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Bringing Christmas to the Wounded  

Story and photos by Ex- Capt. Steve Grogan

On December 9, 2016, member of the Lynbrook Fire Department joined by other Nassau County firefighters who belong to Nassau County Firefighters Operation Wounded Warrior traveled to the Walter Reed National Military Hospital at Bethesda, MD, and to the Wounded Warrior Battalion at Fort Belvoir, VA, to bring Christmas presents and cheer to our wounded men and women and their families.  An article about this trip and the trips this same week to Fort Bragg and Camp Lejeune in North Carolina by other Nassau firefighters was reported in a Newsday, Our Town article, the same day as this trip.  The caravan of fire vehicles left from Lynbrook Fire Headquarters at 5 AM on that day and drove first to the Bethesda Hospital where 10 seriously injured soldiers were presented by Santa with a bag of gifts including an Ipad, at their bedside.  From there the firefighters set up a table at the Rehabilitation Building to give out more Christmas presents and clothing.   After that the firefighters traveled to the Springfield Volunteer Fire Department Community Center in Virginia where the firefighters held a Christmas luncheon for 22 soldiers, men and women, assigned to the Wounded Warrior Battalion at Fort Belvoir, and their families.  The soldiers and family members enjoyed a luncheon catered by a local Italian restaurant and paid for by NCFF-OWW.  The firefighters also got to see SGT Robert Scott of Lakeview and his mother Valence, both who have come to Lynbrook's wounded warrior concert over the past two years.  It was from Valence that firefighters learned about the Wounded Warrior Battalion at Fort Belvoir where Robert is still receiving rehabilitation for his war wounds.  After the luncheon, each of the soldiers and their children got to sit with Santa Claus and receive a gift bag of Christmas presents.  The firefighters brought specific presents after LFD's coordinator for this trip, Lynne  Donnelly of our Ladies Auxiliary, spoke to each wounded warrior on the phone and learned what their children wanted for Christmas.  Each wounded soldier also received an Ipad, case and earphones.   After the luncheon the firefighters proceeded to the Wounded Warrior Battalion Headquarters on Fort Belvoir to greet the Commanding Officer and present him with additional Christmas presents for more of the wounded.  The Commanding Officer, LTC John Litchfield, was also presented with one of Lynbrook's T-shirts as well as a NCFF-OWW plaque while the WWB coordinator, Sean Keller, was also presented with a plaque for making all the arrangements for the firefighters.  This year the LFD's newest Chaplain, Pastor Robert Walderman of the Lynbrook Baptist Church, made the trip to Bethesda and Fort Belvoir with the firefighters.  The Baptist Church has been instrumental in assisting to raise funds for NCFF-OWW. 

Besides the gifts given to the wounded, there were over 500 Christmas cards signed and drawn by elementary school children that were also given to the soldiers throughout the day.  One Belvoir soldier read a Christmas greeting written by a West End student to everyone at the luncheon.  That soldier is going to send a greeting back to that child.

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