By Master Sgt. Gary L. Qualls, Jr./82nd Abn. Div. PAOFebruary 19, 2010
WASHINGTON D.C. - Leaders and supporters of the 82nd Airborne Division braved a record-setting snowstorm to put on a pre-Super Bowl party for its wounded warriors Feb. 6 at Walter Reed Army Medical Center near the nation's capital.
The blizzard dumped more than 75 centimeters of snow in the mid-Atlantic region, knocking out power to hundreds of thousands of people and causing at least two deaths, according to a NewJerseyNewsroom.com report. Airports were closed and rail service disrupted. States of emergency were declared across the region.
"I'm just thrilled the party went on as planned in spite of the weather," said Wesley Bauguess, Wounded Warrior Committee Chairperson. The weather was a concern as Bauguess and others prepared for the party, but Bauguess said she heard the words 'We're 82nd Airborne Division and we don't quit.' "I kept hearing that and I said to myself, 'we are going to have this party!'"
At the party, the Wounded Warrior Committee members and Army officers served up barbecue beef and chicken sandwiches with all the trimmings, including beverages chilled by the plentiful snow from outdoors. Piedmont Cheerwine managers Will Moss and Wade McGee, whose company provided the beverages for the event, also managed their way through the blizzard to be on hand for the event.
A brief speech by the event's officer in charge, Capt. William Wood, thanked the wounded warriors for their service and sacrifice and acknowledged the support of those involved in planning and preparing for the Super Bowl party kicked off the formal portion of the event.
Awards were then presented to Sgt. 1st Class Albert Comfort, the division's liaison with its wounded warriors, to Moss and McGee and to Bauguess. Plaques of appreciation were also given out to all the division's wounded warriors. Gifts and momentos bearing the 82nd Airborne insignia were passed out to the wounded warriors throughout the party.
The real emotional punch of the party wasn't delivered, however, until the All-American Chorus performed. The chorus got some wounded warriors' toes tapping and heads swaying with popular numbers such as "Sweet Home Alabama" and "Rockin' Robin," which was sung by Michael Jackson. The chorus also sang "God Bless America," "God Bless the USA" and the "82nd Airborne Song." Some wounded warriors were visibly affected by these songs.
"Anytime you sing Lee Greenwood ("God Bless the USA") it's kind of tough," said Staff Sgt. Rafael Delgado, a friend of the 82nd's at Walter Reed, explaining the same song was played when he redeployed from Iraq in 2007 bringing back poignant memories.
Delgado said he was truly gratified the division put on the party for him and his comrades despite the weather.
"It makes me proud to be around the division guys, especially when you think no one's going to show up. It's awesome," said Delgado.
"This is exactly what they needed, something to take their minds away from what they're currently going through," said Maj. Brian Strider, a former 1st Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment intelligence officer and 313th Military Intelligence Company commander.
"Most of the time, these paratroopers are alone. When the division comes, they feel a part of the division again," said Maj. Scott Russell, who supported 4th Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division in Afghanistan and says he will only wear the 82nd Abn. Div. combat patch.
"These paratroopers face some real struggles. It helps them to know the division is never going to leave them," Russell said.
"When a Soldier undergoes a life altering event like this, sometimes they feel like they're not paratroopers anymore," said Comfort. "They realize they may not ever jump again. They feel like they left their friends behind. They feel guilty. When the division comes up here, they feel like they're still a part of the Family."
The wounded warriors are typically in the hospital for up to two years and undergo 50 to 70 surgeries, Wood said.
"It's amazing to see the resilience of our wounded warriors," said Bauguess, whose committee visits them monthly.
The Super Bowl Party was "a great collective effort" among the Wounded Warrior Committee, the division leadership and paratroopers involved in preparing for the event, the division's liaisons at Walter Reed and numerous organizations.
Donations were gathered from various organizations, and the North Carolina USO had planned a visit from some Carolina Panther cheerleaders, but their flight was cancelled because of the weather. They still have their plane tickets, however, and said they plan to come later in the year. The Washington Redskin cheerleaders planned to visit but were also thwarted by the weather.
"The most important thing is that our wounded warriors know they are not forgotten and are still a part of the airborne Family," Wood said.