It was another memorable trip to California for iWarriors this past March. This year the nonprofit was represented by Tim and Kim Bartz of Mold Craft, Inc. (Willernie, MN), their children Heather and Hunter, Robbie and Karen Earnhardt of Superior Tooling (Wake Forest, NC), Chris Norman of Erowa Technologies (Arlington Heights, IL) and Scott Smith of Sales Pro, Inc. (Rochester, NY) and his wife Julie.
This year iWarriors supported 2 Battalions from the Fifth Marines based at Camp Pendleton, CA. The 1/5 deployed last spring to southern Afghanistan and was relieved by the 2/4 in the fall of 2011. The turnover of command from the 2/4 to the 2/5 happened in early March. The last of the 2/4 returned to Camp Pendleton in early April. All are infantry Battalions.
Through the generous support of 37 AMBA members and partners, iWarriors surpassed the $30,000 goal. Kim Bartz says, “It was great to have such support from these members and partners. Some shops, such as Creative Blow Mold Tooling in (Lee’s Summit, MO) went so far as to match their employees donations on top of the iWarriors $600 challenge last Fall. We will definitely add that idea to the 2012-13 campaign.” With the donations iWarriors was able to purchase ipads, earbuds, itunes gift cards, and carrying cases for 35 Marines.
Day one of the trip was spent at Balboa Naval Hospital in San Diego where the group was greeted by 14 Wounded Warriors and hospital staff. Most of the Marines at the hospital are outpatient amputees. They received their wounds from IED explosions. Tim Bartz spoke to the Marines and explained how iWarriors came to be, about the AMBA and how the donations were raised.
After a presentation of gifts to each of the Marines present, the remaining time was spent talking to the Marines about their wounds, their treatment and rehabilitation, followed by photos, hugs and handshakes. The group was then escorted to meet with two additional inpatient Marines who were presented with gifts as well.
Karen sums it up by expressing how concerned she was about handling her emotions when meeting the young men. “I found my emotions surfaced mostly when I was overcome with pride. Not only pride in the Wounded Warriors, but in their officers, facilities, and hospital staff. “ Robbie adds, “To look a young man in the eyes who has lost his legs or experienced other injuries and see a smile on his face from a small token of our appreciation is just heart stopping and a very emotional experience.”
Day 2 was spent at Camp Pendleton located one hour north of San Diego. There the group was greeted by more Marines and their officers. They were honored to have Corporal Turner’s wife and Mrs. Carla Hogan on hand for the ceremony.
Carla is the mother of fallen 1/5 Lance Corporal Donald Hogan who at the age of 20 sacrificed his life to save the lives of his fellow Marines. The Hogan family had recently been presented the Navy Cross, which is the highest honor given in the Corps. for heroic actions.
The presentation of gifts was made to eight wounded members of the 2/4, all who had received gunshot wounds. Following the ceremony the group was invited to dine with the wounded Marines in the Chow Hall.
Chris recalls the selflessness these young men possess, “In every conversation I had with these boys they never put themselves first. No matter how injured they were the number one thing I heard was how they want to be back with their unit. I look at these guys and see their life-changing injuries and think how I would be affected, and I am in awe of their courage and dedication.”
After lunch and goodbyes to our Marines, the group was treated to a base tour by Gny Sgt. Hanson. The first thing noticed upon entering the base is how large it is. It is similar in size to the state of Rhode Island. The first stop was at the newly dedicated Lcpl.Donald Hogan Barracks that housees more than 1,000 Marines, several of whom are wounded and now have handicap-equipped quarters.
Next the group drove by the air field where a C-5 sat waiting to take off. The next stop was at the Mechanized Museum where they got a chance to sit in Humvees, tanks, etc. Gny. Hanson drove them to a part of the base where portions of the movie Heartbreak Ridge was filmed, and pointed out another area where segments of The Biggest Loser are taped.
Everyone felt very fortunate to have made the trip to meet and present the ipads to our Wounded Warriors. It is an experience that is hard to explain other than to say it is an honor and a life-changing experience.
The plan is to make the trip again next year and hope others will join. A big thank you is extended to everyone who donated this past year.
The founders urge you to visit iWarriors.org where you can view more photos, learn more about iWarriors.org and The Fifth Marines. You can also follow them on Facebook for updates on fundraising, stories and photos of the Marines we support.