The Fourth of July is the day we celebrate our nation’s independence. That freedom is protected everyday by the brave men and women who are members of the United States Armed Forces.
As we celebrate stateside, the American Red Cross Service to Armed Forces (SAF) staff at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany will make sure military members and their families there enjoy the holiday.
There will be an all-American cookout at Landstuhl, co-hosted by the Wounded Warrior Project and USO. Plans include games like football, water balloons, bean bag toss and more. There will also be a great picnic menu with burgers, hot dogs, brisket, peach cobbler and apple pie.
“The American Red Cross is a familiar and welcome sight at military installations all over the world. Being able to be that friendly face, to be known as ‘The Red Cross Lady,’ it's hard to overestimate how important that is, and how important these events are to the patients and wounded service members here,” reported Leah Barber, SAF station manager at Landstuhl. “They're thousands of miles away from their loved ones during a very difficult time, and having a little bit of home during that time makes a huge difference.”
Nearly 100 people are expected to attend the festivities. A similar event was held for the Landstuhl patients and their families over the Memorial Day weekend. “These events and services are very well received by the patients here,” Barber said. “When you're talking with a newly arrived soldier who's just been through something unimaginable, it's humbling to have them thank you for doing something as simple as stopping by their room, or providing them with pizza, something to drink, someone to talk to.”
Landstuhl Regional Medical Center is the largest American hospital outside of the United States and the only Level 1 trauma center outside the country. The facility serves the entire U.S. military community in Europe, including service members, their families and retirees. The medical center is also the initial stopping point for injured troops. At Landstuhl, military patients are either stabilized for travel to the U.S. to recover at military medical treatment facilities, or until they are well enough to rejoin their units. Landstuhl is also the first stopping point for injured coalition troops who are treated there before going back to their home country for additional care.
Red Cross SAF volunteers number about 400 a year at Landstuhl and assist the patients seven days a week with hospitality items, pet therapy, patient visits and morale items like food, games and books. The Red Cross provides laptop computers to the patients and visiting family members so they can stay in touch with loved ones back home. Other services include phone cards and mobile phones, yoga equipment, composition books for journaling and gym equipment.
“We have incredibly caring volunteers who will sit with a patient for an hour just so the patient can talk to someone who cares and is there solely because they want to help,” Barber said. “We also have many volunteers who provide administrative services, which are a huge help to the staff here and provides a better experience for the patients and their families.”
“Everyday, I'm thankful that I get to do what I do. It's a wonderful job to have, and it's pretty cool to be able to do this sort of thing everyday,” Barber said. “It's important that we're here to do these sorts of events because it reminds our soldiers, Marines, and other service members that the nation is here to support them. The support they receive here at Landstuhl is incredibly important because it's the first step of their recovery process and shows those service members that the American people are there to support them.”