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An encouraging outpouring of troop support

December 10, 2005|By Dieter H.B. Protsch

To the editor:

It is somewhat discouraging to attend our Veterans Day ceremonies and notice that there are more veterans honoring their own than regular citizens paying their respect. Slapping a sticker reading "Supporting Our Troops" on vehicles was never my kind of so-called support of our troops.

When our first casualties from Iraq arrived, I felt the need, as an old veteran, to do more than just talk about support. While national natural disasters occupied our people, our troops' personal disasters seem to fade into the background.

As a retired member of the military family, I strongly believe in our motto "Still Serving." Being a member of the Special Forces Association, a group of "Green Berets" and I planned to travel to the Military Medical Center in Landstuhl, Germany, the troops' first stop for treatment after leaving Iraq. As we have done several times before, we delivered comfort items and presents and talked to our incoming wounded. We assured them personally, as fellow veterans, that we are supporting them in their efforts.

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After lengthy coordinations, we were able to enlist the help and support of GM's NHRA Racing Team and the United Service Organization, USO. On our recent visit during Veterans Day, we were escorted by a General Motors team with four award-winning NHRA drivers, who took three days out of their busy schedule to personally talk to the wounded, sign autographs and hand deliver 1,000 "Goody Bags," donated by GM. The reception from the wounded was overwhelming and heartening. I wish I could have taken pictures when I handed nearly 1,000 letters, written by young students of Western Heights Middle School in Hagerstown, to the wounded troops.

Regulations unfortunately prohibited it for reasons of "protecting the privacy" of the individual. I want to assure the students who wrote those letters for Armed Forces Day, that they were well received by all the wounded military personnel. The dedication and professionalism shown by our military medical staff was clearly second to none, considering the conditions they are working under. Our wounded cannot ask for any better care while in our military medical facilities.

Returning this past weekend, having spent 10 days in Germany, I received lengthy e-mails, too large to quote here, about the personal feelings of those who were part of this extraordinary operation.

The tremendous support by the USO, a nonprofit organization, which is solely supported by contributions from the citizens, was unbelievable. Aside from the Red Cross, we found the USO with their volunteers is always nearby to help our troops. I salute the volunteers of both organizations for their true, selfless support of our military personnel. They are always present, wherever our troops are.

Having experienced such an outpouring of appreciation to our visit by the troops, a special visit by this team of supporters is planned for next year. Only this time, the plans call for a special trip "downrange" (the politically correct term for front lines). I can hardly wait for that experience.

I shall never forget the faces of those wounded and sincerely hope that they will receive the proper help and support they so rightfully deserve from our nation and those they were willing to sacrifice their lives for.

Dieter H.B. Protsch
Major, USA SF (Ret.)
Hagerstown

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