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Soldiers' Angels group takes flight in Panhandle

December 15, 2004|by CANDICE BOSELY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.VA. - A card just wasn't going to be enough.

When Robin Johnson of Martinsburg found out that her soon-to-be second cousin through marriage lost three of his limbs while serving in Iraq, she asked what she could do to help.

A nonprofit group called Soldiers' Angels had already been helping the wounded soldier, Sgt. Joseph "Joey" Bozik, of North Carolina. A representative of Soldiers' Angels told Johnson that combat field hospitals overseas need backpacks filled with items like a change of clothes and personal hygiene items for wounded soldiers. The staff members at field hospitals need scrubs, too, Johnson said.

So, starting the day after Thanksgiving, Johnson and others began to seek donations of such items. A supplier has been found to provide backpacks at a low cost, but they need to be filled.

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Students at Orchard View Intermediate School are collecting personal hygiene items and writing letters of encouragement to injured soldiers. Members of the Berkeley County Jr. ROTC also wrote letters of encouragement, as part of an assignment, Johnson said.

Donations needed include phone cards, slippers, solid gray or black T-shirts, pajamas or pajama pants, socks, undergarments, small blankets and personal hygiene products. New or used clean scrubs of all sizes also are needed, Johnson said.

Cash donations will be used to buy necessary items. Already, $365 has been collected.

The items are now being stored at a hangar at Eastern West Virginia Regional Airport, outside of Martinsburg. The hangar is used by members of the Experimental Aircraft Association, a group to which Johnson belongs.

"It's going to need to continue" past Christmas, Johnson said. "As long as there's going to be a need."

Johnson hopes to gather enough items to put together 100 backpacks. She estimated she now has enough for 10 to 12.

Bozik - the wounded soldier who soon will be a member of Johnson's family - lost the lower portion of his right arm, his right leg from his mid-thigh, and his left leg from mid-shin. Although his left hand and wrist were crushed, Bozik can use a couple of his fingers and is learning to operate a motorized wheelchair.

He was injured on Oct. 27, when a roadside bomb in Baghdad exploded near his vehicle. A military police officer with the Army, Bozik, 26, is now recuperating at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., Johnson said.

Bob Sagers, president of the local Experimental Aircraft Association, said he is hoping members of the 167th Airlift Wing of the West Virginia Air National Guard can take the supplies overseas - if it is convenient for them.

"The word hero just has to kind of stick," Johnson said of Bozik, who was awarded a Purple Heart.

"They really are heroes," Sagers said of the nation's troops.

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