Volume LVAugust 2008Number 3

Change for the Troops

R.W. Grand Master Stephen Gardner sits in the Aircraft Commander's seat on the KC-10 Globemaster III aircraft.

Thanks to the more than $89,735.09 that has been raised since the Change for the Troops program was launched in January, the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania has continued to provide 150 300-minute calling cards for troops departing from McGuire Air Force Base, N.J., every month. The response has been tremendous.

Most recently, the Grand Lodge has purchased 600 75-minute calling cards for the McGuire crews to hand-deliver to Ramstein Air Base in Germany, from which the cards will be disbursed at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center to troops suffering from injuries and battle casualties from the war zone. The cards allow the troops to call home immediately from the hospital.

On May 15, the Grand Lodge Officers and Brothers Col. Harris Brooks, Marvin Levy, PM, Lodge Secretary, and Samuel Freeman, P.M., met with TSgt Kevin Casciano, in the Family Services building at McGuire Air Force Base, to personally present the calling cards for the troops on behalf of Pennsylvania Masons. "When people heard about the calling cards we were providing for the wounded, they came out to thank us for going so far above and beyond... they were very touched," Bro. Brooks said. "They told us we're putting more into it than any other organization," he added.

Senior leadership from the C-17 squadron conducted a tour of the C-17 Globemster III aircraft. Then, Col. John Spare, former commander of one of the KC-10 squadrons at McGuire AFB and current replacement for Col. and Bro. Brooks upon his retirement from his last position as Senior Air Force Liaison to Civil Authorities for Homeland Security, guided the brethren on a tour of the KC-10.

On May 22, representatives from the Grand Lodge and Brotherhood Lodge No. 126, Philadelphia, were invited to attend a farewell ceremony for a Marine Corps Reserve Unit of 400 troops deploying out of Harrisburg. Also attending was the father of one of the Marines, Bro. Joe Thompson, Community Lodge No. 744, Broomall, and his fellow brethren who came out to show their support for his son, Lance Cpl. Joseph W. Thomson.

After addressing the attendees at the send-off ceremony, Bro. and Col. Harris Brooks had the opportunity to introduce R.W. Grand Master Stephen Gardner, who presented the unit with a framed lithograph of Tun Tavern, the birthplace of both Pennsylvania Freemasonry and the Marine Corps, along with the calling cards to use to call home.

"We were honored to be invited to share this event with the Marines and their families," Grand Master Gardner said. "It was an intense experience, looking eyeball to eyeball with these brave Marines, knowing as a rifle company what they're going into." The Marines were unbelievably grateful for the gifts.

"The experience left me with a renewed sense of pride, both in our country and in our fraternity," Grand Master Gardner said. "Without the support of brethren throughout the state, including volunteers such as Brothers Brooks, Levy, Freeman and Fehl, this program never could have become so successful." Others deserving recognition and appreciation for their essential coordinating roles are Bro. Harry B. Rutter Jr., Grand Lodge Controller, and Donna Brett, Staff Accountant, who work behind the scenes to make sure the program runs smoothly. "They're the keys to success for orchestrating the mechanics of this program," Grand Master Gardner said.

Bro. and Col. Harris Brooks conducts an exterior walkaround of the C-17 Globemaster III aircraft for Brothers Samuel Freeman, Mark Haines, Bob Bateman, Tom Sturgeon and Stephen Gardner. Left-right: Don Divis, Director for Family Support Services; R.W.G.S. Haines; R.W.D.G.M. Sturgeon; Col. John Spare; Bro. and Col. Brooks; R.W.G.M. Gardner; R.W.J.G.W. Bateman; and TSgt Kevin Casciano Left-right: Brothers Samuel Freeman, Col. Harris Brooks, R.W. Grand Master Stephen Gardner and Marvin Levy
The brethren tour the inside of the C-17 Globemaster III aircraft. R.W. Grand Master Stephen Gardner presents calling cards to the Commander of the Marine Corps Rifle Company during their farewell ceremony prior to their departure from Harrisburg. Bro. Joseph E. Thompson, Jr., bids farewell to his son, Lance Cpl. Joseph W. Thomson, before his deployment.

Soldiers Pleased to Find Out
About Change for the Troops

One Saturday in mid-January, I was honored to help a friend guide two goose hunters: a Colonel from the Navy SEALS and a Lt. Colonel from the Air Force.

While waiting for the geese to start their daily flights, we started talking about Iraq and Afghanistan. Then they asked what I did as far as career, hobbies, etc. I told them I was a District Deputy in the Freemasons. I thought it was the perfect opportunity to ask them what they thought about the Grand Master's program, "Change for the Troops." I explained the program, and was amazed when the Colonel stood up from his blind and walked toward me. At this point, I must admit I was a little nervous. He held forth his hand and asked me to personally thank the Grand Master. He told me that there is no better way to support our troops. He went on to explain to me how the morale of the troops change when they are able to make calls to home, family, loved ones and friends.

Talking with those two soldiers, I felt so proud to not only be an American, but a Freemason. I do not know where those two soldiers were deployed, but I do know that the United States is definitely in good hands.

Teddy D. Sizemore,
District Deputy Grand Master for District 42

May 28, 2008
Mr. Gardner and the Masons of Pennsylvania,

Thank you for the letter and the phone card gift. It is quite thoughtful of your organization to do so. While it has been quite difficult to be apart from my wife, daughter and newborn, I am honored to serve for great Americans like yourselves who share the basic value system that the military does. Please know that I value the gift very much and will put it to good use.

Patrick Finney

June 4, 2008
Dear Mr. Gardner,

I wanted to personally thank you for the letter and calling card that you and your fellow Masons sent to me today. It means a lot to know that people back home appreciate what it is that we are doing here in Afghanistan. This calling card will come in handy, so that I can call my wife and two kids. My daughter is 3 and my son is 8 months old, and being able to call and have them hear my voice is one of the most important things to me right now. Once again, I just want to thank you for the card and the support that your letter brings to me and my fellow soldiers!

Jeremy S. Morrison

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