News: Wounded warriors treated to a barbecue hosted by the US Army Corps of Engineers
Story by Karla Marshall
KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan – Since early 2011, volunteers from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Afghanistan Engineer District-South have looked for ways to support the wounded warriors who are recovering at Kandahar Airfield.
The latest occasion, spearheaded by USACE civilian Adam Walker, and held April 5, was a traditional, American-style barbecue complete with grilled steak, chicken, hamburgers and hot dogs.
“I wanted to provide an event for the wounded soldiers that felt as if they were at a cookout back in the United States,” said Walker. “The barbecue was a way to create a laid back, relaxing atmosphere that could help the soldiers forget about the challenges facing them in Afghanistan.”
The event would not have been possible without the interest and support of many other district volunteers. Walker organized most of the logistics, but the true work was on the day of the event, he said. “Master Sgt. Elizabeth Blackburn (the district’s logistics noncommissioned officer in charge) took care of the food order and we had about 20 volunteers help with various tasks from set up and cooking to clean up.”
Just like at home, music flooded the compound and picnic tables were covered with festive tablecloths which created the “feel of being in someone’s backyard,” said Blackburn. “The Afghanistan Engineer District-South is full of generous people who feel strongly about supporting the U.S. forces they see here every day. Giving the wounded warriors a taste of home is a way to demonstrate that support,” she said.
“The Air Force was a big help in loaning us the grill trailer and corn hole game,” said Walker. Corn hole is a back yard game which involves bean bag tosses, similar to horseshoes, he explained.
In addition to corn hole, attendees played board games and cards as they got to know each other.
“The barbecue was great,” said Sgt. Sabrina Howard, a native of Kansas City, Mo., and assigned to the Warrior Recovery Center. “There was good food, great music, entertainment and a lot of fun. It was nice to get away from our daily routine and meet the USACE employees,” she said.
What was not typical for backyard cookouts were door prizes for the Wounded Warriors. “In addition to a slice of home, I wanted to leave the wounded warriors with tokens of our appreciation and gratitude for their service,” said Walker.
The volunteers decided that door prizes, including an MP3 player, souvenir blankets, coffee mugs and gift cards would be appropriate so they donated items or money to purchase the gifts.
Still, Walker and the district volunteers have plans for the future. “Although I will be redeploying in June and the district closing in July, I ordered PT uniforms for the wounded warriors to ensure USACE has an enduring impact after most personnel have returned home,” he said.
As part of a planned draw-down and transition, the Afghanistan Engineer District-South will become an area office in mid-July. As a result, the number of personnel will decrease significantly.
“I have no doubt that someone within USACE will continue the support efforts when the district becomes an area office,” assured Walker. “If there is anything we can do to make a positive impact on the soldiers here, we ought to do it.”
Lt. Col. Stephen Bales, the district deputy commander, agreed. “The number of folks who volunteer their off-duty time to support the wounded warriors and give generously to their recovery says a lot about the character of the USACE workforce. Whether in the U.S. or deployed, they embody the ethos of giving, mentoring, and supporting soldiers and their communities.”