For the past two weeks I toured three Air Bases in Europe -- Ramstein and Spangdahlem in Germany and Aviano in Italy. I spoke to many different audiences, from an audience of nearly 1,000 enlisted men and women to the leadership of U.S. Air Forces in Europe. It was a great honor to serve, just for a few days, those who serve us everyday. And for all the fun of visiting a base and seeing all the military aircraft flying around, the most valuable part of the trip was meeting some of the wounded warriors.
As part of my tour at Ramstein, I was taken to observe the loading of wounded soldiers onto a C-17 transport to take them back to the United States for further treatment. There is an intensity of seeing these young soldiers on stretchers being stacked on racks in the belly of what looks like a flying warehouse. I couldn't just stand there and watch, so I walked the cargo hold and thanked every soldier personally and handed them a Token of Inspiration. I said the same thing to everyone, "I'm a civilian from back home and I'm visiting the base. I want to say thank you to you for all you do for us. Thank you."
What I didn't expect was how valuable simply saying thank you was. These brave soldiers and Marines shook my hand and took the token and held it tight. The look in their eyes, the gratitude, was so powerful. I learned that doing something small -- saying thank you, for example -- has a huge impact on those who volunteer to sacrifice.
We can all say thank you. It's simple. I went to the USO office on the base, the group of volunteers that looks after the our men and women in uniform while they are away, and asked what they needed from back home. Here is the list they gave me.
Please join me in saying thank you. Do something small that will have a huge impact.
There is an immediate need for:
•Jackets size S-XL
•Scarves, gloves, beanies
•DVDs -- new releases (NO war related or overly violent movies)
Please do not send used clothing. New only.
Though not an immediate need, they are also always in need of:
•Nintendo Wii Games
•PS3 or PS2 Games
•XBox 360 Games
•DO NOT send first person shooting games, war games, etc.
•Travel sized shaving cream
•Toothpaste -- travel size only
•Men's and Women's Pajama/workout pants/sweatpants/sweatshirts S-XL (NO USED ITEMS)
•Power Bars (or any other protein/nutrition bars)
•iTunes gift cards
•Cookies (any kind)
•Snacks (rice crispy treats, candy bars, popcorn, fruit snacks, etc)
Please send your donations to:
Attn: CASF USO
APO, AE 09088
There is one other thing that I saw on the tour that is not on the list. On every bed of every wounded soldier sits a card from a child from back home. These handmade cards are on their pillows, waiting for them, when they are assigned a temporary bed. If you have kids, perhaps they can make some cards to say thank you also.
Though you won't see the impact of theses gifts you give -- take it from me -- it matters. It all matters.