AL ASAD, Iraq -- Many service members deployed to a combat zone receive wounds and injuries that require medical attention from Al Asad Surgical. Unfortunately, the doctors and nurses are forced to cut the uniforms off of these injured men and women, thereby causing them to lose one of their very limited pieces of clothing. One man wanted to help.
Larry Murray, a video storage wide area network technician with DataPath Inc., wanted to ensure that the service members who are tended to are comfortable and are not left with nothing to wear.
"One evening I went to the base theater to catch a movie and there were a couple of Marines sitting in front of me," said Murray. "It was obvious that they had suffered combat wounds. One was on crutches the other was limping along painfully. During the National Anthem, these two wounded troops struggled to stand at attention when they easily could have just sat there. It dawned on me that I should go by the local hospital to see if they needed anything."
The next day Murray and a co-worker, John Whitney, visited the hospital and stopped by the nurse's station. There they learned when wounded troops are brought in, their uniforms are usually cut off of them.
"These injured men and women were coming in and losing the only piece of clothing they had with them," said Murray, who is also a technical sergeant for the Georgia Air National Guard. "The hospital was in immediate need of clothing supplies. (Whitney) and I also noticed there was a large television but no DVD player."
According to Murray, he and Whitney went to the post exchange to purchase clothing to stock the near empty shelves at the hospital.
"We purchased shirts and clothes to help hold the hospital over until there was a more permanent solution," said Murray. "(Whitney) spent over $150 out of his pocket that day just on movies. He also bought a lot of clothes for the service members, too."
According to Whitney, knowing that service members needed help touched him and made him want to donate.
"(Murray's) story of the Marines in the base theater made me realize that I had not done enough to help out," said Whitney, a satellite engineer assigned to 4th Infantry Division, Camp Liberty, Iraq. "These Marines are young. A lot of them are far from home for the first time. They are here willingly, risking their lives to help out. If this is not a worthy cause, then what is?"
Murray then contacted friends and family in the United States and asked them for assistance. He also asked his guard unit to help in stocking the shelves at Al Asad Surgical.
"We heard about the demand through Lee Carson, one of our commercial sales managers, who is in the Georgia Air National Guard with Larry Murray," said Stephanie Plumecocq, advertising manager for Glock, a pistol manufacturer. "After (Carson) approached our vice presidents with the idea to donate, I received an e-mail saying to do whatever is necessary to help out and to send whatever they need."
Glock donated T-shirts and coffee mugs to make the service members here more comfortable. They also paid to mail 12 large boxes filled with items collected from the employees of Glock and their families.
Murray did not just look to high-end businesses for assistance. He also called some of his friends.
"(Murray) began to send requests and pleas to support our forward deployed troops and the base hospital at Al Asad," said John M. Cowart, treasurer for U.S. Military Veterans Motorcycle Club, Atlanta Chapter. "We were all compelled to help. We are all prior service, so we know how hard it is being away from everything and being injured on top of it. We had to help."
Other organizations were just as enthusiastic to donate to the cause. According to Susan A. Parris, operations manager for Pine State Mortgage Corporation, the people in the United States are happy to assist deployed service members in any way possible.
"America loves all of our service members," said Parris, Troop Drive coordinator for U.S. Veterans Motorcycle Club, Atlanta Chapter. "They are our grandfathers, grandmothers, fathers, mothers, husbands, wives, brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, nephews, and cousins. They all make up our family; our America."
Murray was able to get many different companies and organizations together to help fulfill the needs of Al Asad Surgical. Organizations like Woodstock Middle School, Boy Scout troops, motorcycle dealerships and motorcycle bars donated something to assist the service members deployed to the Al Anbar Province. The items received also varied. Wounded service members received books, clothing, home baked goods, hygiene gear, stuffed animals, movies, and other snacks and supplies.
Minutes before traveling home after a 12-month tour with DataPath, Murray said, "I'm not sure how many people I have helped, but if it made one wounded person smile for a minute and let them know that they are appreciated, it was certainly worth the efforts of all the people back home."