PICATINNY ARSENAL, N.J. - "It doesn't matter what you have at home if there is nobody there to enjoy it with you."
These were the words of one of Picatinny's new guardian angels. That angel came in the form of Amy Connolly, the corporate sales manager of both the Holiday Inn Select and Hampton Inn in Clinton.
Not only were these the words of Connolly, but also the words of her late grandfather, Robert H. Angus, an Army sergeant who served at Los Banos in the Philippines during World War II.
As a paratrooper with the 11th Airborne Division, Angus played a role during one of the largest prisoner-of-war extractions from the air and received awards as recognition of his efforts and wounds received during the war.
Connolly, along with human resource director Kate Lucas and other members of the supporting staff brainstormed, initiated and delivered "Project Round Up."
The project was launched Oct. 21 to help support service members of the New Jersey National Guard and Picatinny Arsenal who may be in financial need.
Customers who stay at the hotel are asked to voluntarily round up their final bill either by $1, $5 or $10.
Connolly and Lucas presented two checks - $496.20 from the Holiday Inn and $94.82 from the Hampton Inn - to Lt. Col. John P. Stack, Picatinny Arsenal Garrison commander, and Richard Eastman, New Jersey National Guard Family Readiness Group representative and liaison to the Civilian Aide to the Secretary of the Army.
"For the first 20 days of donations and only having one 'Ask me about Project Round Up,' banner in our lobby, we're very excited to be able to give you a total of $591.02," Connolly said as she presented one of the checks to Stack.
"We appreciate all that you are doing for our military families in the long haul because that's what this is. This is not a problem that is going to go away," Stack said. "Military families will continue to struggle because that's just the nature of the beast. But it's people like you and companies like yours that help make life a little easier for our Soldiers."
Connolly has a personal attachment to the project she said. But the attachment is not only because of the heroic efforts of her grandfather, it is also because she was a Navy spouse for four years, so, she said, she has first-hand experience and understands what some military families go through.
"Every little bit helps," said Tammy Mitchell, director of Army Community Service here.
"It's easier when you have two parents running back and forth, but when you only have one parent (because the other is deployed) things are not as easy. If the car breaks down or the utility bills get too high, it puts a strain on that parent."
Mitchell added that families have to make a couple of adjustments. "First, their Soldier or service member is not there, second is money."
Recipients may remain anonymous, however Stack offered to keep Connolly updated as to where the money will be spent or directed.
One recipient who came forward to thank the group is Sgt. Adriel Gonzalez, who was injured while fighting in Afghanistan in 2007.
Gonzalez, who hails from Elizabeth, is temporarily assigned to Picatinny and sometime next year will transition into the civilian workforce here at Picatinny.
Gonzalez, who because of his move to Picatinny is currently supporting two households, deeply appreciates the generosity of the hotel customers who donated money to provide lodging here he said. "Being separated (from family) is always an emotional and financial strain for any military family."
The funds for Gonzalez will be transferred to the Picatinny Unit Fund, which will transfer the money to recreational lodging to help pay for his stay here.