Washington, D.C., January 28 - "The fact that Jim Riggleman would take time out of his schedule 21 days before Spring Training and come to Ft. Belvoir, Virginia to pack bags for soldiers, sailors, air corpsmen and marines deploying around the world--says something about him as an American," stated Major General Karl Horst, Commander Joint Force Headquarters—National Capital Region—Military District of Washington. "It says something about him as a leader of The Nationals' organization and also the commitment from professional athletes and professional athletic organizations."
Major General Horst was standing inside The USO Warehouse located in Ft. Belvoir, Virginia, just south of the nation's capital. A "Stuffing Party" was well underway and Our Washington Nationals were participating. Day two of the 2010 Winter Caravan was making it's 5th stop in support of our Armed Forces. Principal Owners Mark & Judy Lerner were joined by Our Manager Jim Riggleman, MASN's Rob Dibble, Infielder Danny Espinosa, Pitchers Drew Storen & Ryan Speier, Screech, as well as, about dozen front office staff from NatsTown.
“Today, we are putting together deployment kits and care packages that will be going out to troops serving in Iraq & Afghanistan. And also, troops that are deploying out to Haiti," explained Ron Wise--Director, Operation USO Care Package. "To date, we have shipped out over 1.8 million care packages and the Nationals are here this day to thank the troops for our country and show support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom”.
For nearly two hours, Nationals Staff, USO Staff, Civilian Volunteers & Military Personnel formed a human assembly line to package 2025 Care Packages. Many to be given to troops deploying over the next few days and weeks. Others to be shipped to armed forces members already on the ground overseas. Three to four times per month this particular USO Warehouse is brimming with activity. Inside each care package are hygiene items, at least three or four snacks, an entertainment item, a message of support written by a volunteer and a pre-paid phone card so the troops can call back home. The care packages are produced to boost the moral and show the troops the American Public is standing behind them. And for many of the servicemen and women, this will be the only thing they receive when they deploy out.
“Anything you can do for the Armed Forces is great to be a part of. They do so much for us," believes Mark Lerner. "As you know, we try to do something with the military at every one of our home games. This is just another extension of that. I wish we could do more because you can never do enough for their sacrifices."
95% of all items included in the Care Packages are purchased by The USO thanks to generous cash contributions from donors throughout these United States & Territories. Additionally, The USO receives product donations from companies like Energizer, Gillette, Reader’s Digest, AT&T and Wrigley’s gum. But, any product donated must fit within the size limitations of the foot square packages.
Jim Riggleman: This one is unique. I am really glad to have the chance to be here today. I never knew how this stuff was organized. What a tremendous effort to be able to get these various items—that you and I take for granted—packed up and sent on their way so the troops can have some comforts. It’s not only impressive to see this in action, but it’s necessary and I am really happy to be able to be here today and participate."
Since becoming American GI's "Home Away From Home" during World War II, The USO has supported, entertained and boosted morale of armed forces members. Today, there are 140 centers worldwide. “Our role has never changed," said Mr. Wise. "We are still doing shows in Iraq & Afghanistan. We have entertainers lining up to go out and do shows. Our strong point is also when those troops are deploying out or coming back in, they don’t have any money. They need a place to shower, a place to sleep. That’s when we are there at the airports. We have centers in Baghdad and also in Afghanistan. We try to be in those places were they need us the most. Honestly, this effort can’t go away, not until everyone is home. That’s our mission—until the troops come home.”
That's why so many liked minded volunteers, including members from Our Washington Nationals were on hand at Ft. Belvoir this Wednesday afternoon giving their personal time in support for a worthy cause.
Major General Horst gets the final words: "The men and women soldiers, sailors, air corpsmen and marines deployed overseas ensure and protect our way of life. Baseball is our way of life too. There is a symbiotic relationship as I see it where these teams and these athletes are giving back to our nation as well. We are all called on to serve in a special way and this is how they (Our Washington Nationals) serve in support of our men and women in the armed forces.”
SIDE NOTES: USO TO GO
"I don’t think people realize sometimes how bad it is over there (in Afghanistan). It’s complicated, but with a lot of coordination and a lot of security we make sure we get out there too," explained Ron Wise. Many of America's deployed troops are stationed in very remote areas and that is where "USO TO GO" comes in. It's a re-fitted Entertainment Center that can be transported to the forward lines to help relieve stress out in the field of combat. No larger than 10' X 10' in size, "USO TO GO" is stocked with DVD movies, a flat-screen HDTV, three computer XBOX gaming centers, computers to access the internet and VOIP telephones for the servicemen and women can call home for free--thanks to it's remote satellite uplink capabilities. Three are currently in Afghanistan, two in Iraq and one in Africa. They are transported around based on need.
Finally, Major General Horst presented both Mark Lerner and Jim Riggleman with a very specially engraved Joint Force Headquarters--National Capital Region--Military District Of Washington Medallion: The Award Of Excellence during today's "Stuffing Party". "We give these to our service men and women and to special people that support us--for a job well done," said Major General Horst.
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