[Editor’s note: This story was submitted by Bill Walsh, Marco Island, a regular contributor to the Eagle with his biweekly column ‘On The Hook’ and Fishingcast, printed every Sunday, Wednesday and Friday in the Eagle. Edward Walsh is Bill’s nephew, Lori is his daughter and Louisa is his grandaughter.]
Devastating pain from the wound in his abdomen sent ribbons of searing ache through his body, as this young Marine corporal was lifted gently onto the cot aboard the evacuation C-17 Air Force Medivac plane at Balad Air Base in Iraq. His nurse, an Air Force captain, tended to him with an increased dosage of morphine to ease his pain while an attendant slipped an unusual small soft flannel pillow under his head to make him a little more comfortable. He managed a smile through the pain.
He, and dozens of other wounded warriors, are on their way to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Ramstein, Germany. They have a five and a half hour flight of mercy ahead of them
Thousands of miles and light years away from this scene of care and mercy, Girl Scout Troop 3473 is arriving for a special meeting at the library in Evanston, Illinois. They were about to attend a learning session conducted by Ms. Kathryn Eloff, of Cleveland Heights, Ohio, on the basic topic of sewing. Ms. Eloff, a grandmother of one of the girls, Mara Eloff, besides being an estate attorney, is a skilled seamstress who volunteers her skill to helping groups .like Troop 3473, master the operation of “The Singer” as well as handling good old needle and thread.
Their project, today is to make those special comfort pillows for the Wounded Warriors Organization. WWO provides a total support network for the combat wounded and are responsible for collecting and distributing those little pieces of homemade comfort to those wounded in battle, as they make their way home
The 200 ton C-17, on runway 32 at Balad is in final preparation of securing for takeoff. At the controls is Major Edward L. Walsh, ANG, a member of the Mississippi Air National Guard who has been flying these special missions since 2005 both from Balad to Ramstein and the more coveted one from Ramstein to Andrews AFB.
Edward makes one final walk through the medical hold, making reassuring comment to the valiant warrior passengers on their way home. He straps in, makes his intentions known to the tower, and launches the big bird into the Middle Eastern skies headed north.
Struggling with her needle and thread is a 11 year old, first year Girl Scout, Louisa Edwards of Evanston, IL. Trying to get the soft stuffing in the 12x8” pillows without lumps and getting the stitches straight is the problem; but Louisa preserves and her pillow comes out great.
Louisa is proud of her work and so is Edward as he levels off at 32,000 ft . Little does either know what the other is doing; but that will change shortly.
As the sewing class in Evanston progresses, Louisa’s mother, Dr Lori Walsh, arrives to help. Everyone is viewing an excellent CNN video clip done in August 2010 that shows the whole Medivac operation. Lori is stunned and blurts “That’s Edward’s plane!”
Major Edward L. Walsh, the pilot, is Lori and Louisa’s cousin!
A torrent of emails follow between Lori and Edward as they arrange to have Edward deliver their gifts to the Wounded Warrior affiliates at Ramstein on a subsequent downrange mission.
Today, Louisa and the other 16 girls in Troop 3473 will ship 17 comfort pillows along with some boxes of Girl Scout Cookies, and a personal note of thanks to our wounded warriors with the hope that Troop 3473’s small effort will in some way thank those who pay for our American freedom.
Today, Edward will make a soft landing and roll out at Ramstein with the C-17 and be there at the ramp as his special cargo heads to it’s final destination.
Both cousins, in their own way, put an oak leaf cluster on America’s conflict in the Middle East in the effort to preserve our way of life.
God Bless America!