By Ms. Jennifer Walsh (Army Medicine)March 18, 2011
VILSECK, Germany - The holiday season may be over, but the spirit of giving is still alive at the Warrior Transition Unit in Vilseck.
Volunteers consisting of Wounded Warriors, staff and spouses loaded up a bus with donations and spent the afternoon with children from the DD Plana Orphanage in Plana, Czech Republic, March 4.
"The children we met at the orphanage came from various disadvantaged backgrounds," said Capt. Marcelle Pasion, WTU nurse case manager who coordinated the trip. "We saw this as an opportunity for everyone who participated to experience social, emotional and physical growth with the various activities we shared with them."
This was especially true for the warriors.
"Many times they (warriors) get so bottled up with their healing there's a lot of outside things that can affect them," Pasion said. "By taking them out of that environment it helps them relax, to know everything is OK and to enjoy everything with the children."
According to Pasion, the WTU collected donations for a couple of months and what started out as three or four small boxes turned into huge boxes of donations for the kids whose ages range from 3 to 24.
"There are about 27 children there and they love everything from sports to Bath and Body Works to hip-hop to make-up," Pasion said. We got tremendous donations and I want to thank the people who gave...everybody gave something."
Donations included: clothes, shoes, toys, school supplies, sports equipment and even an electronic keyboard.
"I donated a keyboard because there are two kids that play piano," said Sgt. 1st Class Brett McHaney, WTU platoon sergeant. "It actually shows you the keys. The keys light up for the song you want to play."
There was a language barrier, but everyone found a way to communicate through the art of playing. Some helped the smaller children create works of art and others relied on the universal language of sports.
"They didn't know how to play basketball because they play a lot of soccer," McHaney said. "So we showed them what to do."
Although the day was about giving back, McHaney said he thinks the warriors also gained something from the trip.
"I think that with Wounded Warriors, things are always given. We give our time, we give our attention and I think it's good that they're learning how to do that back," he said. "This was an opportunity for them to give back and see how it affects the people who are receiving."
Capt. Ryan Putnam, the WTU commander, couldn't agree more.
"I think it's important for the warriors to keep engaged in service as they heal and transition because this is what our institution is about," Putnam said. "We are warriors, but we are also guardians of freedom who serve to maintain peace and we do this in a number of ways - primarily through community involvement and active participation in the lives of others who may be in need."
Overall, Pasion said the trip was a success and they were humbled by the children.
"It was unexpected to see the meaning of joy seen in their smiles, the appreciation of each child and the numerous hugs some of us received when we left," she said. "It was a wonderful experience and most of us would like to return."