Laptops for Wounded Warriors: September 11th at Walter Reed Army Medical Center
On the eighth anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attack on America, a band of patriots were on a special mission at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, in Washington, DC, with America’s wounded warriors. Their mission, the brainchild of 69-year old, decorated Vietnam veteran, George Samek, was to help the wounded warriors’ recovery by providing them with donated laptops with webcams.
For some of America’s wounded warriors who have risked all in the defence of freedom, the recovery may be swift. For others who have lost precious limbs or endured near death burns at the hands of terrorists and insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan, their challenging recovery may span months, to years, to a lifetime.
The donated laptops serve not only as a window to the world but will also enable America’s wounded warriors to do something most take for granted—and that is to be able to say “goodnight” to their loved ones and keep in close touch with their families who often live in different states.
After contacting Walter Reed, Samek learned that laptops are the one item that the wounded warriors really wanted and truly needed and he began seeking donations to fulfill this need. As a veteran, his heart lies with America’s armed forces and for years he has been apart of the troop support organization, The Gathering of Eagles. “As a simple old soldier I wish to say thanks to each of you for joining in to make this happen,” Samek said, “I work for smiles from my military and those smiles become a good reason for them to know they know we care and they are not alone.”
The mighty band of patriots at Walter Reed included Captain Larry Bailey, Chairman of The Gathering of Eagles. Among the remarkable special mothers who attended, were Gold Star Mother, Muriel Pederson whose son, Sgt Ken Pederson USMC was killed in action in Vietnam and Gold Star Mother, Debbie Lee whose son, Marc Alan Lee, US Navy was the first Navy SEAL killed in Iraq.
As Blue Star Mother, and Founder of the Band of Mothers whose son served four tours in Iraq said, “On September 11th, 2001, America changed forever, and the noble Warriors at Walter Reed understand this more than any American ever will. I want people to know that these Heroes, who have sacrificed and endured so much, have the bravest, most noble hearts of all. We must shower them all with our utmost love and respect for they are the Bravehearts who have stood between us and pure evil. God Bless Them All!”
Room by room, the band of patriots visited with several wounded warriors and in many cases met with their families as Samek and the mothers presented the troops with laptops, I-Pods and phone cards. The patriots were welcomed and embraced by America’s heroes, brave with the boundless love-of-country.
One warrior’s family recounted how less than a month ago during a harrowing mission in Kabul, Afghanistan, their warrior son nearly died in a deadly IED attack. Sitting across from a fellow warrior, knee to knee, this warrior was leaning slightly backwards instead of resting on his weapon when the IED went off. In what can only be described as a miracle, because this warrior was leaning back—mere inches—instead of leaning forward, he survived the deadly blast but lost his leg. Tragically, his fellow warrior on that fateful mission made the ultimate sacrifice for his country.
Upon learning that this journalist is Canadian, the young, handsome warrior’s eyes brightly lit up and he told me how Canadians saved his life, then described how during the critical life and death hour, called the “golden hour,” after the deadly IED blast, he was aided by Canadian forces in Afghanistan, “I want to thank the Canadians who saved my life,” he said. Canada has been one of the few allies who have fought with Americans to defeat the terrorists and extremists in Afghanistan.
Later, the band of patriots moved on to Malogne House, part of the Walter Reed complex that is home to more courageous warriors facing another stage in their difficult recovery process. Among the heroes we met there was one striking solider who having lost his leg in Afghanistan fighting terrorists bent on America’s destruction, had stood for the first time in two months, that very day, September 11, after trying out a new prosthetic so he may walk again.
For this journalist, the indelible experience at Walter Reed was humbling and an inspiring privilege.
As Jim Diehl USN 65-71 “Gathering of Eagles” concurred, “The experience of visiting the Wounded Warriors is one every patriot should have. To thank the men and women that gave their minds, their hearts and body parts for the protection of the Free World and to show them that they will not be forgotten.”
For George Samek, with his wife, Jamie, to help the troops in such a meaningful way, “was a life long dream coming true.”
The laptops for wounded warriors average about $350.00 each. “Each tax exempt donation will help buy a gift that will keep on giving as these laptops will be passed on from trooper to trooper and make light come into their life as they recover,” Samek said.
Samek’s passionate mission to support the troops has only begun. His next stop is to present laptops at Fort Bragg and Camp Lejeune with other Gold and Blue Star Mothers. His goal is to take Laptops for Wounded Warriors nation-wide.
To donate to this most worthy endeavour please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or send your donation to:
Gathering of Eagles/George Samek
1105 Copas Road
Shallotte, NC 28470
Among those who have donated laptops were Band of Brother and currently deployed fellow soldier Chad Longell, The Band of Mothers, Electric Motor and Contracting in Chesapeake Virginia, and Muriel Pederson, Gold Star Mother. A special thanks to the efforts of GOE Chairman Capt Larry Bailey, the Concerned Citizens of Chocowinity North Carolina (donated 14 laptops) and Best Buy, North Carolina. Donations were also received from many other troop supporters across America and Canada.
The names of America’s wounded warriors have been intentionally omitted to respect their privacy.