinks, including six varieties of Two If By Tea®
Imagine our surprise when 8 cases (96 bottles) of tea arrived by Fed Ex from an anonymous donor!
Many Thanks to the “Elfs” for helping to spread “Holiday Cheer at Mercy Hall” this year!
Stocking Thank You’s!
25 stockings for the Mercy Hall luncheon!
Bayside Quilters of the Eastern Shore made the stockings.
“Elf Jess” – Coordinator & Stocking Stuffer Shopper Extraordinaire
“The Wrapstravaganza Elves'” – Graeme, Jason, Josh, and Rachael wrapped and stuffed the stockings.
“Elf Dina” – Printed the stocking tags.
“Niftie-Giftie Stocking Elf” – Terri in NC sent beau coup styluses and 4 sets of ear-buds to include.
“Mr. & Mrs. Rudolph” (aka Gladys and Bob) picked the stockings up from Jess and brought them to the luncheon.
16 stockings were sponsored! Thank You!
Below Right: Women’s stocking stuffers.
Below Left: Men’s stocking stuffers. The men’s stockings had either a pair of gloves or a bottle opener, plus a Dunkin Donut or a Subway gift card. (Gift card not pictured.)
Card Thank You’s!
24 packets with 30 cards each!
1,300+ cards total (Extras will be sent elsewhere!)
Elfs – screened, sorted and bundled the cards:
Jane & Lauren
Cards came from:
Sue & the Mountain Valley Community Church “Love Our Troops” Crew
Diana sent beautiful handmade blank cards for the guys and gals to send out their own cards to loved ones.
Choptank Marine Corps League Detachment #439
Our Lady of Victory School – pre-K, K, grades 1, 2, 3, 4, 8, and Brownie Troops 1217 & 984
The “K-Kids Club” at Beach Elementary School
Torina & Family
The cards are bundled and ready to be tied up with ribbon.
Here they are at the luncheon.
“Santa’s Elfs” Thank You’s!
Their “Gifts From the Heart” helped fund the event!
Joanna & Joel
Choptank Marine Corps League Detachment #439
Coast Guard Flotilla Auxiliary, St. Michael, MD
WA State Operation Thank You
Cookie “Elfs” Thank You’s!
39 dozen cookies baked
29 Tins of Cookies
Coordinator: Elf Chris D.
Elf Lauren packed the tins.
Bakers: Elves Deb McF., Carey D., JoAnn D., Barb C., Nan S., Michelle H., and Julie.
Luncheon “Elfs” Thank You’s!
Grauls’ Market, St, Michaels, MD donated the turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy and rolls.
The Kids who participated in the Gingerbread House Contest at The Festival of Trees benefiting Calvert County Hospice donated 7 Gingerbread Houses for table decorations.
“Just An Elf” from somewhere sent 8 cases (96 bottles) of assorted flavors of Two If By Tea® for our “Semper Fi Guys”. [Double-duty – Warriors enjoyed a delicious drink, while proceeds from our donor’s purchase supported Two If By Tea®’s sponsorship of the Marine Corps – Law Enforcement Foundation (MC-LEF), which provides assistance to the children of United States Marines and federal law enforcement personnel who were killed on duty or died under extraordinary circumstances while serving our country.]
And yes, we taste tested the tea to make sure it passed inspection for our Marines, Sailors and Soldiers.
This Marine Mom gives it a “Thumb’s UP!” (Especially the Raspberry flavor.)
But more importantly, the guys and gals liked it.
The Luncheon Crew! Thank you, for both your time and your donations of food!
Katie, Gladys, Bob, Guy, and Jane, and Jaime from “Touch of Relief” provided free seated massages.
This was our last “Holiday Cheer” event in Building 50.
The old barracks is closing in 2014 and being replaced by “Sanctuary Hall”, an outpatient barracks twice the size of Mercy Hall which according to this article, will be serving combat-wounded Warriors and their caregivers in the last stage of rehabilitation as they learn to live on their own before they are medically discharged.
We’ll follow along with them! Our six Thursday luncheon dates for 2014 have been approved!
Wishing everyone a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. May your Holidays be the best ever, and… please keep our military, far from home, whether they be deployed, or across the country from their families, or in a military or VA hospital, and their families in your thoughts and prayers.
Special thoughts for our Gold Star Families, whose loved ones have paid the ultimate price in service to our country.
Until next time,
Love and Hugs,