Christmas Dinner for the Troops and families

First, as Han said, Happy Holidays to all!
Next, let's not forget all those men and women that are coming back from the war, and all those that are already here unable to get home or to be with loved ones.
Once again this year our little cigar club has the privilege of serving Christmas Eve dinner to the men and women of the military and their families at the Wounded Warriors Center and Fischer House. We were an unexpected hit at the hospital last year and we have been told that the troops and their families are really looking forward to our dinner tonight. Our final count for folks we served dinner to last year ran just a few shy of 300! We are expecting about the same this year.
This year will have another aspect to it. Many of the men and women we will be seeing this year will be fresh from their respective theaters of operation, without any benefit of decompression time. Some will be flown here almost directly, and sent to the hospital and other rehab facilities. For those of you that don’t know, this immediate wind down has been a controlled panic for the military, on all levels. It seems that while some effort has been placed on getting the troops to their personal homes, more emphasis has been put on just getting them out of Iraq. In the rush to get these men and women out of Iraq, they have been shipped at expedience’s demand, with many far, far from their homes.
With that in mind, I hope that anyone that has a chance to give a few minutes of their time making things better for these men and women will take the opportunity to do so. It is humbling, rewarding, and a great experience to be around some of these troops. Last year, the men and women we served thanked us so much it was silly. And many had a great sense of humor about it, too. The laughed and told us that they didn’t eat nearly as well at home as they did at our dinner, but made sure their wives couldn’t hear. They were happy to have an almost home cooked meal that reminded them of home, and it was even better that the food wasn’t on the chow line. In fact, this food is all “A” grade restaurant quality food we received from SYSCO Foods, Hormel, Armour/Ekrich, Continental Bakers, Ocean Spray, and on an on. No institutional stuff here. We are starting our cooking of the turkeys early this morning so we can have them ready to serve by 5:00. All other foods will be put together out on site. (Busy day, eh?)
Last year they had turkey and gravy, two kinds of ham, two kinds of mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, green beans, cranberry sauce, cornbread dressing, 6 -7 different kinds of dinner rolls, fresh salad, 12 different dessert choices, and all the tea, soft drinks and coffee they wanted. I even had a couple of the cute girl volunteers go around and serve them drinks so they wouldn’t have to move. And talk about a feeling of humility; after eating his dinner, one of the troops came over with his friend and told me he had never had a dinner like that - ever. His friend agreed.
Imagine that; the best holiday dinner you ever had coming from a cigar club. This year they will have the same meal again due its popularity. Some of the soldiers requiring extensive rehab will be there again, the boys that were missing limbs, guys requiring multiple reconstructive surgeries, and folks in long term rehab. I hope to see a couple of them in particular to see how they are doing. And their courage, optimism and sense of calm “after the fact” is almost awe inspiring. They were teasing each other last year about getting their prosthetic legs fit with an extra sized shoe so they could kick more ass; one guy was laughing (laughing, mind you) about having claws like Wolverine’s installed so he could snap them out (and of course do more ass kicking) when he needed them.
To me, helping these guys out now is about the best thing someone can do. While we are a cigar club and have no women members, we bring wives, girlfriends, and children 14 and over. All of them seem to like it a lot as well, and the proof is in the putting. We even have more teenaged volunteers as well as folks from both sexes than we need this year, even though our dinner is on Christmas Eve! And they don’t smoke cigars!
I hope to inspire some of you to look around tomorrow or on Christmas day and lend a hand towards any group that needs the help. And if you live in a city with a military base or installation, even though the men and women may not be wounded, many enjoy the company of others at this time of year and would probably appreciate if you dropped by a snack bar or room (or your own Wounded Warriors Center!) and dropped off some food and spent some time with them. Some of these troopers really miss home a lot. And to miss Christmas on top of not being home, that it is downright painful. I saw more than a few teary eyes last year when talking about home and Christmas traditions.
So, family first. But if you take care of that and have a little time left over, you could probably find something to do to help out our returning troops and help them enjoy Christmas back in the USA. It's not THEIR home, but a home means a lot. I have a friend of mine that has contacted one of the bases and they are going to have 4 young female army troops over to actually help make their evening dinner! Their selling point to these girls was "NO BOYS ALLOWED!"
So happy Christmas to all of you and your families. And if you get a chance to shake a trooper’s hand and than him for his/her service, pick up his lunch, buy a coffee, or go help serve them a meal, you should do it. Some of these guys (especially the younger ones) really get a kick out of that kind of small stuff. They don't need anything big; more than once I have been told that they just like being remembered.
Back here after the first of the year. Be safe on New Year's.
Wish me luck!
Robert
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On 12/24/2011 2:55 AM, snipped-for-privacy@aol.com wrote:

Good on you Robert and again thank you for your deeds and inspiration! These great warriors say it is just a job. A very modest group.
Hope to see y'all Thursday night?
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Thanks Leon - there are a lot of us this year and it is actually easier than it was last year when we did the dinner. Last year we were an unknown group, and not taken very seriously. We made do with the leftovers that were donated and cobbled dinner together. They really didn't think we could pull it off so they didn't have much to do with us, and they simply assigned an liaison from the Wounded Warriors center to us.
With a succussful Christmas dinner, two Memorial Day fund raising barbecues and two Sunday Night Football With The Troops under our belts, we didn't have nearly the trouble (compared to last year) when getting food and equipment together this year. Everyone wants to be part of success, right? They love "the cigar guys" there at the Wounded Warriors Center, even though we can't smoke on base.
We are lucky in this economic environment that when we lost a sponsor from last year, we had another step right up. That happened in two key areas, and it was almost Divine intervention. Our club doesn't have much money, so we would have drained it dry to get the hams we promised to serve this year. Then out of the blue, Armour/Eckridge came to the rescue. Same with the turkeys, and bread guys. They were last minute, but they donated hunreds of dollars each of food for the troops.
I am stoked up pretty good and getting ready to go marshal the boys for the load out and get the cooking started. Kathy and me are ready to come see you guys, and Thursday sounds great. I'll be in touch with Karl Monday after the dust settles around here.
Have a great Christmas, Leon. Tell Kim that Kathy and me are looking forward to seeing her again.
Robert
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On 12/24/2011 11:58 AM, snipped-for-privacy@aol.com wrote:

Can you guys spell "GUMBO"? :)
Any other wreckers in the Houston area, or will be in the area on Thursday 12/29 and would like to join us, let me know ASAP ... I need to know whether to crankup the pot with wheels. :)
snipped-for-privacy@ewoodshop.com (or gmail.com)
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www.eWoodShop.com
Last update: 4/15/2010
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On 12/24/2011 12:11 PM, Swingman wrote:

Spell'it, hell I can Smell'it.
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HURRAY!
I have to say, if anyone is within driving distance, you should take Karl up on this offer. The gumbo is excellent, he and Linda are great hosts, and Leon and Kim top off the combination perfectly.
I am really looking forward to this!
Robert
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On 12/24/2011 11:58 AM, snipped-for-privacy@aol.com wrote:

You to Robert We all will be looking forward to the get together. . Merry Christmas!
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First, as Han said, Happy Holidays to all!
Next, let's not forget all those men and women that are coming back from the war, and all those that are already here unable to get home or to be with loved ones.
Once again this year our little cigar club has the privilege of serving Christmas Eve dinner to the men and women of the military and their families at the Wounded Warriors Center and Fischer House.
snip ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Robert, thank you for your service!
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After all the hoopla and let down, I am back on earth.
And I must say, the dinner was a blast. It was a great success and we served about 300 troopers and their families. Like last year, we really felt appreciated for out little bit of effort.
I hope I am doing this for a long time. It really puts a nice spin on Christmas for me and my boys.
Robert
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