What’s better after a chilly rainy autumn day of deer hunting than returning back to the house after dark to a great dinner?
Marine Moms-Bethesda and Hope For The Warriors® partnered to do just this at Pascals Farm on Maryland’s lovely Eastern Shore last weekend.
Hope For The Warriors® Outdoor Adventures Program with support from The National Wild Turkey Federation, and Mr. Pascal’s generous contribution providing the lodging and grounds, enabled a weekend of hunting, relaxation, and restoration for wounded Warriors and Veterans.
Marine Moms-Bethesda’s crew and friends donated and served Saturday evening’s meal.
Lew, a retired Marine and director of the program, shared with us that HFTW’s Outdoor Adventures team are in the process of planning various events for the upcoming year at Pascals Farm to include hunting, caregiver, family, and women Veterans retreats.
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 CrackersRoasted TurkeyBaked HamMashed Potatoes and GravyCornbread StuffingAssorted RollsGreen BeansSweet Potato CasserolePasta SaladFresh FruitShortbread, Sugar, and Chocolate Chip CookiesAssorted 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.
“Just An Elf” from somewhere sent 8 cases (96 bottles) of assorted flavors ofTwo 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 Hallwhich 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.
A beautiful fall day for the 238th Birthday of the United States Marine Corps! It just so happened our November luncheon date landed on November 10th, the birthday of the greatest fighting force in the world!
It was also the day before Veterans Day. Such an honor to serve the Marines, Soldiers, Sailors and their families a special luncheon on the combat ward at Walter Reed.
Katie, Julie, Dina, Deb and I planned to arrive a little before 10 AM. Deb drove, traffic was easy and she and I got there a little early.
As we rounded the corner after going though the gate we had to stop for the wildlife. No, Moms, not bored Marines… 😉 There were geese taking their good ol’ sweet time waddling across the road.
We unloaded and took everything upstairs with the help of the Gunnery Sergeant. It was nice meeting him and putting a face to the emails.
Deb went to park the truck while I began setting up the room. Katie, Julie and Dina weren’t far behind us.
Pickles, olives, cheese and crackers
Gravy and Dressing
Chicken Tortellini Soup & Potato Soup
Sweet Potato Casserole
Smoothies and Assorted Drinks
although we didn’t have a Birthday Cake, we had…
The nifty-gifties table was set up with pantry bags and other things. Julie does the shopping and packing for the bags, which have snacks and a few other things in them, just something to have in the hospital room so they don’t have to walk down the hall to the vending machine for a day or two… or three.
Also on the table were books on CDs, great for vision-impaired patients, from Bob and Linda, Carole and the Castaways’ hand-knitted slippers and beanies, quilts from both the Bayside Quilters and Olde Kent Quilt Guilds, and composition books from Katie.
Diana in Florida sent blank handmade Hanukkah and Christmas cards for the patients and families to have if they wanted them.
They were beautiful, as were the “all occasion” ones she sent earlier this year.
To everyone who help make the luncheons possible, your “Gifts From the Heart” mean so much to those we serve. Thank You!
The time came that makes all of the planning, shopping, and preparation worth it.
Moms, Dads, wives, and patients came in to fill a plate. Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania were just a few states represented. There were amputees in wheelchairs, Traumatic Brain Injury patients, other types of head injury patients…
One of the patients “signed” to us – he couldn’t speak because of his recent surgery so he spelled the words out with his hand, and his wife translated “Thank You!” for us.
Some of the people we served had been to past luncheons. More than once or twice… or thrice… and may still be there when we go back toward the end of January.
One will be moving on to a Polytrauma Unit at a VA Medical Center so he can be closer to home, and others will be back and forth between the surgical ward here at Walter Reed and Bldg. 62, the out-patient apartments, for many more months.
One Solider, very well-liked by the other patients, had started out at the old Walter Reed – three years ago… A few more surgeries and this part of his recovery will be completed, then the next steps of his rehab begins… with his Mom by his side ‘walking the walk” with him.
In spite of the life-altering injuries our troops and their families are living with in their “new normal”, their UPBEAT SPIRITS and “CAN DO” attitude are MORE than inspiring…They take their “Warrior Ethos” and they apply it to their new mission – Recovery.
Do not tell them “can not”.
They will prove you wrong.
Lessons many of us would do well to pay attention to when we’re having a bad day.
Happy Birthday, Marines!
And to our Veterans, Thank You for serving our country!
Until next time, continued prayers for our military and their families.
Love and Hugs,
Bringing "Comforts of Home" to Bethesda (now Walter Reed NMMC) since 2005.