To donate to the Angels of Mercy
Please make checks payable to American Legion Auxiliary Unit 270/Put
"For OIF/OEF" on the note line, and mail to:
Angels of Mercy Program
American Legion Auxiliary Unit 270
PO Box 3310
McLean, VA 22102.
For more information, contact Marian Chirichella by email at
Auxiliary270var@aol.com or by phone at 703.938.8930.
To learn more about the Angels of Mercy program, go to
Photo by Donna Manz/The
Marian Chirichella and
Jay Edwards dedicate their lives to their Angels of Mercy program.
residents Marian Chirichella and her husband, Jay Edwards, walked into Walter
Reed Army Medical Center in 2003 as Red Cross volunteers, they did not imagine
the new direction their lives were about to take. They saw that the Walter Reed
medical staff was committed to the physical needs of injured soldiers, but there
was little emotional and material support available to the wounded and their
families during recovery.
From this realization grew an award-winning program of giving and sharing of
time and goods, Angels of Mercy, its arms stretching across the country and into
Iraq and Afganistan. It began with Chirichella, president of the American Legion
Auxiliary Unit 270 of McLean, in 2003, who joined with Edwards, a retired naval
officer, to provide a supplemental service to wounded troops under care at
"We constantly have our ears to the ground, identifying current needs and
projected needs," said Chirichella. "We visit with the wounded every Wednesday
at Walter Reed hospital, talking with the soldiers, asking each if theres
anything we can bring or do. We attend to the needs at Fisher Houses as well ...
stocking refrigerators, picking up diapers for the babies of the affected
families, doing whatever we can to make their stay at Walter Reed more
The Angels of Mercy program has garnered local and national praise, winning Paul
Newmans "Newmans Own" national award as the best program in the nation
"Supporting Active Duty Military and Their Families," in 2004. The organization
was honored again by "Newmans Own" in 2005 and 2006 as one of the top volunteer programs in this field. The recognition from the award and the
publicity generated by the efforts of the Angels of Mercy have resulted in
thousands of dollars in contributions that advance the mission of the program,
which is to support the nations wounded soldiers and their families.
"THE AVERAGE AGE of the wounded here is 23 years old," said Edwards, commander
of American Legion Post 270 of McLean. "Some have young wives and children. It
brings out a lot of pride to see these young people who put their lives on the
line and how they deal with their injuries.
"Marian and I retired to work eight days a week, and its so rewarding. Weve
contributed clothing, CDs, videos, reading matter, snacks ... we listen if they
want to talk, we track down requested things. In 2004, we turned our attention
to the needs of the families staying at Fisher Houses, as well. The response
from the public has been incredible."
This May, Edwards was awarded the 2007 Fairfax County Service Award for
Community Leadership, and Chirichella, Fairfax Countys Senior Volunteer award
The Angels of Mercy program is based out of the American Legion Post 270 of
McLean, and its members, as well as those of the Auxiliary, wrap hundreds of
packages and gifts for distribution at Walter Reed and beyond. Angels in Iraq,
launched in 2005, ships requested goods to Combat Support Hospitals and remote
military locations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Responding to the long-term needs of discharged military, Edwards and
Chirichella created the No Soldier Left in Need project, working closely with
the Department of Defense.
Tuesdays are spent at Costco where Edwards buys food and dry goods;
meanwhile. Chirichella is tracking down special requests from the recovering
military and their families. Wednesday
morning, Edwards and Chirichella drop off their purchases at Fisher Houses
before heading off to their day at Walter Reeds medical center, visiting with
Edwards and Chirichella have made contact with more than 5,000 patients at
Walter Reed since they began volunteering there four years ago, and they have
stayed in touch with some of the patients since they left the hospital.
"Its a human thing," said Edwards, "learning what they need emotionally and
materially. The reunions between wounded and family are very emotional. We dont
let ourselves be brought-down; what we see would never stop us from going on.
"Its gratifying to know youre helping, to see the results of what you do."
EDWARDS BROUGHT out this years most sought-after football jersey, the Ward 57
T-shirt. Ward 57 is home to the wars amputees, recovering at Walter Reed, and
Edwards, impressed by their enduring spirit, thought they deserved to be a
fraternal "football" team.
"Its the people themselves at Walter Reed that drive us," said Chirichella.
"The more people we meet here, the more help we want to give. To see the
strength and commitment of the wounded and their families, to feel we have an
impact on their recovery, energizes us."
"Marian has so much vitality and is so organized," said fellow Auxiliary member
Garnette Dupont. "She really got the Angels of Mercy program off the ground. She
and Jay devote so much time and effort to it; its wonderful the way they
promoted this program. They have brought a great amount of very positive
attention to the post. They deserve all the recognition they get."
When soldiers at Walter Reed told Edwards and Chirichella that children in Iraq
needed clothes, it spurred the two to action, said Dupont. They organized a
childrens clothing drive and bags and bags of childrens clothes were shipped
to Iraq shortly thereafter.
The Legion and Auxiliary of Post 270 sponsor programs for school students and
are developing means to communicate these programs more effectively to the
public. Post 270 sponsors high school students to (Virginia) Boys State and
Girls State every year. The oratorical competition offers monetary prizes, with
the local winner advancing to the next level. At the Post 270 facility, the
members work in cooperation with both McLean High School and Langley High School
in a program for learning-disabled students, teaching them appropriate job
RIGHT NOW, Edwards, Chirichella, Post 270 and its Auxiliary have planned a
Memorial Day commemoration to be presented at McLean High School on Monday, May
28, at 12:30 p.m. A bagpiper from the school will play Amazing Grace and a
bugler, Taps. The Posts World War II veterans will be singled out and honored,
and outgoing delegate and Post 270 member Vince Callahan will deliver his
customary "In Flanders Fields."
"I cant say enough about the good things Marian and Jay do," said Rita
Christopher, vice president of the Auxiliary. "They really look into the needs
of the wounded and their families. At Christmastime, they bring gifts and
arrange for a chorus to sing Christmas songs. The people at Walter Reed are so
grateful for what they do. Its unbelievable.
"Marian and Jay love what theyre doing. They truly are angels of mercy."
WASHINGTON, Aug. 25,
2004 After accepting the first place 2004 Newman's Own Award during
ceremonies in the Pentagon's Hall of Heroes on Aug. 24, Marian T.
Chirichella told the audience that she considers the award "a tribute to
all the volunteer organizations who have supported our active duty
Marian Chirichella, who won first place in the Newman's Own
Awards competition along with her husband, Jay Edwards, said the
"Angels of Mercy" program at American Legion Post 270 in McLean,
Va., would continue as long as there are wounded or injured
servicemembers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. Her comments
came during the awards presentation ceremony in the Pentagon's
Hall of Heroes on Aug. 24. Photo by Rudi Williams
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution
The program, "Angels of Mercy," garnered the top grant of $10,000 in
this year's competition. "Angels" is sponsored by American Legion
Auxiliary Unit 270 in McLean, Va., and was launched in November by
Chirichella and her husband, Jay Edwards, auxiliary member and
legionnaire, respectively. It's geared toward improving the quality of
life of wounded and injured combatants from Iraq and Afghanistan and
Chirichella said she and her husband were inspired to do something to
help servicemembers returning from the battlefields and their families
after being told combat casualties coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan
had few, if any, personal belongings returning with them.
"To confirm, we paid a visit to the Red Cross station manager at
Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington and learned that our young
heroes were in need of civilian clothing and personal comfort items,"
said the mother of three daughters.
"Wanting to serve the military whose lives will be forever changed,
Jay and I became Red Cross-trained and medically approved volunteers,"
Chirichella said. "We go bedside one day a week, delivering items from
the Red Cross cart.
"But more importantly," she continued, "we're the face of America and
express the gratitude all Americans feel for what these brave young men
and women have given up for you and for me. Our wounded epitomize the
adage 'freedom is not free!'"
The couple visits 40 to 50 patients and 25 to 30 family members every
week at the medical center, the on-campus Mologne House Hotel and the
three nearby Fisher Houses. They estimate that they've helped more than
500 wounded or injured servicemembers at the hospital, or through
special events like the Christmas brunch and Super Bowl party.
When they visit the hospital wards, Chirichella and Edwards pass out
such items as exercise shorts, pocket T-shirts, boxer shorts, tear-away
pants, wheelchair and weight-lifting gloves, ankle-high socks and
season-specific items. They also pass out things like phone cards,
compact disc players, popular CDs, hand- held games, portable radios,
disposable cameras and electric razors.
Every week, Chirichella shops for food and personally cooks meals for
the wounded and injured servicemembers' families living at the Fisher
Houses at Walter Reed.
While at the Fisher Houses, the couple go to the wives and families
and take special requests for items that will enhance the quality of
life of the families as they support their wounded or injured loved
Chirichella, the American Legion Department of Virginia Auxiliary
Member of the Year, will represent Virginia at the National American
Legion and Auxiliary convention in Nashville, Tenn., in late August.
She said over the past nine months, she and her husband have found
that as soon community members find out about the plight of returning
combat casualties, they want to help. For example, Angels of Mercy
receives assistance from private citizens, service organizations, and
church groups. Local chambers of commerce, Boy and Girl Scouts, and
Sunday school classes also contribute, she said.
"An article in a New York newspaper spurred two very successful
campaigns --- a motorcycle group conducted a ride for the soldiers and a
unified American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars and service
organizations held a rally for the troops," Chirichella noted. "They
received donations of clothing, games, electronic equipment, personal
items and financial support still coming in from those endeavors."
Angels of Mercy received nationwide support after Edwards launched an
e-mail campaign alerting American Legion posts and auxiliary units
across the country to the needs of wounded and injured combat veterans
at Walter Reed and the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md.
Chirichella said Legion posts and auxiliary units in 23 states across
the country "from Alaska to Florida and California to New Hampshire"
have provided supported.
"Requests to distribute unique items have arrived at our door like
teddy bears from California and comfort pillows from Oregon," she said.
"And from a very special group unable to make a tangible donation the
troops continuously receive their fervent prayers.
"We're always on the lookout for other ways to provide comfort to our
young heroes who make Walter Reed and the Naval Medical Center their
home away from home for the many months it takes to rehabilitate and
prepare for their return to military or civilian life," Chirichella
She emphasized that the program will continue as long as wounded and
injured servicemembers from Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring
Freedom sand their families need support.
chairman of the Fisher House Foundation, left, chats with first-place
winners in the Newman's Own Award competition, Marian Chirichella and
her husband, Jay Edwards, of American Legion Post 270 of McLean, Va.,
during an awards ceremony Aug. 24 in the Pentagon. The couple founded
the award-winning program, "Angels of Mercy," to support wounded
servicemembers who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as their
families. Photo by Rudi Williams
Rookie volunteers Jay Edwards and Marian Chirichella walked into Ward 57
of Walter Reed Army Medical Center in 2003 expecting assignments like
"passing out socks." But what they saw inside the Army amputee ward changed
their lives. "A young girl was sitting with her father, rubbing what was
left of his legs and saying, 'He's still my Daddy,'" recalls Edwards.
The couple were so struck by the paucity of services for vets and their
families that they quit their day jobs (as a computer consultant and market
researcher, respectively) and launched their own crusade. Now, they deliver
groceries weekly and provide clothing and comfort items to wounded soldiers.
During past wars, more American families had someone in the service. Now,
there are fewer young men and women in uniform, and the burden of wounded
troops rests on fewer shoulders. Add to the Iraq legacy the aging veterans
from past wars, and the need becomes acute.
What to do? You can help in myriad ways. The Fisher House
Foundation builds homes--35 around the world so far--for wounded veterans.
Groups like the USO and the Coalition to Salute America's Heroes organize
entertainment events and provide monetary and housing assistance to military
families. And there are countless community groups; in some cases, local
newspaper notices solicit helping hands.
"All kinds of donations are welcome; anyone can now donate their unused
frequent flier miles to military families, who regularly incur debts
traveling to see loved ones," says Jim Weiskopf, a spokesman for the Fisher
Traditional groups like the Veterans of Foreign Wars help soldiers still
in the field, donating VCRs and DVD players and distributing phone cards to
veterans' families. Disabled American Veterans has some 10,000 volunteers
driving elderly veterans to their medical appointments. If you want to help
veterans, Edward Hartman of Disabled American Veterans suggests contacting
your local Veterans Administration facility.
And not just over the holidays.
"These guys are wounded all year long," says Jay Edwards. "Make sure that
you are giving whenever you can."
2nd Lt. Steve Wood gives Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice one of
Ward 57s T-shirts of morale.
Note: Angels of Mercy Program donated these T-shirts to Ward
Thursday, January 11, 2007 By Matt Mientka Stripe staff writer
NB: Stripe is Walter Reed Army Medical Center's internal
Known as one of Walter Reeds finest, Ward 57 continues to garner a
reputation for excellence in orthopaedics not only here but in the
civilian medical community.
The prestige of working for the Armys topnotch orthopaedics unit
motivated 2nd Lt. Steve Wood, a former submariner and scuba diver with the
Navy, to leave his civilian nursing job downtown here to enlist in the
Though Wood considered rejoining the Navy, the Army effectively
guaranteed him a spot working in the National Capital Region with
patients returning from battle in Iraq and Afghanistan.
When I first took the job, I thought there was a real possibility
that it would be a down job, that it could be very depressing seeing these
guys, Wood told Stripe this week. But the main reason I come to work in
the morning is to work with these patients and their spirits are so
Surprised by relatively high morale among troops returning stateside
with shattered bones, missing limbs and other injuries, Wood brainstormed
with former colleague 1st Lt. Kevin Jones about how staff members might
otherwise match that morale.
Leaving a Washington Redskins game at FedEx Field last fall, they
decided to brand Ward 57 with football-style T-shirts for patients and
The T-shirts soon became a hit as troops wore them to physical therapy
and Wood posed with the shirts with visiting VIPs such as Secretaries of
Defense and State, Robert Gates and Condoleezza Rice.
However pedestrian, the T-shirts represent a real bond between staff
members and patients, servicemembers and civilians on Ward 57. Composed
with an equal mix of troops and civilians, Walter Reed draws from the
extensive experience of civilian nurses and technicians but benefits also
in a different way from its Army care providers.
On the military end, Soldiers caring for Soldiers, theres a certain
bond there that is extremely therapeutic because we can put ourselves in
their place and I think thats very helpful for these men and women, Wood
Yet, the entire staff is topnotch, Wood said. We really work as a
team with these Soldiers back from Iraq and Afghanistan.
Though known previously for excellence, Ward 57 became more important
to Army medicine following 9⁄ll and the outbreak of war, when the Army
transferred the unit into its amputee center. At any time, the unit serves
a couple of dozen patients, 95 percent of whom have recently returned from
battle often with shattering, life-changing injuries.
Surprised by the high morale of injured patients and those who work
with them, Wood takes any opportunity to talk orthopaedics and to push the
T-shirts, which are given to patients but are also available to others for
$10. The T-shirts, subsidized by a corporate gift, represent just one
gesture the civilian community has made to support the troops at Walter
Reed, he said.
WASHINGTON, Aug. 16, 2005 When the founders of "Angels of Mercy"
heard that wounded, injured and sick servicemembers being treated in
combat support hospitals in Iraq needed health and comfort items, they
created "Angels in Iraq." They sprang into action and launched a
nationwide American Legion campaign to let legionnaires and auxiliary
members know how they could help America's heroes.
Jay Edwards and his wife, Marian Chirichella, talk about their
efforts to provide health and comfort items to patients in
combat support hospitals in Iraq. Photo by Rudi Williams
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution
The "angels," Jay Edwards and his wife, Marian Chirichella, founded
the "Angels of Mercy" program in October 2003 in response to an American
Red Cross appeal for help in supporting combat casualties from Iraq and
Afghanistan at Walter Reed Army Medical Center here. Angels of Mercy has
been supporting wounded troops at Walter Reed ever since.
The angels are sponsored by American Legion Auxiliary Unit 270 and
American Legion Post 270 of McLean, Va. Edwards is the first vice
commander of Post 270. Chirichella is president of Auxiliary Unit 270
and chair of the chapter's veterans affairs and rehabilitation
When they heard of troops in need in combat support hospitals in
Baghdad and Fallujah, Iraq, Edwards and Chirichella sent e-mail messages
to these facilities asking for a "wish list" of health and comfort items
the hospitals needed for their patients. Meanwhile, they contacted state
Legion commanders in all 50 states to alert them to the wounded
combatants' needs, and Angels in Iraq was born.
The couple is now working to garner assistance from Legion commanders
in the U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Guam, France, Mexico and the
Philippines. They also hope to help patients at other combat hospitals
in Iraq and those in Afghanistan and Kuwait.
"The response has been terrific from several states," Edwards said.
Edwards also said he wants to help spread the word about DoD's
"America Supports You" program, which highlights how Americans support
the troops. He said he was struck by an ASY e-mail quoting Army Gen.
John P. Abizaid, the top commander of U.S. troops in the Middle East,
that said soldiers are questioning whether or not they have the support
of the American people.
In a June 25 appearance before the U.S. Senate Armed Services
Committee, Abizaid said, "I can tell you that when my soldiers ... ask
me the question whether or not they've got support from the American
people, ... that worries me. And they're starting to do that."
Edwards noted that he and his wife have been volunteering at Walter
Reed Army Medical Center since the fall of 2003. He estimated they've
hugged and shaken hands with more than 2,000 wounded or injured troops
and over twice that many family members and friends. "For two years now
... we've been telling ... wounded and injured men and women at Walter
Reed that the country does support them," he said. "And we have a lot of
examples of what people have done through our program to help them out."
In response to the couple's initial e-mail solicitation, 2nd Lt.
Michael J. Pruden of the 86th Combat Support Hospital in Baghdad said
items casualties are short of include everything from bath towels to
flip-flops, and shorts and T-shirts to magazines and back scratchers for
patients wearing casts and unable to reach an itch.
After Edwards and Chirichella sent boxes of the items he requested,
Pruden wrote back: "We received your packages yesterday. Thanks again
for supporting our troops. The posters (American Supports You) and the
games are definitely a plus. Shorts and towels are always in demand and
we appreciate everything you all have done. Please spread our thanks to
all the members of the American Legion."
"We hope that every serviceman and woman knows that America Supports
You isn't just a catchy slogan -- it's the feeling of our entire
country!" Edwards and Chirichella responded. "While we continue to
debate the war, we don't debate about our military. ... You're held in
the highest esteem, ... and we're proud of you!"
Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Elizabeth Christiansen, of the 332nd Air
Expeditionary Wing Expeditionary Medical Group in Fallujah, told the
couple her facility is "in constant need of hygiene and clothing items."
"Because of the urgency of our patients' condition, they usually
arrive here without these necessities," she wrote. "When our rotation
arrived here at the beginning of May, the supplies seemed adequate.
However, they have rapidly dwindled, are almost gone, and we're not sure
where to find replenishments."
Christiansen sent a "wish list" of health and comfort items for
patients, including baby wipes, deodorant, female sanitary items, soap
and body wash, sweat pants, t-shirts, socks, sports bras, towels and
washcloths. She has since received more than 50 boxes of supplies
provided by American Legion posts and auxiliaries across the nation.
"We shared the wish list so that people know what the needs are,"
Chirichella noted. "With 1,000 patients a month in one hospital, I don't
think you can get too many people donating things. If you have
duplication, it doesn't much matter because these are all consumable
She added that the combat medical facilities are also looking for
things like pillow cases, bed sheets, clothing items for women, board
games, and snacks -- fruit and nut bars, etc.
By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service
August 24, 2004
WASHINGTON, Aug. 24, 2004 Sixteen volunteer organizations
operating on military installations took home between $1,000 and $10,000
today for presenting an "innovative plan to improve the quality of life
for their military community" in the fifth annual Newman's Own Awards
Award-winning actor and World War II Navy veteran Paul Newman's
company, Newman's Own Inc., is the "perfect recycler it earns
money and gives it back," said Tom Indoe, the company's chief
operating officer. His comment came during a ceremony in the
Pentagon's Hall of Heroes honoring 16 volunteer organizations
with the Newman's Own Award on Aug. 24. Photo by Rudi Williams
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution
The award was developed to increase awareness of the many private
organizations throughout the Defense Department and their volunteers who
distinguish themselves through service in their local communities,
according to David A. Coker, executive director of Fisher House.
"The award is sponsored by Newman's Own Inc., Fisher House Foundation
Inc., and the Military Times Media Group," said Coker, who served as
master of ceremonies for the event in the Pentagon's Hall of Heroes.
"These three organizations issued a challenge to all private
organizations serving our military communities: Present an innovative
plan to improve the quality of life for your military community and
receive funding to carry out that plan."
The event was hosted by Charles S. Abell, principal deputy
undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, who assisted in
presenting the $50,000 in grants to the winning organizations.
Abell emphasized that this marks the fifth year the three
organizations have partnered to make the Newman's Own Award possible.
"In the five years, they've donated $225,000 in grants ranging from
$1,000 to $10,000, and 40 separate organizations have received these
grants," Abell said.
In addition to the 16 award recipients, the ceremony honored all the
private organizations that support the quality of life of military
communities and military personnel and their families.
"All of our installations are better because these organizations are
out there," Abell said. "This competition recognizes the talent and
innovation so many deserving people and organizations bring to our
Abell told the audience that the Newman's Own competition works like
the Olympics "There are those who get the gold, but those who don't
aren't losers -- they're also participants."
"Each of the organizations recognized here today are committed to our
servicemen and women and their families, and that's who the real
beneficiaries are," Abell noted. "And that's really what this is all
about. As long as we all keep focused on that, I think we're in the
"Newman's Own funding makes this award possible," said Dave Smith,
vice president for marketing and business development for the Military
Times Media Group, publisher of Army Times, Navy Times, Air Force Times
and Marine Corps Times commercial newspapers.
Smith noted that all 64 entries were outstanding, "but this is the
best of the best. These are private grassroots organizations coming
together to address the need and to make lives better for our
servicemembers and their families. There's no more worthy or laudable
goal or mission."
The "Newman" in Newman's Own is actor Paul Newman, who uses the
company to sell pasta sauces, salad dressings and other products to
support worthwhile causes. "It's funny being around Paul, who is 79
years old and is like a wisdom man," said Tom Indoe, chief operating
officer of Newman's Own. "He often talks about how circular life is.
It's really true when you think about Newman's Own. We sell these
products and make profit, and then Paul gives the money back to the
community needy and worthwhile causes.
"We're the perfect recycler," Indoe continued. "We earn the money,
and we give it back. Since the company was founded, Paul has given over
$150 million to different charities and organizations throughout the
country and the world."
He pointed out that Newman takes all the profits from the sale of his
products in military commissaries and exchanges and gives them to
organizations that better the life of the military community.
"So here we are today to honor 16 organizations that do that," Indoe
said. "What amazes me when dealing with charitable organizations are the
volunteers, whether it's the Habitat for Humanity or camps that deal
with kids who struggling with life-threatening diseases. The volunteer
folks are there. Without these volunteers and their dedication, these
organization couldn't exist," he said.
"You must be the change you wish to see in the world," Indoe quoted
from Mahatma Gandhi, then adding his own words: "And these volunteers do
change the world they make it a better place."
Kenneth Fisher, chairman of the Fisher House Foundation, thanked the
Defense Commissary Agency for its commitment to military families
through the military children scholarship program.
He then told the surgeons general of each service that the quality of
care their medical centers have provided to those wounded or injured in
Operation Iraqi Freedom "has been nothing short of world class."
To the 16 Newman's Own Award recipients, Fisher said, "Your effort to
improve the military community is what we honor today. This year's
competition was a little different. We asked family readiness groups and
key volunteers to participate given the unique roles they've worked hard
"We received submissions from 11 groups," he continued. "While none
of them were chosen as a recipient for a Newman's Own award, Fisher
House would like to recognize their efforts by providing each one of
them a $500 grant in support of their units."
The first place $10,000 recipient was "Angels of Mercy," sponsored by
the American Legion Auxiliary Unit 270 of McLean, Va. The Angels program
supports wounded and injured Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation
Enduring Freedom servicemembers and their families. Auxiliary members
visit patients at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in nearby Washington,
D.C., at least once a week, bringing them clothing and comfort items,
providing home cooked meal to families and hosting special events.
Receiving $5,000 grants was "Camp Flashhh," a free program for
children with special needs and their families at Camp Pendleton,
Calif.; and the "Lindsay Project," sponsored by the Washington PAVE --
Parents Advocating for Vocational Education -- at Fort Lewis, Wash.
Garnering $4,000 were:
"Operation Interdependence," a Fallbrook, Calif.,
nonprofit organization that streamlines the delivery of packages to
deployed service members;
"Handy Man Hotline Materials," a part of the
Connecticut National Guard Family Program that reduces stressors on
families of deployed Guardsmen by having everyday household problems
diagnosed and repaired or referred to competent businesses at no cost
for the labor;
"USA Cares," a Radcliff, Ky., nonprofit organization
that works to complement an overburdened network of both information
and financial support to servicemen and women and their families while
protecting the privacy and dignity of the individual; and
"Camp Wonderland," sponsored by the Missouri
National Guard Wonderland Foundation, a single one-week camp session
for 95 special- needs campers.
"Operation Gratitude," a California National Guard-affiliated
nonprofit, all- volunteer organization that sends care packages and
letters of support to service members deployed overseas received a
Four programs run by three organizations received $2,000 grants:
"Glory Boots" and "Pay It Forward," both programs of
the Mothers of Military Support of the 81st Armor Brigade, Fort Lewis,
"United Through Reading," a program sponsored by the
Family Literacy Foundation of San Diego, Calif., that facilitates
supportive relationships for children through families and friends
reading aloud to them; and
"Adoptaplatoon," a Kingston, N.H., nonprofit
organization that promotes morale-lifting mail, care packages and
other support measures to deployed servicemen and women through
"platoon moms" and thousands of volunteers.
Five programs received $1,000 grants:
"Operation Hero," a program of the San Diego Armed
Services YMCA, a free eight-week after-school enrichment program for
children of armed services personnel to help them succeed in school
and to help them develop self-esteem through counseling from trained
social workers and individualized homework assistance;
"Family Support Center School Supplies," a program
of the Mount Hood, Ore., chapter of the Daughters of the American
Revolution that works with the children of the activated members of
the 939th Air Refueling Wing and 304th Rescue Squadron based at
"Missoula Children's Theater" is the nation's
largest children's theater program, and the sponsoring organization,
the William T. Sampson Elementary School Parent Teachers Organization
from the Naval Station, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba;
"Cannon Enlisted Spouses Club," a group of enlisted
spouses who share common Air Force bonds like deployments and family
separation and adjusting to new places to live, promote fellowship and
serve as a resource for others at Cannon Air Force Base;
"Andrews Home Educators," a nonprofit support group
made up of home school families -- 80 families with 192 children --
who are affiliated with Andrews Air Force Base, Md.
In addition to the monetary awards, the judges selected three
organizations for honorable mention: "Cadet for a Day," sponsored by
volunteers from the 34th Operations Support Squadron, Air Force Academy,
Colo.; "Road Dawg Support," sponsored by the Family Readiness Group of
the 846th Transportation Company, a North Carolina Army Reserve unit;
"Looking In, Reaching Out," USA Girl Scouts Overseas Pacific.
left, chats with Charles S. Abell, principal deputy undersecretary of
defense for personnel and readiness, after they assisted in presenting
Newman's Own Awards to 16 volunteer organizations during ceremonies in
the Pentagon's Hall of Heroes on Aug. 24. Fisher is chairman of the
Fisher House Foundation, which has built 32 houses on the grounds of
every major military medical center and several Veterans Affairs Medical
Centers. Photo by Rudi Williams
of Mercy,' Others Descend With Super Bowl Party
Williams / American Forces Press Service
Marian Chirichella and her husband, Jay Edwards, pose
with the three large sheet cakes their organization,
Angels of Mercy, provided for the Super Bowl XXXIX party
for servicemembers being treated at Walter Reed Army
Medical Center's Mologne House hotel in Washington Feb.
6. The couple launched Angels of Mercy under the
sponsorship of American Legion Post 270 Auxiliary Unit
in McLean, Va., in November 2003. Chirichella is the
auxiliary president; Edwards is vice commander of Post
270. Photo by Rudi Williams
WASHINGTON, Feb. 7, 2005 - The
full-house audience sat transfixed by former Beatle Paul
McCartney, belting out the song "Get Back" on the large
television screen showing the Super Bowl XXXIX halftime
This is a helluva party, isn't it?" one partygoer asked aloud.
"Sure is," another responded, popping his fingers to the beat of
These "party animals" were wounded servicemembers from the
battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan and their families at the
Mologne House hotel on the campus of Walter Reed Army Medical
Center here Feb. 6.
More than 150 wounded patients and their families gathered to
watch the New England Patriots edge the Philadelphia Eagles
24-21 to win their third Super Bowl in four years.
Jay Edwards and Marian Chirichella, founders of the Auxiliary
Unit's "Angels of Mercy" program at American Legion Post 270 in
McLean, Va., came up with this year's party idea, according to
Peter Anderson, Mologne House general manager. Co-sponsors were
the Wounded Warriors Project, Fairfax (Va.) Harley Owner's
Group, United Service Organizations and the National Football
Anderson said there was plenty of food, and door prizes included
DVD and CD players, and lots of NFL and Harley-Davidson
memorabilia. All servicemembers got an NFL cap, T-shirt and a
copy of the program sold at the game. Partygoers also received
Wounded Warrior T-shirts and a goodie bag from the American
Legion Auxiliary. The Angels of Mercy also provided three large
sheet cakes decorated with Patriots, Eagles and Super Bowl XXXIX
written on them.
Six NFL headquarters representatives also traveled from New
York. "We came down here to celebrate the Super Bowl with our
soldiers," said Betsy Murphy, NFL benefits coordinator. She said
they had visited some patients at the party earlier in the day
on their wards.
"It's an honor and privilege to be here on behalf of the
commissioner (Paul Tagliabue) and the National Football League.
We support these guys; we commend them and their families for
their courage and strength," she said. "They truly are America's
"Typically, we come for bike shows and have a picnic to get the
wounded servicemembers out of the Mologne House," said Larry
Larson of the local Harley owner's group. "It was easy for them
to stay in the rooms (today), so we thought that bringing the
bikes here would encourage them to come out of their rooms.
"We're just appreciative of our country and guys and gals in the
military," Larson noted. "I don't think all of us as citizens
really appreciate what these men and women do for us. They're
the most patriotic people we've ever met. It has been a
tremendous experience for us.
"They're saying 'thank you' to us as we're going out the door,
and we're the ones saying we couldn't possibility thank them
enough," he pointed out.
"There's a great kinship and strong feelings between the members
that are veterans coming here and spending time with the
soldiers," Larson continued, pointing out that many of the biker
group's members are military veterans. "Everybody has his or her
own personal reasons for coming. But all of us go away
absolutely committed to the soldiers and our country and really
appreciative of everything they do for us."
Legionnaire Jay Edwards said, "The main thing we do is to let
them know that their country supports them."
One combat-wounded partygoer was Army Pfc. Paul Skarinka, 25,
hit by a rocket- propelled grenade in Iraq on Sept. 13 while
serving with Company C, 2nd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 1st
Cavalry Division. He arrived at Walter Reed on Sept. 20.
He called the Super Bowl party "a great thing."
"I love to see this kind of support," he said. "It's a great
feeling to know that people out there have our backs and haven't
forgotten about us. That's the biggest thing."
His father, Peter Skarinka, who spent four years in the Air
Force during the Vietnam War, said the support his son is
receiving at Walter Reed is "wonderful."
"People have been great, not only for the Super Bowl, but
throughout Paul's hospitalization," said the former Air Force
Army Sgt. John Keith, Jr., 37, was hit in Iraq while serving as
a medic with the 1st Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 1st
Cavalry Division, on Nov. 9. The Humvee he was riding in was hit
by a rocket-propelled grenade. He arrived at Walter Reed on Nov.
"It's really nice that they put this Super Bowl party together
for us," said Keith, a Patriots fan. "We really feel very
blessed that we have people that are willing to give their time
to help us."
Marian Chirichella and her husband, Jay Edwards, pose with
the three large sheet cakes their organization, Angels of
Mercy, provided for the Super Bowl XXXIX party for
servicemembers being treated at Walter Reed Army Medical
Center's Mologne House hotel in Washington Feb. 6. The
couple launched Angels of Mercy under the sponsorship of
American Legion Post 270 Auxiliary Unit in McLean, Va., in
November 2003. Chirichella is the auxiliary president;
Edwards is vice commander of Post 270. Photo by Rudi
Download high res image
AmericaSupportsYou.mil is an
official U.S. Department of Defense website.
Rita Christopher spent hours
putting together holiday gift boxes at the McLean American Legion Post 270 for
soldiers she doesn't know. Her husband is a veteran, so she knows the importance
of supporting the troops during wartime. She also knows that next month her son,
a surgeon, will be heading off to Iraq.
Post 270 members have been thinking about Christmas for months now. They haven't
been dreaming of the gifts theyUd like to receive, but rather what tokens of
comfort they can offer to injured soldiers this holiday season. Marian Chirichella spearheaded Post 270's effort to fill and wrap 150 gift boxes
for injured soldiers recovering at Walter Reed hospital. She and a dozen
volunteers, including Christopher, gathered at the post this week to create and
wrap presents that will be given to the soldiers at a Christmas morning brunch.
Items included in the boxes range from disposable cameras and journals to candy
and small hand-held games.
Chirichella and her husband have become intimately aware of what this new
generation of veterans needs during their numerous weekly visits to the military
hospital. "We go bedside and talk to the soldiers each week to see what their
needs are. It's ongoing, adapting to their needs," said Chirichella.
"It's a whole collection of things we know the kids consume," said Chirichella.
"The phone cards allow them to stay in contact with their friends and family.
That connection keeps morale up and enhances their healing."
"WE ARE DOING THIS for the troops so they will have a happy Christmas," said
Christopher. Volunteer Betty Quinn said, "Our husbands are veterans. The
American Legion wants to show its support for the new veterans. We have the
mechanism to support them collectively."
Next on Chirichella's Christmas list is collecting a small cache of toys to be
given out to the children of the soldiers convalescing at Walter Reed. "We're
doing gifts for the children that stay here while their mom or dad is here.
There are even more kids that come visit on Christmas, and we want them to have
something that day," said Chirichella.
In the next few days, she will be getting a detailed list that will rival
Santa's, giving her information about each child so that a fitting gift can be
collected. "If it's a 6-month-old, say, we will get something from Fisher
Price," said Chirichella.
Members of Post 270 have generously donated the items to be boxed up and cash to
help purchase some additional items. Officials at the Post are hoping this
holiday season members of the community will step up and help in their effort by
donating toys for the children of the men and women who have fought in Iraq and
"It's a nice way of saying the entire community cares about you," said
Chirichella about the holiday gifts. "It's nice to know that America supports
you. This demonstrates that."
As Quinn filled box after box with goodies, she said, "I can't think of anything
more important than helping the wounded new veterans or their families."
It's an effort that the Post makes throughout the year, not just during the
holidays. Through the Angels of Mercy program, gifts and creature comforts are
given to returning veterans throughout the year. The soldiers recovering at
Walter Reed often stay there for months. Once their condition is stabilized,
they are moved out of the hospital ward and into dormitories within walking
distance of rehabilitation and medical services.
Chirichella recently gave out coats and scarves to soldiers who were walking in
the cold and rain from their dorms to physical therapy at the hospital. "Angels
of Mercy is year-round. That provides clothing and personal items for the
soldiers. We also bring clothing and groceries to the families of the soldiers
staying at Fisher House [on the Walter Reed campus]. We bring things to as many
different niches of where the soldiers are to provide comfort." said
One soldier recently contacted her from Iraq after hearing about Angels of
Mercy. As a reservist stationed overseas, he wanted to make sure that his
corporation back home donated to that organization because the gift would be
used around the year to benefit those serving in the military.
To arrange to donate toys for the children of injured soldiers or to make a
monetary donation; contact Marian Chirichella at 703-938-3572 or via e-mail at
The Home Front Comes to Life
America supports the
troops--privately, and online.
BY DANIEL HENNINGER Friday, November 26, 2004 12:01 a.m. EST
At last for the troops fighting the war on terror, there is a home front.
There are no victory gardens on this home front, no Rosie the Riveter. It's
on the Web.
When this column appeared
last Friday--praising the high quality of the modern American soldier
and knocking the government for not rallying the home front--an official
called from the Defense Department to draw attention to precisely such an
effort. Better late than never.
The Defense Department has created a space on its Web site called "America
Supports You." But once you click onto this link, you notice that the
government itself isn't behind the creation of this home front. The DoD Web
site collects in one place a partial listing of groups that have sprung to
life all over the country to help the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.
During the past year, I've chastised the government for not giving the
American people some official way to show support for the troops. I see now
that this was a wholly misguided thought. Support for the U.S. soldiers
fighting the war on terror is coming together in a traditional American
way--as spontaneous, private, voluntary pro-soldier groups of like-minded
citizens. This is the real American home front in the war on terror. It
properly has little to do with Homeland Security, Defense, the White House
or any other part of the government.
The groups have names like Adopt a Platoon, Homes for Our Troops,
Soldiers Angels, Operation Mom and Operation Gratitude. The larger,
traditional organizations are also there--the VFW, the American Legion and
the USO. The Intrepid Museum Foundation, which runs the famous battleship
site in Manhattan, has a strong program called the Fallen Heroes Fund.
of the Web sites have put up snapshots and letters home from the troops,
bringing the group's members "closer" than what is available elsewhere to
the young soldiers and the triumphs, goals and fears of daily life in this
war. The USO site has photos up of a visit last week to the troops in Kuwait
from actors James Gandolfini and Tony Sirico of "The Sopranos." Good goin'.
This is the first home front of self-organized citizen support we've had
for men and women under arms since World War II (the troops in Vietnam had
its direct opposite). This one is different. During the War, Hollywood
filmmakers made movies and shorts to sustain morale during war, something
disallowed now by Hollywood's deep antipathy toward this war's supporters.
As to journalism, the Ernie Pyle style of war reporting is dead, replaced by
something closer to World War I's "All Quiet on the Western Front." But
around the Web, one can find remarkable accounts of traditional valor and
pride in mission, often written by soldiers--a kind of American samizdat,
the underground literature of the old Soviet Union.
It's better that home-front support for the troops should come bottom-up
like this rather than from the government. Many in the U.S. are still having
difficulty coming to grips with the nature of the war on terror or are
discomfited by the war in Iraq. World War II was fought on many well-known
fronts and without each bad day or explosion elevated to top-news status
(with today's electronic world, we'd have never made it to 1944). Now we
have a volunteer home front for a volunteer army.
Kept in the private sphere, separated from any formal alliance with the
government, people who consider themselves part of the home front, no matter
who they voted for Nov. 2, are free to act by their own lights, with their
own money and for their own reasons. Finding a pro-soldiers group one wants
to support doesn't require passing muster before some Madame Defarge at a
blue-state dinner party. This August, Newman's Own, whose charities aren't
normally associated with military matters, partnered with the Fisher House
Foundation to give grants to volunteer military-support groups. The biggest
recipient was Angels of Mercy, which helps soldiers badly wounded in Iraq or
Afghanistan and who are now at Walter Reed Hospital.
To divert just a moment from the war, this is a good time of year to
consider the nature of charity and outreach in the U.S. This country's
social fabric might have been better integrated than it is today if more of
the war on poverty had been left to voluntary associations, such as the
Salvation Army, the bright beacon of the holiday season. Public politics is
a necessity, but it's also a killer. Fought for 30 years, the war on poverty
stalled, failed and forced passage of welfare reform to clean up the mess.
President Bush's faith-based initiatives is an admirable recognition of
voluntary power, but one wonders if it too will break under the weight of
The Iraq war itself hasn't been immune. Many of its manifest problems are
due to the complex bureaucracies (like the ones that were in charge of
prewar intelligence) that created chokepoints rather than pathways to good
decision-making in Iraq after we arrived there in March 2003.
This isn't intended as a simple rant against our fatso government, though
we do damage to the targets of our good intentions if we refuse to recognize
government's lumbering ineffectualities. The government can organize men and
women to fight well, but it appears no longer able to organize the American
people to support the fighters. Now we have this largely private support
network that is reaching critical mass on the Web--without fanfare, with
little official support. Sounds like a coalition of the willing.
Mr. Henninger is deputy editor of The Wall Street Journal's editorial
page. His column appears Fridays in the Journal and on OpinionJournal.com.
Angels Spread Christmas Cheer
Volunteers wrap hundreds of presents for
Angels of Mercy Christmas program.
By Aranya Tomseth
November 29, 2006
Cash donations are needed for the
"Angels of Mercy" Program and will be used to purchase needed
supplies for U.S. troops. Send donations to: American Legion
Auxiliary Unit 270, P.O. Box 5447, McLean, VA 22102. For more
information please visit the American Legion Post 270 Web site at
Photo by Aranya Tomseth/The
Husband and wife team Jay
Edwards and Marian Chirichella co-founded the Angels of Mercy
program three years ago, and have been sending presents to U.S.
troops every Christmas.
Last Monday, Jay Edwards and Marian
Chirichella allotted four hours for their annual Angels of Mercy Gift-Wrapping
Extravaganza but the couple was blown away when all of the presents were
wrapped, and all the stockings stuffed, in just two short hours.
"I can't believe it," said Chirichella, president of the American Legion
Auxiliary Unit 270 in McLean, and co-founder of the Angels of Mercy program. "We
had 35 people show up some people from the McLean community, some women from
the Woman's Club of McLean, and some people from the Legion. It was wonderful."
Chirichella and her husband Jay Edwards who is commander of American Legion
Post 270 in McLean founded the Angels of Mercy program in 2003, after
volunteering with the American Red Cross and visiting wounded soldiers at Walter
Reed Army Medical Center. The couple was shocked to discover that American
soldiers were receiving little support, and they decided to use their expertise
and community connections to do what they could to help.
The two set to work, giving speeches in the community, collecting donations and
securing press coverage. The response was overwhelming, and the Angels of Mercy
program has continued to send food, clothing and supplies to U.S. troops in the
Middle East for the last three years.
In addition, the Angels of Mercy program has included an annual Christmas
project in which hundreds of presents are purchased and personally distributed
to recovering military and their families unable to make it home for the
holidays, to men, women and children recovering in the wards at Walter Reed, and
to the attendees of the Christmas Day brunch at Walter Reed. The program also
sends hundred of other presents to patients and staff at Combat Support
Hospitals in Afghanistan and Iraq, and to U.S. military supporting America's OIF/OEF
from Kuwait and Qatar at Forward Operating Base Q-West.
CHIRICHELLA AND EDWARDS personally choose and purchase the Christmas gifts, and
then ask the community for help with the wrapping, packing and shipping. On the
morning of Monday, Nov. 27, volunteers gathered at American Legion Post 270 in
McLean and quickly wrapped more than 200 presents, and stuffed more than 200
"We sent all games to Iraq, plus we did some special things to bring them a
little piece of home," said Chirichella. "So we sent them gingerbread houses
that they can make, and we included decorative American flags ... we tried to
give them shared items as well as the personal stuff."
Chirichella said she and her husband acquired most of this year's presents in
two days of intense power shopping. She added that Angels of Mercy receives
donations all year long, some of which are used for the Christmas project.
McLean resident Lucy Chatelain joined the American Legion Auxiliary Unit 270
four years ago, and has been a volunteer at all three of the Angels of Mercy
"I hope to God that we don't have to do it again next year ... although we say
that every year," said Chatelain.
She said she enjoys wrapping the presents because it makes her feel good to do
something for America's troops.
"The sense of camaraderie is great fun, but it also gives you a wonderful
feeling today I accomplished something," she said.
Chatelain's friend Jim Mikesell is not part of the military, but volunteered at
both last year's wrapping party and this year's.
"I think it's just a very nice thing to do, and I think what the Legion does
here is great, so if I can be a small part of it I'm more than willing to pitch
in," said Mikesell, who lives in McLean.
BOTH Chirichella and Edwards were thrilled with the high volunteer turnout.
"It was nice to have a true cross-cut of the community," said Chirichella. "It
was nice for the whole community to say 'yeah we do care, and yeah we want to
help,' and I think that people really enjoyed it. It has become a real social
Edwards said some of the wrapping volunteers also offered to help with other
"On Christmas morning I go over and serve brunch and pass out 120 games to
families at Walter Reed and it's a big job for one person, but I had two
families volunteer to help me this year," said Edwards.
After the first of the year, the Angels of Mercy program will continue to send
clothes and supplies to various U.S. military posts in the Middle East.
"One of these remote locations is very large and they have a lot of needs, so
we're going to be supporting them throughout the year," said Chirichella.
Honoring an Angel
Marian Chirichella is recognized by
for her support of U.S. soldiers in Iraq. By Aranya
The Connection Newspapers
April 19, 2006
Chirichella, fifth in from the right, was one of 15
organization leaders honored by the President and
never thought she would see the inside of the Oval Office, even
after the White House called to inform her that President George
W. Bush and his wife Laura Bush wanted to meet with her.
"We were told that it would be in the Lincoln Room, but while we
were waiting they came and said, 'no we have a bigger surprise
for you, you are going to be meeting with the President in the
Oval Office,'" said Chirichella, President of the American
Legion Auxiliary Unit 270 in McLean. "It was just like being in
your friend's living room it was that congenial and that
friendly, and yet you knew it was the President and Mrs. Bush."
On March 10, the President and Mrs. Bush invited the leaders of
15 organizations that have worked to support the country's
active military and their families to the White House and
officially thanked them for their efforts. Chirichella was one
of those 15 leaders, as a result of her work with the Angels of
Mercy program. She and her husband, Legionnaire Jay Edwards, formed the Angels
of Mercy program after visiting wounded soldiers at Walter Reed
Army Medical Center in 2003 and seeing how little support was
available. The Angels of Mercy program seeks to raise awareness
of the needs of the wounded military and to garner community
support for them while improving their quality of life.
Chirichella and Edwards volunteer at Walter Reed once a week.
They visit with patients, bring them civilian clothing and
personal comfort items, provide them with food staples and home
cooked meals, and host special events such as Super Bowl
parties, baby showers and children's birthday parties.
"We have become the face of America at Walter Reed, expressing
the gratitude all Americans feel for what these brave young men
and women have given our country," said Chirichella.
The Angels of Mercy program has also run a holiday gift-giving
effort for the last three years. More than 1,000 holiday gifts
were purchased, wrapped and personally delivered to recovering
soldiers and their children.
Chirichella said that President Bush and Laura Bush met with her
and the other group founders for a full hour in the Oval Office.
"He was extremely friendly and so was Mrs. Bush," said
Chirichella. "He shared some of this thoughts with us... and it
was just magnificent. I can't describe the emotion tied to it. I
came home and I was just exhausted."
Chirichella said that President Bush commended the group for
taking it upon themselves to help.
"He said 'you all didn't wait to be asked to help, you
identified a need and jumped in and met it,'" said Chirichella.
After the meeting with the President, members of the 15 groups
held a roundtable meeting to brainstorm ideas. Allison Barber,
Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs,
expressed her thanks to those present. Barber created the
Department of Defense "America Supports You" program, which
includes Angels of Mercy.
"You guys are the heart and soul of America Supports You," said
Barber. "You've been supporting the troops long before there was
ever an America Supports You program. We're humbled by your
Dorothy Bigger, a friend of Chirichella and Edwards, and the
former president of American Legion Auxiliary Unit 270 in
McLean, said she was pleased that Chirichella's efforts were
"She is an angel of mercy," said Bigger. "That's what she's
called by all the men at Walter Reed, and it's not just there.
It just comes out of her in everything she does. You can tell
when you talk to her what a gentle person she is, and I think
for the President to recognize what she has done is remarkable."
Betty Quinn and
Anna Carrera wrap puzzles for American soldiers in
n a remote stretch of
Iraq's western desert, near the Syrian-Iraq border, there is a
primitive camp called Korean Village. Over 1000 U.S. military
troops are at this camp right now, helping to run checkpoints
and carry out border patrol. For them, the upcoming holidays
hold little cheer.
"I said, wow, we've got to help these guys because they are
really on the front lines," said Jay Edwards, first vice
commander of the American Legion Post 270 of McLean. "We have
got to give them a Christmas."
Edwards and his wife Marian Chirichella, president of American
Legion Auxiliary Unit 270, are in the process of doing just
that. It all started in the fall of 2003. The husband and wife
team founded "Angels of Mercy," a program to support American
troops that had been wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan. Sponsored
by American Legion Auxiliary Unit 270 and American Legion Post
270 of McLean, the program raises money to buy supplies and
necessities for troops recovering at Walter Reed Army Medical
Center and at several hospitals in Iraq.
"The more lives we can touch, the more we feel our program is
achieving its goal," said Chirichella. "We have a saying here
that if we can bring a smile to the face of a wounded soldier at
Walter Reed, then we've done a lot that day."
The program started out as a small local effort, but with the
aid of a little publicity it quickly gained momentum.
"The Angels of Mercy program was identified as the top volunteer
program in the nation in 2004 to help active-duty military and
their families," said Chirichella. "It threw the program into
As word of mouth spread, more donations came in. According to
Chirichella, the program has received contributions from 40
states, as well as from international sources.
"The more money we have to work with the more we can do that's
why we've grown so much," said Edwards.
THIS UNEXPECTED GROWTH HELPED to spawn two spin-off programs
"No Soldiers Left in Need," and the Angels of Mercy Christmas
gift mailing. "No Soldiers Left in Need" was created to assist
with the long-term needs of wounded American troops and their
"There was some concern about wounded soldiers who have returned
to civilian life," said Edwards. "But with that program we just
respond to requests we're not pro-active like we are with
However, when they got the idea to send Christmas gifts to Iraq,
Edwards and Chirichella became about as pro-active as two people
can get. Edwards was first inspired when he made contact with a
U.S. Marine colonel in Iraq six months ago.
"He had told me about the needs of the hospitals, and then he
got transferred to this place called Korean Village," said
Through their e-mail correspondence, Edwards found out about the
rather primitive conditions of the camp, and was also given the
name of the Marine colonel who was in charge of "Christmas in
"Of course, me being me, I jumped on the Internet and e-mailed
him, and he sent me a list of the things they needed," said
Edwards and Chirichella started taking care of the list of basic
supplies, and promptly decided that they wanted to do more than
provide just the necessities.
"He [the Marine colonel] did say that because a lot of these
young people are away from home for the holidays, and they're
injured, they wanted to do a home Christmas for them," said
Using donation money, Chirichella personally went out and
purchased hundreds of presents. She bought jigsaw puzzles,
hand-held electronic games, board games, cookies, baby hams,
stockings, videos, a karaoke machine and countless other treats.
"Our living room looked quite interesting," joked Chirichella.
"It was like a plastic-bag rug."
The presents will be divided equally among the hospitals in Iraq
and the camp. On Thursday, Nov. 17, Edwards and Chirichella
organized a wrapping party at McLean Post 270, and volunteers
worked all day to wrap, package and mail the presents.
"It's particularly good this year because you know they are all
going to the three hospitals that they contacted in Iraq," said
volunteer Betty Quinn, a member of the American Legion Auxiliary
Unit 270. "It makes it very meaningful to know that it's a
personal contact in Iraq."
Anna Carrera just joined Auxiliary Unit 270 and says that she
volunteered to wrap because "it's a worthwhile cause."
"Especially because it's for the boys in Iraq," she said.
Auxiliary member Lee Holmberg also lent a helping hand at
Thursday's wrapping effort.
"I think this is very important," said Holmberg. "Whether you
agree with the policy [of the President] or not, you support
Both Edwards and Chirichella say that although necessities and
presents are both wonderful, the material items only make up
part of the "Angels of Mercy" program.
"It's not just items, it's also the things that you cannot buy
like compassion and understanding and love. ...we are almost
like surrogate parents to some of these kids," said Chirichella.
"The program has not only different efforts, but also different
focuses, from things to the love of humanity."
Edwards agrees that "TLC" is at the heart of their efforts.
"We have personally hugged over 2500 wounded soldiers, and twice
as many family members," he said.
FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION about the "Angels of Mercy" program,
or about joining the American Legion Auxiliary, please contact
Marian Chirichella at 703-938-8930, or by e-mail at
Auxiliary270VAR@aol.com. The "Angels of Mercy" Web site,
www.mcleanpost270.org/oifoef contains up to date information
about the needs of America's wounded military personnel who are
returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. If you would like to
support any of the "Angels of Mercy" activities, please make
checks payable to American Legion Auxiliary Unit 270. Insert
"For OIF/OEF" on the note line and mail to P.O. Box 3310,
McLean, VA 22102.
Marian T. Chirichella presents Sgt. Kiet Christensen
with a comfort pillow Wednesday at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.
Photo by Patricia McAllister
Every Wednesday is an extra special day at Walter Reed.
Sometime between dawn and dusk, service members and their families in the
medical center, Mologne House Hotel or any one of three Fisher Houses may
glance up to find an angel of mercy at their door.
Marian T. Chirichella casts a small shadow, but more than makes up for
her stature in her determined demeanor coupled with a cheery attitude.
There is no doubt she is a woman with a mission -- not unlike the service
members she's come to visit at Walter Reed.
As the recent recipient of the The American Legion's Auxiliary Member
of the Year award in Virginia, and a Red Cross volunteer, Chirichella
exemplifies the commitment and dedication of all the volunteers who serve
the wounded and their families here. She and her husband, Jay Edwards,
created the "Angels of Mercy" program last year in the name of the
American Legion Auxiliary Unit 270 of McLean, Va.
In 2004, "Angels of Mercy" won the prestigious first place prize in the
"Newman's Own Award" competition, receiving a grant of $10,000. The annual
contest is co-sponsored by Newman's Own Co., the Fisher House Foundation
and the Military Times Media Group.
To Chirichella's surprise, their humble idea to visit and support
wounded and injured Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operating Enduring Freedom
service members at Walter Reed took off and galvanized a number of
organizations, churches and others to donate an abundance of items.
Everything from T-shirts to teddy bears fills the Red Cross cart she
and her husband push on their weekly sojourn. What doesn't fit today will
have to wait until the next trip.
"Right now our family room looks like a warehouse," Chirichella says
with a twinkle in her dark eyes.
The couple lives in Vienna, Va., but spend a good deal of time
commuting for the cause. A "traditional" Wednesday involves rounds at
Walter Reed from morning until night, but they also typically spend
Tuesdays shopping for special request items for the patients.
Three huge bins as well as coolers fill their SUV on the trips to WRAMC.
"We have yet to see the back seat," Chirichella laughs.
Raised in Long Island, Chirichella has lived in Virginia since 1969.
She still bears a trace of an accent, a testament to her northern roots.
For much of her life, she was a teacher, and now she works as an
independent researcher and consultant when she isn't volunteering. She and
her husband have six children in a Brady Bunch-styled family.
Her father, injured in the Battle of Normandy in World War II, once
convalesced at Walter Reed. "It's like giving a thank you back for what
they did for my dad," Chirachella explains. Her husband, a Navy veteran,
nods in understanding.
"This is me doing for others what I want to do," Chirichella says.
"Especially doing for those who have done so much for freedom for me, for
my family, for my community. We could never repay 100 percent, but if I
can bring a smile to one Soldier's face, that means a lot to me. I've done
something to maybe ease the pain for a split second -- that's extremely
Chirichella and Edwards make a complementary team of angels as they
push the Red Cross cart from door to door in the wards. They aren't rushed
when they visit with patients, and they take the time to make sure those
recovering here have what they need.
"Hi, how are you doing today?," Chirichella warmly greets a young
Soldier in his room, his injured left leg immobilized by a
complicated-looking device while he sits in a wheelchair. Sgt. Kiet
Christensen lights up at the sight of visitors, and Chirichella and
Edwards spend time talking to him. Conversation flows easily on both
sides. Christensen looks pleased when Chirichella presents him with a
"comfort pillow" in a stars and stripes motif. This is just one of many
little things they offer from the cart. A nurse in Oregon makes the
pillows -- she's donated 250 so far.
"It really gives tremendous comfort," Chirichella says of the handmade
pillows. The service members' reaction to receiving them? "Some of them
just give it a hug. It's a comfort thing that stays with them wherever
Edwards asks Christensen what else he needs or wants. The young
sergeant requests a T-shirt and a quilt -- the rainy days make the
hospital rooms chillier than usual.
"We have afghans," Edwards says. "We have some in the car." He promises
to bring one to Christensen on a return visit.
"We want to make sure these kids know their country cares about them,"
Edwards says later.
Last weekend, the couple escorted a special visitor to the Fisher
House. A woman from New York had contacted them to ask if she might visit
WRAMC on 9/11. The significance of the request did not sink in until she
told them who she was. She was the sister of Charles "Chick" Burlingame
III, the pilot of American Airlines Flight 77, which was hijacked and hit
the Pentagon on 9/11.
"She wanted to spend some of her time on 9/11 with the people who are
suffering because of 9/11, and who are doing so much to maintain our
freedom," Chirachella explains. "She was moved, and it was equally as
emotional to see how the Soldiers were moved when she told them who she
"We consider it an honor to be allowed to do our volunteering here at
Walter Reed," Chirichella says. "The staff at Walter Reed represents
America's finest. They are thoroughly dedicated to the needs of our
military and their families.
"Aside from that, our fellow Red Cross volunteers set a very high
standard and that's a standard that everyone should attempt to emulate."
The Veterans Affairs and Rehabilitation Committee of American Legion
Auxiliary Unit 270 maintains a Web site with a list of requested items for
Walter Reed wounded OIF/OEF military members. Visit
Instructions for making
donations are also on the site.
Marian T. Chirichella, president of American Legion Auxiliary Unit 270 in
McLean and a member of Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish in Vienna, was among
15 honorees recently invited to the White House by President George W. Bush
and Mrs. Laura Bush. The group was recognized for their work in supporting
active duty military and their families.
During this one-hour meeting, President Bush expressed his gratitude for
what each group is doing in support of those in the military. He appreciated
the fact that no one asked for help, but rather they identified needs and
came up with solutions. The president also shared some of his inner most
thoughts about many of his decisions and actions regarding the War on
In the fall of 2003, Chirichella and her husband, Jay Edwards, went to
Walter Reed Army Medical Center (WRAMC) to become Red Cross volunteers in
support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom.
Seeing how little support was available, they formed the Angels of Mercy
Program to raise awareness of the needs of wounded military, to garner
community support and to improve the quality of life of military personnel
wounded and injured in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Volunteering at Walter Reed at least once a week, they have hugged more
than 2,500 recovering military men and women, and twice that many family
members. They visit patients bringing them civilian clothing and personal
comfort items, provide food staples and home cooked meals and host special
events such as a Super Bowl Party, Baby Showers, and childrens birthday
We have become the Face of America at Walter Reed expressing the
gratitude all Americans feel for what these brave young men and women have
given for our country, said Chirichella.
For the past three years, the Angels of Mercy Program organized a Holiday
Gift-Giving effort across Virginias 17th District. Combining donations from
other units with program funds, more than 1,000 holiday gifts have been
purchased, wrapped and personally delivered to the recovering soldiers and
their children by volunteers.
In 2004, the Angels of Mercy Program won the national Newmans Own Award
(started by actor Paul Newman) as the best volunteer program in American
supporting our active duty military and their families. Thanks to the extra
publicity, support poured in enabling Chirichella and Edwards to expand the
program to include Combat Support Hospitals in Iraq, remote military sites
like Camp Korean Village, Iraq, and an R&R facility in Qatar.
It is an honor to serve our young heroes whose lives are forever changed;
it is also my way of saying thank you for the treatment my Dad received at
Walter Reed while rehabilitating after being wounded in the Battle of the
Bulge during World War II, said Chirichella.
Following the meeting at the White House, members of the 15 honored groups
held a roundtable meeting to brainstorm ways to get the word out to service
members about the assistance they provide and to discuss how to solve
certain inherent difficulties associated with nonprofit work.
For additional information about Angels of Mercy visit
www.SupportOurWounded.org or call 703.938.8930.
Arlington Catholic Herald. All rights reserved.
If I can bring a smile
to the face of one of our wounded heroes even for a split second, I have
achieved something that day. Marian
Many seniors have a hard time deciding what to do when they retire, but for some
the decision is easy. For her work with American Legion Auxiliary Unit 270 in
McLean and Angels in Iraq, the winner of the Senior Volunteer Award is Marian
Exceptional times create exceptional people and Marian is one of them. She
was elected president of American Legion Auxiliary Unit 270 in 2004. In 2005,
when she and her husband heard that wounded soldiers in hospitals in Iraq needed
health and comfort items, she sprang into action and launched Angels in Iraq,
a nationwide American Legion campaign to let legionnaires and auxiliary members
know how to support the troops in Iraq.
She sent emails to hospitals in Baghdad and Fallujah asking for a wish list
of items the patients needed. The lists that came back included t-shirts,
magazines, flip-flops, and back scratchers for patients wearing casts, but
unable to reach their itch.
Under Marians leadership, American Legion Auxiliary Unit 270 has supported a
number of local nonprofits including SHARE, Inc., a nonprofit all-volunteer
organization that helps meet the emergency needs of deserving families and
individuals. The unit collected non-perishable items year-round for SHARE.
During the holidays, they collected items to stock the Holiday Gift Shopping
Spree, a way for those less fortunate to select gifts for immediate family
Marians nominator Jay Edwards of American Legion Auxiliary Unit 270 notes
that Marian was named the American Legion Auxiliary Member of the Year for the
Commonwealth of Virginia in 2004 2005. Congratulations to Marian for
connecting the needs of soldiers overseas to the generosity and support of
volunteers here at home.
America Supports You: Summit Connects Grassroots Organizers
WASHINGTON, Dec. 2, 2005
Representatives of grassroots organizations supporting troops and
their families in partnership with the "America Supports You" program
got hearty thanks and encouragement from defense leaders today during
the first-ever America Supports You summit here at the Pentagon.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld shakes hands with Robbie
Bergquist, 13, who is standing next to his sister Brittany, 15.
Robbie and Brittany are the founders of Cell Phones For
Soldiers, a program that helps deployed servicemembers call
home. Rumsfeld thanked about 85 representatives of grass-roots
groups for their efforts as part of the America Supports You
Team during a summit at the Pentagon, Dec. 2. Photo by R.D. Ward
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told the 85 attendees, who
represent nearly half of the 175 nonprofit groups partnering with
America Supports You, their efforts are making "an enormous difference"
for military members.
Rumsfeld likened their initiatives - from sending care packages, to
providing video links between troops and their families, to building
houses for wounded troops - to pebbles dropped in a pond.
"Each thing people look at, whether it's a cookie or a card or a word
of support, you think it's not that big a deal, but it is," he said.
"The ripples go out." And with each gesture - each pebble dropped in the
pond -t he ripples begin crisscrossing and reinforcing each other, the
Rumsfeld singled out examples of the groups' activities. To Shauna
Fleming, a California teenager who founded "A Million Thanks," a group
that's sent 1.4 million thank-you notes to troops, Rumsfeld said,
"You're a one-woman Army!" He praised John Gonsalves of "Homes for Our
Troops," a group that builds specially adapted homes for returning
disabled veterans, for accomplishing in days what months of bureaucratic
red tape couldn't. The organization provided bathroom support bars at no
cost to a wounded soldier.
The secretary also
acknowledged Jay Edwards and his wife Marian Chirichella of "Angels of
Mercy," a group that visits wounded servicemembers
at Walter Reed Army Medical Center here weekly and offers gifts and
other treats for the troops and their families.
"The folks who are serving out there are doing an absolutely superb
job," Rumsfeld said of U.S. troops fighting the war on terror. "There is
no question that they understand the importance of this struggle that
they are in.
"It is truly historic what's taking place" in that struggle, the
secretary said, noting that today's troops will some day look back on
what they've accomplished and recognize the significance of their
"Each of you, just as the soldiers, sailors and airmen and Marines
are part of that battle and struggle, each of you is participating as
well," the secretary told the group. "You are a part of that history.
"I want you to know how much we appreciate each of you for what you
are doing," Rumsfeld said.
"I hope you will continue to encourage your friends and neighbors and
other organizations to tune in to Americasupportsyou.mil," he said, "and
find out what you are doing and what other people are doing to help make
us a better country and a better world and a safer world for the
Army Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno, assistant to the chairman of the Joint
Chiefs of Staff and former commander of the 4th Infantry Division in
Iraq, emphasized the importance of public support to the military.
"We do not have a morale problem in Iraq," Odierno said, calling the
troops "extremely motivated" because they believe in the mission and
In addition, he said, they recognize that "the American people have
been wonderful" about showing their support for them. "Thank you for
what you do for us every day," he told the group, whose members initiate
much of that effort. "I salute you for your service and your support to
your nation, and most importantly to me, to our soldiers, sailors,
airmen and Marines ... who are performing around the world."
"They really do appreciate the tremendous support that you give
them," Odierno said. "And it's important that they understand that they
are getting that support."
Allison Barber, deputy assistant secretary of defense for public
affairs, who came up with the America Supports You program concept and
oversees its operations, called the groups' initiatives "so critical and
so vital" to the military.
"And it's important for you to know that the folks here at the
Department of Defense are very grateful to you for your energy and your
efforts," she said.
Today's meeting was planned to help make sure DoD is doing everything
possible "to help you help our military," she said. Participants in the
summit welcomed the opportunity to meet and hear from defense leaders
and meet with each other during break-out sessions during the day.
"It's a wonderful opportunity because it gives us the opportunity to
network and connect with others who have a common goal," said Steve
Chelette from "Troop Talk," a group that provides near-time
communication for deployed troops and their friends and loved ones at
Darlene Harvey Harrigan of "Adopt a Soldier Ministries," called the
meeting a great way for America Supports You members to exchange ideas
and learn from each other. She also hoped to gain insights into how
grassroots organizations can enhance their efforts to support the
troops. "It's all about them," she said.
For Carolyn Blashek of "Operation Gratitude," which sends care
packages to deployed troops, the session presented a unique opportunity
for America Supports You members and defense officials to learn more
from each other about their efforts for the troops. "This is great,"
agreed David Jester of "Give 2 the Troops," which responds to specific
troop requests for items ranging from T-shirts to DVDs. "We're
networking. We're learning from each other."
Just as importantly, he and other participants agreed, the session
presented an opportunity for those supporting the troops to tap into
each others' enthusiasm and dedication.
Christina Finn of Chicago's "Patriotic Pillow Project," which
provides hand-stitched pillows to troops overseas, called the meeting a
great chance to meet like-minded, positive, supportive individuals from
across the country. "I learned so much being here this weekend and being
able to brainstorm (with the other participants)," she said.
Today's session was the first Pentagon visit for most of the
participants and the largest gathering of the community organizations
since the launch of America Supports You last November.
DoD introduced the program to answer a question officials began
hearing from deployed troops: "Do the American people still support us?"
Barber reminded the group today.
"And when we heard that question, we were confused, because we saw
all the wonderful things that were happening," from care packages being
sent to yellow ribbons being affixed to cars and wrapped around trees,
she said. "So we were concerned that you were doing wonderful things but
our military members did not know."
In response, DoD created what Barber called a "connector campaign"
that she said helps bring visibility to those efforts and provides a
resource for Americans looking for ways to lend their support.
"We decided that the Department of Defense doesn't need to start a
lot of new initiatives, because you were already doing it," she said.
"We just had to figure out a way to know what was happening and then
communicate that to our men and women in the military."
Since the America Supports You Launch, 175 grassroots organizations
and 22 corporations have joined the program. In addition, "hundreds of
thousands of Americans are coming to the America Supports You Web site
to learn out about what you are doing and how they can help you," Barber
told the group.
"You are the heart of the America Supports You campaign," she said.
The upcoming year will bring several new initiatives to broaden the
program's reach, Barber said. Among them are a new youth strategy to
promote efforts among America's young people, a new DoD-sponsored
bulletin board to enable America Supports You partners to share
information and ideas, and regional events being planned around the
"We have a big year planned and we are excited about it," Barber
said. "And we just can't move fast enough."
Our Message to the
Military.... "America Supports You"
December 29, 2005
E-Newsletter Volume XXXXI
Camp Fallujah, Iraq
Marines stationed in Fallujah pose
with their America Supports You pre-paid phone cards,
donated by Wal-Mart and brought to Iraq for the holidays by
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.
Acting Deputy Secretary of Defense and
Secretary of the Navy Gordon England signs an oversized chess
piece for America Supports You team member Operation
Angels of Mercy volunteers
show their America Supports You colors, wrapping over 800
Christmas presents for wounded and injured soldiers in Iraq,
Walter Reed Army Medical Center, and troops stationed at Camp
Korean Village, Iraq.
Members of American Legion Auxiliary Unit 270 of McLean, Va., wrapped over
800 Christmas presents for wounded and injured service members this
holiday season. The volunteers, all wives or widows of military veterans,
spent two days at wrapping parties for Angels of Mercy,
an America Supports You
team member. Angels of Mercy co-founder Jay Edwards was inspired to do
something special for the holidays this year after hearing of more than
1,000 U.S. military troops stationed at Korean Village, a camp located
near the Syrian border. Using donated monies, Angels of Mercy co-founder
and Edwards wife, Marian Chirichella, purchased hundreds of presents,
from baby hams to a karaoke machine, to be split equally among hospitals
in Iraq, Camp Korean Village, and Walter Reed.