Volume LVNovember 2008Number 4

CHANGE FOR THE TROOPS
Garners Appreciation from Military & Government Leaders

Brethren who live outside of Pennsylvania or who cannot make
lodge meetings can contribute to Change for the Troops by
sending a check to their local lodge and marking
"Change for the Troops" in the memo space.


Grand Lodge Officers Stephen Gardner (holding the A-10 bullet), Jay Smith and Bob Bateman and their wives pose with, (left-right), Jean Moretti, Brenden Flynn, Bro. Samuel Freeman, Bro. and Col. [Ret] Harris Brooks and Col. Paul Comtois, who has since petitioned the fraternity

The Change for the Troops program has gained extensive exposure and support from top military and state governmental leaders, as well as media coverage. Donations to the program from brethren, lodges and other Masonic groups have now exceeded $105,000.00, allowing the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania to provide international calling cards to thousands of men and women departing to serve in war zones overseas.

Bro. Stephen Gardner, R.W. Grand Master, and members of the Grand Lodge, along with brothers from Brotherhood Lodge No. 126, Philadelphia, were invited to the send-off ceremony for elements of the 111th Fighter Wing, Pennsylvania Air National Guard, departing from Willow Grove Reserve Station on July 27 for Afghanistan. The private event was mainly for families of the troops, so it was quite an honor for some of our Masonic family to be asked to attend.

On behalf of Pennsylvania Freemasons, Grand Master Gardner presented two hundred 300-minute calling cards to 111th Fighter Wing Commander Col. Paul W. Comtois to provide to the departing officers and airmen.

Prior to the send-off ceremonies, Bro. and Col. [Ret.] Harris Brooks arranged for Col. Comtois to provide Grand Master Gardner and the Grand Lodge officers a private tour of the A-10 fighter plane, as well as a briefing on the transition of the station's mission to serve as a homeland defense and national security installation. He also introduced Grand Master Gardner to Major General Jessica Wright, the Adjutant General for the Pennsylvania National Guard, and Major General Stephen Sischo, Commander of the Air National Guard in Pennsylvania and Deputy Adjutant General, who were honored that the Grand Master was in attendance. They were already familiar with the Change for Troops program from previous calling card presentations, and even knew the value of the gifts. They were impressed by and grateful for all that Pennsylvania Freemasons are doing for Pennsylvania service people departing for the war zone.

Bro. Brooks also introduced Grand Master Gardner to Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz, who represents Pennsylvania's 13th District, and Brendan Flynn, Director for Military and Veterans Affairs for Congressman Patrick J. Murphy, who serves Pennsylvania's 8th District. They, too, expressed their appreciation for the dedication and support of Pennsylvania Masons. "I am so pleased that the Masons across Pennsylvania and here in my district are lending their efforts to support our men and women serving in the armed forces overseas," Rep. Schwartz said. "It is critical that those of us at home keep those who have deployed in our thoughts and prayers, but it is even more critical that we take that extra step, as the Masons have done, to aid them and their families in this difficult time."


Left-right: Major General Stephen Sischo; Stephen Gardner, Grand Master; Major General Jessica Wright; and Bro. and Col. [Ret.] Harris Brooks

"Everyone... the troops, families, military leadership and even legislators have been unbelievably appreciative of what we're doing," Bro. Brooks said. As a token of appreciation for Pennsylvania Freemasonry's support, Col. Comtois presented Grand Master Gardner with a polished chrome bullet from the A-10 aircraft. On Nov. 10, during Brotherhood Lodge No. 126's meeting in the Masonic Temple, the senior leadership from the Willow Grove Reserve Station will once again present Grand Master Gardner with the bullet, framed and made into a special plaque for display at the Grand Lodge, as well as an American flag that was flown over the 111th Fighter Wing's headquarters in Afghanistan on behalf of the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania.

Grand Master Gardner presented his "Earn it Again" medallion and a Benjamin Franklin statue to Col. Comtois as Wing Commander of the 111th Fighter Wing and to Major General Sischo as Commander of the Air National Guard in Pennsylvania, on behalf of the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania.

Jean Moretti, Wing Family Program Coordinator for the 111th Fighter Wing of the Pennsylvania Air National Guard unit based in Willow Grove, said, "Our military members appreciate the thought and effort that goes into these generous donations... We are blessed to have the support and commitment of the Pennsylvania Freemasons to our Unit."


Troops board the plane with calling cards in hand. Stephen Gardner. R.W. Grand Master, introduces Rep. Allyson Schwartz to Bro. Bob Bateman, his wife, Joanne, and First Lady Patricia Gardner. We wish to thank the Air Force for providing pictures for publication.

Brethren,

In January 2009, a 4,000-member stryker brigade will be departing from Pennsylvania for the war zone. We have been told repeatedly that the morale of the troops is much higher because of our efforts to keep them connected with their loved ones at home. Your generosity has been overwhelming, and I am extremely proud of your support of the Change for the Troops program. When the collection bucket passes through your lodge this fall, please remember the troops who will be leaving their families after the holidays to pay the price for our freedom. My request here is simple. Please continue your kind generosity. Let us as Pennsylvania Masons keep telling our heroes, "thank you."
- Stephen Gardner, R.W. Grand Master


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