Volume LVIOctober 2009Number 3

$244,183.31 has been raised as of Sept. 15, 2009

Stephen Gardner & Gordon Hensel,

On behalf of the soldiers here in Afghanistan and myself, thank you for your most generous gift of phone cards. The families are always relieved when they get a call from their service member and these will certainly ease the minds back home when soldiers use them to call.

Thank you,
SGM Gigi Banjak

May 14, 2009
Mr. Gardner,

I wanted to personally thank you for the phone cards that you sent. I and two of my fellow Marines do appreciate the cards. It was a welcomed and wonderful surprise. They couldn't have come at a better time. We are finishing our long seven months here and will be returning to the states early June. The phone cards will be of great use as we make our final calls from here in Iraq.

Mr. Ed Stumm is a great man and a close family friend. I will see him upon my return to Pennsylvania in late June and will personally thank him as well. If I could ask a favor for you to please pass on my thanks to the rest of your organization and specifically Mr. Gary Dukeman for the calling cards and your continued support. Thanks again.

Thank you,
Captain USMC
AH-1W Cobra Pilot

I appreciate the card and please let the PA Masons know that we are grateful for their support and generosity.

Dave Wentzel
E Co 2-104th GSAB (forward)
Motor Sergeant

Dear Grand Secretary's Office,

On behalf of the Capooci and Kaczmarek families and our grandson Lee Kaczmarek who is serving in Iraq, we would like to thank you for the calling cards you sent for him and his other troops. The cards were greatly appreciated. Thank you so much for thinking of our troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Capooci Family
The Kaczmarek Family
Especially Thank you from our grandson, Lee.

Dear Brother Secretary,

I am sorry that I will miss Strawberry Night this year, due to the "needs of the Army."

Please convey my greetings and thanks to all of the brethren present for the support they have given myself and my soldiers. All of my soldiers have received one (some two or three) of the 300-minute phone cards that Grand Lodge has been purchasing and sending over. Many of them were surprised at the generosity of the brethren and several changed their attitude about the lodge in general. I have been reading in the "Freemason" about how the "Change for Troops" program is working and we are certainly seeing the benefits.

Pennsylvania has had the largest number of Citizen Soldiers deployed of any state since September 11, 2001. And the deployment of the 56th Stryker Brigade Combat Team is the largest deployment from our state since WW II. We have over 500 soldiers here currently.

Again from my soldiers and myself, thank you for the support.

SFC G.S. Robins III
2nd Squadron 104 Cavalry (RSTA)
Camp Taji, Iraq
Also: Master Mason, Mt. Pickering Lodge, No. 446, Upper Uwchland "The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants." -Thomas Jefferson
Stephen Gardner
RW Grand Master

On behalf of my family and son-in-law, SPC Joseph Adams, I would like to thank you for sending the phone cards for him and his friends. They were greatly appreciated.

James C. Rae (PM)
Mozart Lodge No. 436, Philadelphia

RWGM Gardner:

Sir and Brother, It is with great appreciation and pride to hear from our son-in-law that he has received the phone cards and your letter in Afghanistan. He did say the cards were in great shape but the envelope they were in looked like it walked the last 1,000 miles in the desert. I wish to convey my thanks to everyone involved for the great program. It really shows what we can do when we put our minds and resources together. It has to help the morale of our people overseas to at least call and let the home folks know where they are. I know my folks never knew where I was until a few weeks later when mail left the ship.

Thanks again,
Royal F. Parker
Drexel Hill, PA

Their Work is Never Done

Command Sgt. Maj. John Jones of Julian, Pa., 56th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, shown next to Stryker combat vehicles

"Change for the Troops" continues to touch the lives of more and more soldiers serving in Afghanistan and Iraq every day. In early September, the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania was contacted by Bro. Richard Ackerman, Lodge No. 43, Lancaster, father of Maj. Brian Ackerman, the Officer in Charge (OIC) of the Aeromedical Evacuation Unit in Afghanistan, inquiring about the calling card program. Col. and Bro. Harris Brooks made direct contact with Maj. Ackerman, whose unit is responsible for transporting injured soldiers from the battlefield to the U.S. military hospital in Afghanistan. After being stabilized, the wounded are sent to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany before returning to the United States.

After speaking with Maj. Ackerman, Bro. Brooks learned, much to his surprise, the two had met before and have similar backgrounds in aeromedical evacuation. As the OIC and a Masonic representative, Bro. and Maj. Ackerman will oversee the direct distribution of the calling cards to servicemen and women as they arrive at the hospital in Afghanistan. Within hours of their injuries, they are able to call home and update their families. The calling cards have 300 minutes, so the injured can continue to use the card as they are transported to Germany and make their way home.

The more than 4,000 members of the 56th Stryker Brigade Combat Team (SBCT), which were activated at the end of 2008 and deployed to Iraq in January, have begun returning home after more than six months of combat operations north of Baghdad. Thanks to the generosity of Pennsylvania Freemasons, family and friends through "Change for the Troops," each of the unit's soldiers, as they deployed to the desert, received a 300-minute calling card to keep in touch with their loved ones.

"This allows me to keep in touch with my wife, child and newborn," Capt. Adam Grove said.

"Having communication back home really makes deployment less stressful," Staff Sgt. Brian Remsing said.

Not only was the unit given calling cards as they deployed, but Command Sgt. Maj. John Jones of the 56 SBCT contacted Bro. Brooks from Iraq and requested 1,500 additional calling cards. Grand Lodge immediately filled the request. "We're not just giving them cards," Bro. Brooks said. "We stay in communication with units in the AOR [Area of Responsibility], and as they need more calling cards, we provide them."

"I want to thank all the Pennsylvania Masons for the calling cards," Command Sgt. Maj. John Jones wrote from Iraq. "As the 56th SBCT Command Sergeant Major, knowing our soldiers had some help calling home when they needed to was a big help. That, in itself, was a relief to the leadership of the 56 SBCT. I am sure the calling cards helped some of our soldiers get through a tough time or say hello to someone back home. When soldiers can contact their family and friends it is often a big stress relief when deployed."

"Again I want to thank the Pennsylvania Masons from all the soldiers in the 56 Stryker Brigade Combat Team."

Capt. Adam Grove of York and Staff Sgt. Brian Remsing of Philadelphia on Sept. 6 at Camp Taji, Iraq. The phone cards provided by the Masons are sure to see use at calling centers in Iraq and Kuwait as 56th SBCT, Pennsylvania Army National Guard Soldiers redeploy to the U.S. after eight months in Iraq, part of a year-long mobilization.

The Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania is planning a Welcome Home reception before the end of the year to thank the Stryker Brigade for their dedication and service, with invitees to include Gov. and Bro. Ed Rendell; Maj. Gen. Jessica Wright, Adjutant General of Pennsylvania; TSgt Kevin Casciano, Family Readiness NCO for Airmen and Family Readiness Flight 305th AW at McGuire Air Force Base; other SBCT leadership and members of Grand Lodge. Grand Master Gardner anticipates having the soldiers share their stories and giving them a tour of the Masonic Temple.

Stryker Brigade, Company C of the 1st Battalion of the 111th Infantry (1/111th) out of Kutztown, has expressed profound appreciation for the calling cards and other contributions from Pennsylvania Freemasons, including transportation home for Christmas from Fort Dix prior to their deployment to Iraq in January, legal representation for a soldier's wife and money for a welcome home party upon the unit's return to the United States.

In gratitude for the Grand Lodge's efforts to comfort troops overseas, the Pennsylvania Air National Guard entertained Grand Master Gardner and the Grand Lodge Officers with lunch at the Willow Grove Air Reserve Station and a tour of their aircraft and facilities on Aug. 8. Poor weather prevented the main event, which was to include a flight in a Pennsylvania Air National Guard Tanker as the tanker refueled A-10 fighter planes out of Willow Grove mid-air. The event is being rescheduled.

In late October, Grand Master Gardner will travel to the Grand Lodge of Germany and will also pay a visit to the Ramstein Air Base in Germany to personally distribute 75-minute calling cards for soldiers receiving care at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center before their return home.

Thousands of troops remain stationed overseas in Iraq and Afghanistan. Your contributions to "Change for the Troops" is continuously appreciated. Until every solider is home, our work supporting the troops will not be finished.

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