A visit to Walter Reed Hospital… and an idea!!
A visit to Walter Reed Hospital… and an idea!!
A few weeks ago, I had the honor of spending a weekend at Walter Reed Hospital in Washington D.C. visiting our soldiers recovering from their injuries. During this visit I met two PGR members that deserve a public thank you - Ted and Ann Nettles of Maryland.
Ted and Ann spend countless weekends per year at Walter Reed, doing anything they can to bring a smile, and perhaps some hope to our soldiers as they work through what is often a difficult recovery. In the name of the PGR they take soldiers out to breakfast, sponsor local bands to come play, set up fishing trips - - and if the soldiers can’t make it out - - they bring the party to them! In 2007 they hosted a BBQ on the Walter Reed campus that was attended by nearly 500 soldiers and their families! I am in awe of what Ted and Ann do. While I’m sure I won’t be the first (or last) to say this… Ted, Ann… thank you. You both are a blessing to our soldiers when they need it the most.
During this visit, I walked with my hosts through the halls of the hospital. With each turn, another soldier – missing a limb – and arm – a leg – in traction. I can honestly say that the hours I spent visiting those soldiers and their families were some of the hardest hours I’ve ever spent in my life.
I recall one soldier – missing both legs from an IED blast. He’d been at Walter Reed for just over two months. I couldn’t hold back the tears as I watched him smile as he raced his four year old daughter down the hall. Her on two legs, and him in his wheelchair. He laughed and smiled with exuberance for life that I’m not sure that I’ve ever had.
A second soldier… had been at the hospital less than a week. He was still in ICU – barely able to speak – a victim along with three other soldiers in the hospital of an RPG round while on patrol in their Hummvee. I recall the face of his father when he found out we were with the PGR. “You folks are the best people on earth,” he said. I tearfully smiled – took his hand firmly and said, “Thank you sir. But I think that honor is better fit for your son… not me.” He hugged me right there – and through his sobs I heard him say, “He is a good kid… a damn good kid.”
Walter Reed is full of stories like the above heroes. Good kids… standing the line that their country asked them to… now fighting to return to a life that is changed forever. I cannot count how many soldiers I met that day. I can only say that I left that campus a changed person. Exhausted… drained… thankful… and inspired.
Part of my visit was handing out the brass PGR challenge coins to the soldiers. I thought they would be a nice token of our appreciation. I cannot tell you how wrong I was. They are not a token at all – they are cherished! Each time we presented a soldier with one of these coins their eyes would light up! Almost as if they couldn’t believe they earned such an honor. They proudly showed it to their families – they examined it for minutes – they clutched it in their fists and held it to their chests - they valued these coins as if they were a medal from their own service branch. Seeing this brought about an idea….
“PGR Challenge Coins for Wounded Warriors”
I would like to be the first to announce this new program within the Patriot Guard Riders. We all now have the ability to “sponsor” a brass PGR challenge coin to be handed out to a wounded soldier at Water Reed Hospital. You can sponsor one coin, 12 coins, 26 coins, or 126 coins. You can sponsor one coin per week… or five per month. Or perhaps you just add a couple to your order each time you shop in the PGR Gear Store. It is all up to you. The program will work as follows:
Simply log into the PGR site and click the link to the Gear Store.
Under the “Coins” heading you will see the item “Wounded Warrior Challenge Coin”. You then click “Add to Cart” and adjust the order quantity as you would with any other item.
Once your order is placed, we will set aside the Wounded Warrior Challenge coins from your order – and ship you any other items that you may have ordered. Once we collect 25 Wounded Warrior Challenge Coins – we will ship the lot to our PGR representatives at Walter Reed to be given to wounded soldiers.
Through the cooperation of our supplier we are able to offer these coins at a special discount and we have waved any shipping costs to the membership for this item.
We will not be able to facilitate requests that coins go to a specific soldier – or return the soldier’s names who received your coins back to you. Simply rest assured that your generosity is being put to good use… and the coins you sponsor are most definitely getting into the hands of the heroes that they are intended for – much like the PGR flags that we have shipped overseas.
I want to challenge each PGR member to sponsor at least one coin – and if possible – send at least one coin per month. The struggle of our soldiers who are injured in battle does not end once they come home. True it is special to shake their hand and say thank you – but to give them what they consider to be a keepsake shows them that a nation of patriots will never abandon them… and will always be ready to help then, honor them, and stand for them… as they stood for us.
National Communications Officer
Patriot Guard Riders
NOTE - If you wish to order a brass PGR challenge coin for your personal use, or to give to a soldier on your own accord - you will need to order the standard brass challenge coin, "Brass Challenge Coin".