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Monday, July 6th 2009

14:40 (2667 days, 8h, 33min ago)

July 4th Is More Than Just Picnics, BBQ's, Vacations, Parties & Store Sales

  • Name: barb Whitehead & Andi Grant

A note from Andi Grant & Barbara Whitehead ...

As we spent time this weekend celebrating the 4th of July, we hope we also had some time to reflect on the true meaning of independence. The 4th of July, unfortunately has become just an occasion for a day on the lake, a cookout, a sale at the department stores.

Our independence was won by the strength and courage of military men who stood up and said that our country will be one with freedoms for our citizens. For members of our military who are deployed, Independence Day has a real meaning. It means fighting terrorists who want to keep the population living in fear, stealing their resources, and forcing them to do the will of the terrorists.

Our troops see children who are not allowed to attend school, women who are not allowed medical care, education or an opportunity to have a career. Our troops have seen successes in the Middle East. In Iraq, they have seen a country have an opportunity to write a Constitution, establish a form of government, allow women to vote, develop schools, medical facilities, and infrastructures.

Our troops are proud of their work in training local military and security units so the countries can stand up and take charge of their own lives. To see our troops deliver supplies from caring Americans and other countries that help the local populations, swells our hearts with pride. Our troops are delivering wheelchairs for disabled children, distributing school supplies, clothing for children who may not own coats and boots to get through the freezing temperatures in the isolated mountains, toys to provide joy and happiness and providing medical care.

Our troops are facing extremely difficult living conditions while continuing the fight against terrorism. As we think about the meaning of freedom, we should support the troops for their sacrifices, dedication and bravery in protecting our world, our country, and our families. Our troops missed being with their families and friends for the celebration. Let's send them a touch, and taste of home so they know how much we care.

Please make a donation today to help us on our mission of support. We especially need items to provide items for the special projects for the children of Iraq, Afghanistan and other countries. You can donate school supplies, children's coats, boots, shoes and socks, small stuffed animals, and soccer balls.

Please also remember that we also are in urgent need of monetary donations to pay for postage. Our organization needs about $9,000 each month just to pay for postage. We welcome individuals, businesses, churches, etc to sponsor a month of postage.

As we're just getting into the summer need for our "Beat the Heat" campaign, we ask that you not forget our troops during the holidays. Our Christmas/Hanukkah holiday collection will begin in September. Watch our website for details!

Our troops and their families thank you.
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Friday, May 22nd 2009

11:11 (2712 days, 12h, 2min ago)

Memorial Day is EVERY Day ... at ..the Pentagon

  • Name: Andi Grant
  • Anything you want to add: Thank you for supporting our troops!

FRIENDS...PLEASE...Do me one favor this weekend? After you get back from buying your treasure marked at 60% off...or...when you return home from your barbecue party ... or before you go enjoy your nice 4-day holiday ... Can you please read this blog?

By JOSEPH L. GALLOWAY Over the last 12 months, 1,042 soldiers, Marines, sailors and Air Force personnel have given their lives in the terrible duty that is war. Thousands more have come home on stretchers, horribly wounded and facing months or years in military hospitals.

Army Lt. Col. Robert Bateman, who recently completed a yearlong tour of duty in Iraq and is now back at the Pentagon.

Here is his story:

There is a little-known ceremony that fills the halls of the Army corridor of the Pentagon with cheers, applause and many tears every Friday morning. It first appeared on May 17 on the Web log of media critic and pundit Eric Alterman at the Media Matters for America Web site.

"It is 110 yards from the "E" ring to the "A" ring of the Pentagon. This section of the Pentagon is newly renovated; the floors shine, the hallway is broad, and the lighting is bright. At this instant the entire length of the corridor is packed with officers, a few sergeants and some civilians, all crammed tightly three and four deep against the walls. There are thousands here.

This hallway, more than any other, is the 'Army' hallway. The G3 (Operations) offices line one side, G2 (Intelligence) the other, G8 is around the corner. All Army. Moderate conversations flow in a low buzz. Friends who may not have seen each other for a few weeks, or a few years, spot each other, cross the way and renew.

Everyone shifts to ensure an open path remains down the center. The air conditioning system was not designed for this press of bodies in this area.

"10:36 hours: The clapping starts at the E-Ring.  That is the outer most of the five rings of the Pentagon and it is closest to the entrance to the building.  This clapping is low, sustained, hearty. It is applause with a deep emotion behind it as it moves forward in a wave down the length of the hallway.

          "A steady rolling wave of sound it is, moving at the pace of the soldier in the wheelchair who marks the forward edge with his presence.  He is the first. He is missing the greater part of one leg, and some of his wounds are still suppurating.  By his age I expect that he is a private, or perhaps a private first class.

"Captains, majors, lieutenant colonels and colonels meet his gaze and nod as they applaud, soldier to soldier.  Three years ago when I described one of these events, those lining the hallways were somewhat different.  The applause a little wilder, perhaps in private guilt for not having shared in the burden … yet.

"Now almost everyone lining the hallway is, like the man in the wheelchair, also a combat veteran. This steadies the applause, but I think deepens the sentiment.  We have all been there now. The soldier's chair is pushed by, I believe, a full colonel.

              "Behind him, and stretching the length from Rings E to A, come more of his peers, each private, corporal, or sergeant assisted as need be by a field grade officer.

"11:00 hours: Twenty-four minutes of steady applause.  My hands hurt, and I laugh to myself at how stupid that sounds in my own head.  My hands hurt.  Please! Shut up and clap. 

For twenty-four minutes, soldier after soldier has come down this hallway - 20, 25, 30. Fifty-three legs come with them, and perhaps only 52 hands or arms, but down this hall came 30 solid hearts.

They pass down this corridor of officers and applause, and then meet for a private lunch, at which they are the guests of honor, hosted by the generals.  Some are wheeled along.  Some insist upon getting out of their chairs, to march as best they can with their chin held up, down this hallway, through this most unique audience.  Some are catching handshakes and smiling like a politician at a Fourth of July parade.  More than a couple of them seem amazed and are smiling shyly.

"There are families with them as well: the 18-year-old war-bride pushing her 19-year-old husband's wheelchair and not quite understanding why her husband is so affected by this, the boy she grew up with, now a man, who had never shed a tear is crying; the older immigrant Latino parents who have, perhaps more than their wounded mid- 20s son, an appreciation for the emotion given on their son's behalf. 

"No man in that hallway, walking or clapping, is ashamed by the silent tears on more than a few cheeks.  An Airborne Ranger wipes his eyes only to better see.  A couple of the officers in this crowd have themselves been a part of this parade in the past.

"These are our men, broken in body they may be, but they are our brothers, and we welcome them home.  This parade has gone on, every single Friday, all year long, for more than six years."

Did you know that?

The media hasn't yet told the story.  And probably never will.
God bless our troops and thank you for reading this. 

There will be more to follow ....


Andi Grant
Give2TheTroops President and Founder

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Thursday, January 1st 2009

11:10 (2853 days, 11h, 3min ago)


  • Name: Andi Grant
  • Hometown: G2TT President & Founder
  • Anything you want to add: Happy New Year!

Well, it's a new year, filled with hope for positive changes in our country and the world. 

We surpassed many of our goals from last year and managed to send out more than 5,000 enormous care packages to our deployed troops in 2008. We were so busy, in fact, that I had little time to write in this blog.

Which reminds me ... would anyone like to write and manage our BLOGS? There's GOT to be someone out there who's better at this than I am!

I'd like to re-cap some of our 2008 Events, Highlights and Achievements.  However, much of the year was a blur to me. 

In January, my husband's unit arrived in Iraq. They were at a Combat Outpost living in pretty bad conditions.  While they didn't have internet, they were able to occasionally use a satellite phone to call home.  This time around, his deployment was much harder on me and it was hard for me to focus. Thankfully, he returned home safely to us again this past September.

So instead of listing out the events month by month - branch by branch, I will show you an assortment of photos of our volunteers, our programs & events and some of the troops, canines and local children who received our gifts.

There are THOUSANDS more photos in our photo albums and on our web site's "LETTERS FROM OUR TROOPS" page, which I encourage you to read.

Our Donors and Volunteers ranged from Police Departments, Senior Citizen Centers, State Agencies, Churches & Synagogues, Schools & Universities, Girl Scouts & Boy Scouts, Motorcycle Clubs, Fraternities, Book Stores, Small & Big Companies, military organizations, Active Duty & Reserve members of our U.S. Military to Rotary Clubs and the thousands of wonderful individuals. 

We were in the local and national newspapers, on the radio and on television ... including CNN.

It's impossible to describe the year, so here are just a few visuals to help you measure our success. For those of you who donated to us or volunteered your time, words alone cannot express our deepest gratitude and thanks. Please know we appreciate all you do for our organization and the troops! Thank you for being a part of our "family"!

Here's a snapshot of our year 2008 in photos.  Enjoy!



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Saturday, May 24th 2008

11:03 (3075 days, 12h, 9min ago)


  • Name: Andi Grant
  • Hometown: our great nation, USA

... I ask all true, patriotic Americans - While you enjoy your parades, picnics and barbeques, please remember those who laid down their lives for you to have such celebrations.

Memorial Day is much more than a three-day weekend that marks the beginning of summer.

To many people, especially the nation's thousands of combat veterans, this day, which has a history stretching back all the way to the Civil War, is an important reminder of those who died in the service of their country. We should never forget its meaning and traditions. 

Sadly, the graves of the fallen are often ignored or neglected and many do not remember the proper flag etiquette for the day. Some people think the day is for honoring any and all dead - not just those fallen in service to our country.

Our citizens have become distracted from the spirit and meaning of the day. To me, it is NOT a holiday, but rather a HOLY DAY.
It is a day of remembrance for those who have died in our nation's service!

Therefore, I feel it is my duty as the wife of a deployed U.S. Marine and as the President and Founder of Give2TheTroops, Inc. to educate those who do not understand the real significance of Memorial Day.

Memorial Day is dedicated for taking time to honor those who serve and have served, especially those who gave the ultimate sacrifice of their lives.

The first official Memorial Day celebration was held in the United States in May 1868, three years after the Civil War ended. On that day, which was then called Decoration Day, people remembered the war dead by decorating their graves with flowers.

Major General John A. Logan declared that Decoration Day should be observed on May 30. It is believed that date was chosen because flowers would be in bloom all over the country.

The poem below was written by WWI Colonel John McCrae. It expressed McCrae's grief over the row after row of graves of soldiers who had died on Flanders' battlefields (a region of western Belgium and northern France). The poem presented a striking image of the bright red flowers blooming among the rows of white crosses.

In Flanders Fields
By John McCrae 

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on  row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly.
Scarce heard amid the guns below.  

We are the dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.  

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

In 1915, inspired by  "In Flanders Fields:, Moina Michael created her own poem:
We cherish too, the Poppy red
That grows on fields where valor led,
It seems to signal to the skies
That blood of heroes never dies.

She then conceived of an idea to wear red poppies on Memorial Day in honor of those who died serving the nation during war. She was the first to wear one, and sold poppies to her friends and co-workers with the money going to benefit servicemen in need.

On Memorial Day the flag should be flown at half-staff from sunrise until noon only, then raised briskly to the top of the staff until sunset, in honor of the nation's battle heroes.

DID YOU KNOW? ... Memorial Day is celebrated at Arlington National National Cemetery with a ceremony in which a small American flag is placed on each grave.  For the past 40 years, before each Memorial Day, Army Soldiers from the 3rd U.S. Infantry (The Old Guard) honor America's servicemen killed or wounded in action that are buried at Arlington National Cemetery by placing an American flag on each gravestone.

This tradition, called "flags in " has been an annual activity since 1948. Flags are placed on more than 260,000 gravesites at Arlington for Memorial Day. After the three-day weekend, the flags are removed.

Also, it is customary for the President or Vice-President to give a speech honoring the contributions of the dead and lay a wreath at the Tomb of The Unknown Soldier.


Throughout our history, thousands of brave Americans have died serving their country and fighting for their beliefs.  From the American Revolution to our current war in Iraq and Afghanistan, the numbers of battle deaths speak to the sacrifices our troops, and their families, have made.

4,435 - American Revolution (1775-1783)
2,260 - War of 1812 (1812-1815)
1,733 - Mexican War (1846-1848 )
140,414 (Union) and 74,524 (Confederate) - Civil War (1861-1865)
385 - Spanish-American War (1898-1902)
53,402 - World War I (1917-1918 )
291,557 - World War II (1941-1945)
33,686 - Korean War (1950-1953)
47,410 - Vietnam War (1964-1975)
147 - Gulf War (1990-1991)
4070  - Iraqi Freedom (Iraq)  (2001-present)
496 - Operation Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan)  (2001-present)
May God bless all our troops for their selflessness and sacrifices and may America never forget those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country.

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Sunday, May 11th 2008

21:04 (3088 days, 2h, 9min ago)


  • Name: Andi Grant
  • Hometown: G2TT Headquarters
  • Anything you want to add:

Hello again and HAPPY MOTHERS DAY!

Something to keep in the back of your mind ...

In Connecticut, we held two packing parties this weekend.  I was so pooped from Friday's party that I couldn't attend the one on Saturday.  Our awesome volunteers took over for me and for that I am so appreciative. Sometimes we all need a break ... THANK YOU LYDIA, DONNA, BETH, CAROL, JIM, SUSAN, JOHN, JASON and others who attended and packed boxes for 4 or 5 hours.

At Friday's packing party, COMCAST CABLE came to volunteer for their "Day of Caring".  They were terrific and brought us donations, too.

I mentioned to their group that Mothers Day was this weekend. And I told them how this affects our deployed troops ...

First, some of our female troops who are in combat zones are MOTHERS and they left their children behind to serve our country.  Often their children are very young.  I am a mother, and I feel this is incredibly selfless of these troops - I know I would have a terrible time if I had to leave my son for a year or longer.

Second, I spoke to them about the troops who have WIVES back at home who are Mothers. Those of us wives left behind must celebrate the day alone with our children unless we have family nearby.  Thankfully, my mother came up for the weekend.  I know our deployed husbands feel bad that they can't be home to show their wives their love and appreciation.  Somehow my husband was able to send me flowers from Iraq.  Considering they don't have a reliable internet or phone service (and knowing my husband is so busy with his Mission), I was not expecting them. My heart goes out to those wives who did not have the opportunity to hear from their deployed husbands today.

Third, to all the MOTHERS and GRANDMOTHERS out there with deployed sons and daughters - I know that today was especially hard on you. I hope your children/grandchildren were able to get a call home to you.

And lastly - My heart goes out to those families who lost a loved one in this war.  I know every holiday will be a reminder of the ones you miss and I keep you in my thoughts and prayers.

Folks ... FATHERS DAY is just around the corner. We are already sending blank cards to our troops so they can send them home to their fathers, husbands and grandfathers.

Please remember that our troops are deployed all year round. Our troops miss family and friends' birthdays, wedding anniversaries, holidays, children's school recitals, graduations, births of their children, and other important events that so many back here in the USA take for granted.

I never forget.  This is the second Mothers Day that Brian has been deployed.  He will not be here for our wedding anniversary (again). He missed my birthday (again) and will miss our son's birthday (again).

There are families out there who are going through a 3rd and even 4th deployment - I actually consider myself lucky. 

PLEASE don't forget about our troops in combat. I hear from so many of them.  They miss home so much. Every item, letter and card we send them brings them a little piece of home.

Thank you.


IT1 SW Sandy Edgley (US NAVY) single parent was deployed more than once while her young son was at home with a relative.
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Saturday, March 1st 2008

13:13 (3159 days, 9h, 0min ago)

A Special Request From Our Troops ...

  • Name: Andi Grant
  • Hometown: USA


   I am embarrassed that I didn't have time to post a blog last month, but G2TT is involved with a flurry of activities and is bursting at the seams!

Many of you know that my husband is deployed again and is stationed in Iraq.  He and his fellow Marines are not living in the greatest conditions.  They have no showers or toilets  and their old building is small and pretty filthy. 

They have no PX and few amenities, yet they do not complain ... they are Marines.


Their unit deals directly with the Iraqi people every day, who are living in the same conditions. Their unit has made great progress in their Mission and the Iraqis seem to appreciate their presence and like our Marines. The media doesn’t show these accomplishments, but I see them through the eyes of our troops and I am so proud of them.

Typical of a U.S. Marine, my husband asks not for items for himself and his Marines, but rather, items they can give to the Iraqi children they see each day.  Many other Soldiers and Marines in Iraq and Afghanistan also request items for the local children.

If you’re interested in helping, I have a new mission for you.

Are you Ready?

Our Marines and Soldiers are asking for many donated items listed below.  These items need to be sent to our CONNECTICUT Branch, so we may quickly forward them overseas to the appropriate unit in Iraq or Afghanistan.

1.  CHILDREN’S CLOTHING and SHOES (All sizes.  NEW is preferred. They may be gently worn, but must be clean and have absolutely no tears, holes, rips or stains.)


2.  SCHOOL SUPPLIES for Elementary School Age Children such as:

Colored pencils
Magic markers
#2 pencils
Glue Sticks
Spiral Notebooks
Children’s Scissors
Colored Construction paper
Wide-lined notebook paper

3.  SMALL TOYS they can stuff in their pockets to hand to the children they see. Examples: small Matchbox cars, tiny dolls, Legos, Beanie Babies, colored balloons, etc.  (THINK SMALL!)

4.  HARD CANDY in factory-sealed bags with individually wrapped pieces. (No individual pieces accepted and no chocolate as it will melt.) Examples: Bulk bags of: SweetTarts, Skittles, Starburts, Smarties, Life Savers, chewing gum, Pez Dispensers and Pez candy, etc.


5.  SOCCER GEAR: Balls, nets, goals, and t-shirts for the children’s teams. (Each team should have its own color).  The Marines want to set up some soccer teams with the Iraqi children in the upcoming months.


Let’s see what you all can do!


Thank you for supporting our troops and our organization’s mission.


Andi Grant
G2TT President and Founder


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Thursday, December 20th 2007

10:01 (3231 days, 12h, 11min ago)

How Did you first hear about Give2TheTroops?

  • Name: Andi Grant
  • Hometown: G2TT President and Founder
  • Anything you want to add: THANK YOU EVERYONE!



At every packing party at our Connecticut Branch, we go around the room and introduce ourselves.  One of the things we mention is how we first became involved. 

How did we hear about G2TT?

Why did we get involved?

What motivated us to help and continue to help?

Why have many of us stayed on - some of us working up to 50 hours/week as UNPAID volunteers since 2002!

I'm posting this blog, asking each of you to write back and let everyone now how you became involved and what the experience means to YOU as a volunteer or donor.


Back in 2002, my husband (a Sergeant in the Marine Corps) received his deployment orders for OIF.  I was a nervous wreck.  Our son was only 10 years old.  My husband is a U.S.  Marine Reservist, so we didn't live on a base or even close to where he drills.  We didn't know ANYONE who was going through what we were and it was frightening.

I wanted to send care packages to my husband and his unit, but he wanted me to find the guys on the front lines who needed the packages more than he did.

Our family had some friends who were already deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan.  One girlfriend of mine was on a NAVY SHIP that was transporting thousands of Marines and Soldiers to Iraq.  She became my first Point of Contact and put me in touch with Navy Chaplains on other ships and pretty soon, I had more than 15,000 troops to send packages to!

(above, my dear friend Sandy Edgley and many shipmates: Sailors and Marines who lined up to get items from our care package.)

I decided to get our community involved - my son's elementary school, community choir, neighbors, sports team, church friends, relatives - anyone who would listen to this "crazy, frantic wife who missed her husband" who had a vision to let every deployed troop in harm's way know America truly loves him or her.

People used to pack boxes with my son and me several times a week after work in my tiny 800 SQF home's basement.

(Volunteers in my tiny basement.)

Word spread quickly about what we were doing and pretty soon people from around the nation were calling me to find out how they could help my efforts ...

(Volunteers at the post office.)

We packed boxes and spent hours at our local post office mailing hundreds of boxes.  People on line behind us were NOT happy!

But we grew ....

and grew ....

and grew ...

and grew ...

and grew!

I gave weekly speeches and presentations to promote my "program".  And after a few months, I saw I had a great support network comprised of loving, dedicated, patriotic citizens from around the globe.

We sent THOUSANDS upon THOUSANDS of boxes from my little home to our deployed troops in combat.  Thank you letters from those troops poured in! And I received other letters from new troops requesting assistance.  So we kept sending boxes.

WHY do I stay on?

For starters, our troops deserve our utmost support for the selfless sacrifices they make for us.  But it's more than that for me ... 

Perhaps it's the letters - the troops very own words of gratitude ...

or maybe it's the support of our generous donors and volunteers ...

or the fact that my family and I received so much support and my husband came back okay, so we need to "pay it forward" ...

(with US Congressman, Chris Shays)

But I think it's a combination of all of the above and I will continue my efforts to support our deployed and wounded troops until there is no longer a need.

SO ... how and why did you get involved?



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Friday, December 14th 2007

19:42 (3237 days, 2h, 31min ago)

Secret Elves

  • Name: Andi Grant
  • Hometown: Marine Wife



 I want to tell you about some very special people who have been doing some very special things for our organization.  They spend countless hours each week (sometimes up to the wee hours of the morning) volunteering to make sure we accomplish our mission.  Most of them help out "behind the scenes" when the rest of the world is busy doing their daily activities.

In Connecticut and Massachusetts, some of these elves go by the names of "Lydia", "Donna" ,"Susan", "John", "Elinor", "Jim", "Beth", "Carol", "Phyllis", "Lara", "Jeannette", "Dana", "Kristy", "Shelley", "Christine", "Rose Marie", "Joe" , "Linda", "Carrie", "James" and others ... like "Bob S. and Pat S." and "Angie"!

In North Carolina, the elves are led by "Barb" "Catherine", "Diane", "Brenda Sue", "Brenda", "Maureen", and many others ... 

In Texas, Elf "Rick" and Elf "Dawn" are packing away boxes for the troops with their fellow elves.

In Colorado, Elf "Christine" is busier than ever getting boxes out with her helpers. 

And in Washington, Elves "Pete", "Carol", "Judy", "Deane", "Carleen" and "Bob" are working away in their workshop - all for our troops. 

These elves are so precious to G2TT for all they do to help us give back to the troops.  And the troops along with me, so greatly appreciate all they do!  


God Bless!

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Tuesday, November 20th 2007

23:36 (3260 days, 22h, 36min ago)


  • Name: Andi Grant
  • Hometown: Give2TheTroops
  • Anything you want to add: Please consider donating to G2TT!

Last year in November, life wasn't throwing me too many curve balls and things seemed to be looking good. I started a new job and our organization sent many more troops care packages than the year before (thanks to a dramatic increase in donations from the previous year).

Most of us had a lot to be thankful for. 

As we entered the year 2007, I lost my father in January and in March, I also lost my dog, "Beastie" of 17 years.  A few months after that, we received word that my husband, a Marine Sergeant, was going to deploy again.  And in September, he headed for his 2nd deployment. Suddenly, things didn't look so good.

I haven't been thrilled about the way 2007 unfolded for me (or for some of my friends who lost a spouse or child).  I am sure there are others who also suffered a loss, a heartbreak, a health issue or a deployment this year.  My heart goes out to all of them because it is never easy.

So, here we are again, at the cusp of a new year approaching -  about to celebrate another Thanksgiving Holiday.  Many of us will gather with our family and friends, eating traditional holiday meals and perhaps watching a parade or football game on television. Isn't that what we do each year?

There are many deployed troops who cannot be with their families right now. They can't smell the pumpkin pie, taste the turkey or sweet potatoes or hang out and watch tv with their loved ones. They are lucky if they can even get to a phone to call home.

Instead, they are in a far away land where it is cold outside.  Many are simply requesting blankets and cards of support because they miss home.

It doesn't matter if I had a "bad year" because so did they.  Life marches on, and when we feel like we are having a bad "day", "week," "month" or "year" - let's think about the types of days our troops are having ... without complaining.

I know what I am thankful for this year.  In addition to having decent health; a roof over my head; a job; food on the table; a loving family; and good friends, I am thankful for our ALL-VOLUNTEER military we have.

Let's say thanks at our dinner tables to all the veterans who honorably and selflessly served our country so that we may continue to celebrate Thanksgiving each year. They deserve that at the very least.





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Monday, October 1st 2007

20:01 (3311 days, 3h, 12min ago)

Heroic Survivors and Their Wartime Recollections

  • Name: Sgt. Grant's wife
  • Hometown: (Andi Grant)
  • Anything you want to add: Please Remember Our Troops Every Day!
Last Friday, I left my job early and was driving home.  I was excited that I would get to relax an extra hour or so and beat all the rush hour traffic.  On my way home, I always pass the Iwo Jima Memorial on Route 9 (located on the town line between New Britain and Newington, Connecticut). 
It's a beautiful, enormous and inspirational memorial statue that you can see from the highway. 

For those not familiar with our history, t
he battle for Iwo Jima took place February 19 - March 26, 1945.  6,821 American servicemen were killed in approximately one month!  The valor and sacrifice of the Marines and Sailors who fought on Iwo Jima is that of true heroes, who we should never forget.

I hadn't stopped there in a few months, and I like to leave their Foundation monetary donations to keep their eternal flame going, so I pulled off the exit and went.  It's a very quiet spot. I go there alone to pay respects and put things in perspective.  I know how important that battle was and all the lives that were lost for us, and when I am there - the world stands still.  Well, at least for me it does.  Above the park, the Route 9 highway is always filled with cars and trucks racing to their destinations, but when I'm at the park, all that's a blur to me.
Anyway, I didn't see any cars when I pulled in to the parking lot, but as I got closer, I saw one small black sedan and was honestly a bit disappointed.  I like to go alone, but the park is open to the public.  I deposited my donation check in the metal donation box and was set to go to my usual bench under a tree when I saw 2 little old men seated on "my" bench. 
I didn't want to bother them, so I nodded to them and sort of smiled and then I headed for another area - a section which is dedicated to the many Navy Corpsmen and Navy Chaplains we lost at Iwo Jima.  After 10 minutes or so, I felt like someone was behind me - and I was right...
One of the gentlemen, Mr. Matava (he later told me his name) asked me if I came to the site often.  I told him I did.  He asked me if I knew about the Iwo Jima battle and about the memorial statue.
I rattled off a lot of what I had read off the monument and from "Flags of Our Fathers" and other books.  I knew the monument was erected to salute the 6,821 Americans who died fighting on the last strategic stronghold before the planned invasion of Japan.  
As for the monument, I told him about the real rocks taken from the mountain summit at Iwo Jima that the bronze soldiers were standing on; about the actual sand from the landing beach that was mixed into the concrete base; about the gas which keeps the flame lit 365 days a year, 24 hours a day, as a reminder of the sacrifices made by all those who defended freedom during the second World War; and I told him about the time capsule which is supposed to be opened in the year 2045, etc.
He seemed impressed that I knew so much, but then again, I have learned a lot by going there. Then he told me that he was one of the original 17 builders of the monument and that he is an Iwo Jima Survivor.  Mr. Matava (now age 87) lost his younger 18-year-old brother, Edward Matava, at Iwo Jima and he showed me the memorial stone for Edward that he had personally laid in the ground years ago.
I told him I normally sit on the granite bench under the tree and Mr. Matava said he had erected that bench in memory of his wife who died 26 years ago. I didn't know if I should be sad or happy that I always choose that bench to sit on each time I come.  Nonetheless, I think he was pleased to hear that I always chose that bench.
Then the other little man joined our conversation.  His name was Fred or Frank Cifaldi (or something like that) - he was also in his late 80's and was one of the builders.  He had hearing aids and weighed about 100 pounds. But they were both sharp and had great posture - as I would expect from such noble and humble Marines...  
I mentioned to them that I had previously written in this web site blog about one of my visits there and they were so ecstatic.  They wanted to know the web site and I gave them my business cards.
I ended up staying there for nearly 2 hours, and didn't get home until well after my normal time, but it was well worth it.
I called my U.S. Marine husband (who has already been mobilized for his second tour for Operation Iraqi Freedom).  I saw on my cell phone's "Missed Calls" that he had called me and I didn't want him to worry about my whereabouts. Later that night, he told me he was inspired by my visit and by the 2 heroes I met.
Sometimes folks need a reminder of who our heroes are and what they gave up for us. I don't need that "shot in the arm" because I remember every day. It was such an honor to meet these 2 men and exchange hugs with them. I had tears in my eyes when I left.
I am telling you this story because we at Give2TheTroops understand about our deployed troops' hardships and sacrifices.
We often tell our troops and their families that we are all in this together, and while we may not be there with them physically, we're with them in heart, mind and soul, during their deployment. 
A few friends begged me to post this story on our blog as they felt that it serves as a reminder for us as to what is important in life and that perhaps it might help people not to take for granted those who laid their lives down for us and our future. 
This 40-foot bronze and granite monument depicts the sacrifice and courage displayed by Americans in one of the greatest battles of our military history.  If you haven't been there, I recommend you go ... help keep the eternal flame going and do me a favor ... save me a seat on "my" bench under the tree. 
Semper Fi.

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