News: Reach out and touch someone
Story by Staff Sgt. Matthew Winstead
JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- Paratroopers deploying with the 4th Brigade Combat Team will have an easier time calling back home to their loved ones thanks to a gift donation from members of the Military Order of The Purple Heart and the Office of Veteran Affairs.
The two organizations presented a generous donation of 3,800 cell phone cards to Command Sgt. Maj. Terry D. Gardner, the command sergeant major for 4-25, in the offices of the U.S. Army Alaska Commanding General and USARAK Command Sergeant Major.
The phone cards will allow every paratrooper in the brigade to have the opportunity to immediately call home and let their loved ones know that they have arrives safely when they depart for Afghanistan beginning next month.
"These cards will allow our deploying soldiers to make at least one charge free call home to their parents, spouses and families once we get boots on the ground in Afghanistan," said Gardner. "That's a tremendous burden lifted. It really makes a difference."
Gardner accepted the cards from the National Jr. Vice Commander of the Military Order of The Purple Heart, Ron Siebels. In attendance with him was Jim Leva, the Sergeant at Arms for the Military Order of The Purple Heart. Verdie Bowen Sr., the director for the Office of Veteran Affairs, and Mercedes Angerman, both assisted with the donation and presentation to Gardner.
Paratroopers assigned to the 4-25th Brigade are currently projected for a 12 month deployment to Afghanistan.
"We are very proud to be able to assist, in any way that we can, our brave men and women of the armed forces," said Siebels.
The Military Order of The Purple Heart is comprised of former members of the armed forces who were wounded in combat and have met the criteria to be awarded the distinguished Purple Heart Medal. Drawing on their own experience and history of military involvement, a donation that provides the gift of communication back home to friends and family seemed like the best move.
"We've all been where these young soldiers are now at some point in our lives and I can't tell you how nice it would have been to have something like this back when we were in uniform," said Siebels who served during the Vietnam era.
The donated cards will be issued to the paratroopers within the 4-25th prior to their departure and help reinforce the message that people back home still love and support them.