My reflection on Operation BBQ at Walter Reed.
First of all, I NEVER post long winded posts but this one will be long and I am not sorry for that. If you don’t want to read the whole thing, then go to the next post. Sorry.
When I found out about this event that Mike and Michelle were doing for the wounded solders at Walter Reed I called Mike immediately. He had just started moving forward and said that he still need help. It wouldn’t have mattered if I had the time off or not I was going to be there.
My oldest daughter (Eye-Q) over heard me talking about this with the wife and asked if she could come along to help. Shoot, it took about a millisecond to say yes to that. What a kid I have. One of my Battalion Chiefs and another firefighter said they wanted to come up and help too. I figure, sure the more the merrier.
After weeks of phone calls, emails and PM’s not to mention the posts here I was packed up and ready to go. We spent the night in Arlington at my SIL place so we didn’t have that long drive up.
We met up with Mike and his lovely bride at his place on Wednesday evening and talked and pulled Q and had a beer while I listened to the story of how this came together. I was amazed. Michelle and Eye Q got along fabulously. But then again, I have a very special daughter. It turns out that Michelle and I went to the same high school together. What a coincidence.
That night I couldn’t sleep a wink. I wondered about food, prep, set up and other stuff that Mike had already covered. We/ Eye-Q and I were out of bed and leaving the driveway at 6am to make the 38 minute drive from Arlington VA to Walter Reed. We arrived at the gate at 6:45 and were the first to arrive. As we entered the gates and started for the site, Brady started to cry. She had seen a young man in fatigues walking on crutches and she just started to bawl. All I could do is say its okay honey, that why we are here. To show our support, and give them the best day we could possibly give. I told her that she could hug as many guys here as she wanted.
My BC Dave Hartman and Firefighter Jimmy Strothers met us there at 7am sharp. These two guys were a HUGE help. Anything that needed to be done they pitched in and did. When another team showed up, they were there to help unload, set up or what ever.
The area we set up in was fantastic. Covered by huge oak trees and grass. A nice breeze blew through the whole area. Parking was the first issue but was soon resolved. The cookers and their teams started rolling in and the smoke was flowing over the complex. Guys and gals on crutches, wheel chairs or slight limps started coming over and asking what was going on. Brady (Eye-Q) just kept inviting them over to chat and to make sure they would be back at 3pm for dinner. She spoke to anyone and everyone who came within ear shot of her.
Meeting the other guys who, like me, gave up a day to be here was great. New friendships have been formed. I won’t even try to name them because I am lousy with names. Just remember guys, if you need anything you have my card.
One particular solder took a fancy to her and at first I was upset but realizing that this young man had given his ultimate for her, me and you I soon became okay with seeing him hover over our site and her. He was recovering from spinal injuries that he had received while in performance of his duties. She was his therapy for the day.
The food started coming together and the tables, tents and chairs were in place. The bands started playing and the folks we were there to serve started showing up. A quick picture of the whole gang and the dinner bell rang. It looked like turn in time at a comp. Each team moving their food towards the serving area, other team members prepping the next item for the trip. It was great.
The lines started getting longer and longer and the food kept flowing. BC Hartman took charge of the serving area, barking orders (in a great way via Nextel) for me to get the next food item ready to be placed or directing the solders to the eating are tents and drinks. He was in his element here. Jimmy Strother was right beside me the whole time, carrying food, keeping an eye on the pits or what ever I needed to be done, he did.
Mike was awarded a certificate by the Secretary of Defense and I couldn’t find my camera. Where was it? Brady had it! A quick phone call to her and I find that she is delivering meals to rooms where the solders couldn’t come out and get the food. A tear swelled up in my eye and I moved on. What a kid I have.
She worked the service line, cleaned tables as more people could move in. She delivered drinks to those who couldn’t get up from the table without assistance. She ran food, from team area to serving area. What a kid I have.
Whew, we have reached the end of a wonderful day. Clean up was easy with all the help that we had. I was exhausted but still refreshed. It was a long drive home back to Orange County but it gave me plenty of time to reflect on this day. The day a bunch of BBQ folks came together under one purpose and with the help of our Lord fed the troops who have given their all for us to be able to be a bunch of BBQ folks. One other note:
What a GREAT kid I have.