Tuesday, January 6, 2009

NCR and US Park Police Personnel and Volunteers assist with Walter Reed Army Medical Center Holiday Party

by Officer Barbara M. Blendy; Pamela White, HOOFS Volunteer; and Polly Angelakis, Regional Volunteer Coordinator

Evergreen trees, store front snow, decorations, elves, colored lights, stockings and donated presents galore for the children, Santa and Mrs. Claus, smiling faces – this was the festive atmosphere at the Old Red Cross Building during the December 13 Holiday Party for family members and recuperating heroes living at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

Along with National Capital Region and U.S. Park Police (USPP) personnel, volunteers from National Mall & Memorial Parks and Chesapeake & Ohio Canal NHP, and USPP Horse Mounted Patrol Volunteers from HOOFS (Helping Out Our Friends in Stalls) assisted medical center staff and Operation Homefront organizers by wrapping presents, preparing gift bags, decorating, and doing whatever else was needed to make the party a success. A special donation from the USPP Lodge, FOP (Labor Committee) included hundreds of toddler-sized cuddly stuffed Christmas dogs and gift bags for the children. Numerous local and national businesses also donated gifts for the party.

Over 500 soldiers and their families attended the party. After feasting on American, German, and Mexican food, guests received a surprise visit from comedians Adam Sandler and Rob Scheider, who visited with the heroes and signed autographs.

The National Capital Region, U.S. Park Police, Walter Reed Army Medical Center, and the Veterans Administration have partnered together in several programs designed to assist returning heroes. Operation War Fighter places soldiers in temporary jobs while they recuperate at the medical center, and Operation Homefront provides assistance to troops and their families. These programs have furthered NPS involvement with heroes and their families, as well as underscored the stated values of the US Park Police, to serve with integrity and honor. Most recently, US Park Police have partnered with the Rock Creek Park Horse Center and Guest Services, Inc. to provide a therapeutic riding program for veterans. Additional events are planned for 2009.

Photo courtesy of Operation Homefront showing comedian Rob Schneider with Linda Rasnake, Walter Reed's coordinator for the holiday party as well as military wife/resident at Walter Reed.