Women Riders

Soldiers’ Angels – May No Soldier Go Unloved

Written by  April 30, 2007

As I sat at my desk last month and boasted about the weather and riding season finally being here, I’m now chomping at the bit just trying to get through this awful cold spell we are having. Who would have imagined an inch of snow in April? Many of us have planted our gardens with lettuce, beets and onions, only to be ruined by the frost, and our bikes are still in the garage, at least for the fair-weather riders. Hopefully the worst is over and in a couple of weeks we will actually be riding to bike nights and rallies!

I’d like to take this month to pay tribute to all the veterans who have served in the armed forces. I don’t think the American public fully understands the long-term consequences of war for those who fight, as well as how war affects the families. We should all be so proud of our servicemen and women for their services, dedication and bravery in defending our freedom. How fortunate we are to live in a safe and free country where we have the rights to choose where we live, work and play. We owe all of these precious liberties to the veterans who are putting themselves in harm’s way to protect our country.

One of my co-workers at Reece & Nichols, Jessica Carr has a brother, Lcpl Andrew Tarro, United States Marine Corp who recently left on his third tour of duty to Iraq. How does a family cope with seeing their son off to war the first time, let alone three times? Jessica told me, “We are so proud of Andy and his accomplishments. He is proud to be a Marine, to serve his country. When he talks about his work in Iraq there is an excitement in his voice. He truly is proud to serve and he believes in what he is doing.

Jessica also told me, “We have grown as a family since Andy’s first deployment. When he is able to call or e-mail, the whole family is told every little detail. I would not say it gets easier with each deployment. The worry is still there, but knowing he is proud to serve gets us by. Andy is a truck driver stationed in Camp TQ, Iraq. I motor mail him twice a day and e-mail once a day. The motor mail is a free service on-line that gets your message to them within 24 hours. It is printed off and hand delivered to them in the field, or wherever they are. Andy gets so much, the delivery people have asked him to pay a handling fee!! Care packages are sent on a regular basis which provides not only needed supplies, but also just contact from home.”

There are many organized groups helping our troops, but one in particular caught my attention while on a Patriot Guard Ride. Before I actually found out about them I called them the” Water Angels” because they would be in the parking lot in the middle of a scorching hot July day handing out cold bottles of water to all the motorcycle riders who came out to honor a fallen soldier.

After searching the Internet I came to learn they are The Soldiers’ Angels founded in 2003 by a mom (Patti Patton-Bader) whose son, Sgt. Brandon Varn was deployed in Iraq, and has since completed his mission and is back home with his family. Sgt. Varn wrote home to his mom telling her of the soldiers who never received any mail or support from home. Being the loving and caring mom she was, she decided to gather a few friends and family to see if they would write letters to a soldier or two. Little did they know that the letter writing good deeds would turn into “an Internet Community with thousands of angels nationwide. “ Their mission is to “Provide aid and comfort to the military and its families, provide immediate response to hard situations, and make sure no soldier feels unloved. They also help their families here at home as requested.”

That Writing Team has expanded to Living Legends, The Sewing Team, Operation OutReach, Cards Plus Team, Chaplin Support Team, Wounded TLC Team. Fisher Houses Support Team, Project Valor-IT, all dedicated to meeting a specific need of the troops. Take a moment to check out their www.soldiersangels.org web site to see how you can be involved in this wonderful organization.

I spoke with Debby Frerichs from Lee’s Summit who is the vice-president of Soldier’s Angels, an organization that boosts 85,000 volunteers in the United States and internationally. She became involved in 2003 around Christmas after watching a news story on television about the soldiers who never received mail, packages or some whose family had disowned them because they joined the service. She cried, and thought “how terrible is this?” When her husband came into the room and asked why she had been crying she told him, and he said, “Don’t cry, do something about it.” Four years later she never dreamed she would be this involved. It consumes her life (in a good way), she has had many rewards, experiences and met some wonderful people along the way. She would definitely do it all over again.

The Soldiers’ Angels became involved with the local Kansas City Patriot Guard Riders and asked how they could help their organization. PGR suggested they distribute water, coffee and donuts to the motorcycle riders as they waited for the services of the fallen soldier to conclude. They now have a great working relationship with PGR and look forward to helping in any way they can. The group tries to get the water and coffee donated, but if not, they pay for it out of their own pockets. As the group has grown they now have a fund set up and they budget so much money for each PGR service where they will be needed. The also pass out gold coins to all the riders that say, ”May We Never Forget.” The flip side of the coin has the SA insignia, a beautiful keepsake and reminder of the good this group is doing.

Debby travels throughout the year to promote the organization and participate in events honoring our troops. Last year she attended the Memorial Day Parade in Washington, DC and passed out 10,000 flags along the route. Next she traveled to Carroll, Texas to help assemble 90,000 Christmas packages. They had sent the word out in July on their e-mail forum that they needed donations from anyone who could help. Supplies poured in from all over the world and as she laughed, she said, “The post office was not ready for us. They had to call in extra staff when they saw all the trucks lining up with the presents.” Debby also attended a major dinner in San Antonio for soldiers and their families and heard many stories on how the war has affected their lives.

Their most recent project is Project Valour-IT which provides voice-controlled software and training courtesy of the Department of Defense to laptop computers donated by Hewlett Packard. One thousand laptops have been donated to wounded soldiers who have lost their limbs giving them the opportunity to send and receive messages from family and friends, communicate with buddies still in the field without having to press a key or move a mouse.

Soldiers’ Angels also donate back-packs to the injured soldiers who are transported to hospitals. They include sweat pants, T-shirts, underwear, toiletries, calling cards and other necessities that might have been left behind. There is even a program called “Homes for Our Troops” where they actually build houses for the injured soldiers and their families to live in. It is corporate sponsored and everything including labor is donated. Where are Ty and Extreme Makeover when we need them?

Another program is Adopt a Soldier and American Legion Writers where you can take care of a whole unit or one individual. The Living Legends program lets the Soldier’ Angels provide a living tree to the families of the fallen. They are also there to lend emotional support to the families if needed or requested. The Sewing Team makes hand-made “Blankets of Hope,” scarves, mittens and booties.

What this organization does is endless in trying to make the soldier’s life as comfortable as possible considering the circumstances. Debby says, “It’s not always gratitude; we have met some opposition on a couple occasions. One Christmas we sent out 12,000 Christmas cards to the troops and a local newspaper did an article on us. A Vietnam Veteran called and cussed me out and told us we shouldn’t be doing anything for the troops because no one did anything for them. He was so adamant and angry about how they were treated when they returned home from the war. He just couldn’t understand we were trying to help so this would never happen again to our veterans. I finally had to hang up on him. Others have accused us of supporting the war by helping the soldiers, war is wrong; we shouldn’t be helping them they would say. We get many more thanks and praise than negative so we will continue on with our mission for as long as we are needed.”

There is so much love, care and concern from this group it almost makes you feel like you are bonding with the soldiers as you are talking to the Soldiers’ Angels. Debby has communicated with several that she has “adopted,” one solider from Oklahoma sent her a letter and had asked for a flashlight. Debby sent a flashlight, batteries and other goodies and he responded by saying, “Now we can go to the bathroom and not have to worry about the snakes.” Another soldier, Major Michael Mundell died at the age of 41.
Debby had just talked to him through Instant Messaging a few days prior when he was injured, then shortly after that he was killed. “That was very difficult for me.”

The love these volunteers have for our troops is unconditional. Debby does not even have a son or daughter in the military and she still finds the time to spend a major part of her life involved in the cause. We applaud your efforts and hard work, and thank you for your service to our soldiers.

One of Debby’s deployed soldiers, SGT. Michael A. Kelley, from Illinois has been serving in Iraq since last May, and he wrote, “As a soldier deployed overseas, I was adopted into the Soldiers’ Angels Program. I have not only received valuable moral and emotional support and encouragement, but I have also received care packages. For me on the front lines, this support is absolutely critical. It shows that we are not forgotten or uncared for. They are essential to those they touch to keeping morale high in the deployed areas. Thanks you Soldiers’ Angels!”

There are many ways to show your support to our veterans and troops: Flags banners, ribbons, bracelets, care packages and greeting cards help boost morale and let them know we are thinking of them and they will never be forgotten.

This is an all-volunteer, 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to the support of the brave men and women deployed in support of the War on Terror in Iraq, Afghanistan and wherever we fly the flag of the United States of America.

Everyone should show their love and make someone else feel good…..Hug a vet this month (and every month!) and thank them for all they did and continue to do for our country.

Goldie Arnold

“Never rider faster than you angel can fly”

TIP OF THE MONTH: Be safe, be alert, be cautious, and be thankful we have the freedom to ride when and wherever we choose. Thank you, Soldiers.