Oh, Canada!

Thomas Warner
Landstuhl Regional Medical Cener

Canadian military participants in the Global War of Terror didn’t need much time to figure out the important role Fisher Houses have in the equation.
The Fisher Foundation accepted a check from the Canada-based Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry Association for more than $20,000 Saturday in a ceremony at Fisher House II on the grounds of Landstuhl Regional Medical Center.

The money was donated by Canadians of all service branches serving on active duty in the Middle East and was collected in four weeks.
“Remarkable,” said a beaming Kathy Gregory, Fisher House manager, upon receipt of the gift. “This gift means so much to us and to what we are trying to do here.”

The PPCLIA is associated with veterans of specific regiments in Canada’s armed forces. There were several military representatives from that U.S. border nation on hand to tour wings of the hospital and the Fisher House, including Canadian service personnel from London and Belgium.

“Many people in Canada look toward folks in the United States as our cousins,” said Lt. George Petrolekas. “I spent a lot of time growing up in Ann Arbor, Mich. Americans and Canadians have a common bond that a lot of people might tend to overlook. We are one in the same, in many ways.”
The donation of money, plus a pair of painting prints by well-known Canadian artist Silvia Pecota, were described as small tokens of the appreciation felt by Canada’s fighters in the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“I am coming from a seven-month tour in Afghanistan and it took us just over three weeks to raise this money,” said Chief Warrant Officer Randy Northrup. “We put the word out and there was no shortage of people willing to donate.”

There are currently 2,300 men and women from Canada deployed in Afghanistan. Chief Warrant Officer Mike Hamilton and Lt. Casey Balden both were injured and have spent time at LRMC. They were in the hospital lobby as the Canadian delegation arrived Saturday.

“As far as battle injuries, there isn’t anything this staff here can’t or wouldn’t do to get you fixed,” Mr. Hamilton said. “The case managers, the support staff – everyone and everything at Landstuhl is integrated here.”

Lieutenant Balden stood near the front entrance of the hospital with his arm in a sling. He will fly back to the United States on Sunday. Mr. Hamilton is headed in another direction, back downrange.

The group also visited Cpl. Jesse Melnyck, a Canadian soldier in one of the hospital wards who lost sight in his right eye when a bullet lodged in his face. A fragment hit his skull but his helmet stopped the projectile from doing its intended task.

“It didn’t puncture my skull, but my right eye is gone, they tell me,” Corporal Melnyck said during a bedside visit. “They tell me I will be fully functional and I’ve still got the 20-10 vision with my left eye.”

A framed Pecota print entitled “Fallen Comrades” was presented to the staff in the hospital’s intensive care unit.

Ramstein-based PPCLIA liaison Patricia Grimshaw carried one of the prints and said she is thankful her brother, Nick, is on his way home after a seven-month deployment with Canadian forces in Afghanistan.

“My father is a veteran with the PPCLIA and we are proud to have any association with the hospital and with Fisher Houses,” said Ms. Grimshaw, who also presented a separate donation to  the Landstuhl Fisher Houses.
“Knowing that we have these facilities here and knowing the kind of work that the people here do is comforting to anyone who is serving in the military in Canada.”