USA Honor Squad completes project to aid U.S. wounded warriors in Afghanistan

The USA Honor Squad members are front row (from left): Zachary Boeckermann, Army flag bearer, Paul Holmgren, Air Force flag bearer, Alex Bellefeuille, rifle guard, Shane Lambrecht, Marine Corps flag bearer. Back row: Peyton Guthrie, assistant squad leader, Olivia Mettler, rifle guard, Abby Kurowski, squad leader, Nathan Lambrecht, Navy flag bearer, Logan Janssen, assistant squad leader, Jeron Wensmann, squad leader. Missing from the photo is Isaiah Wardlaw, Coast Guard flag bearer.

The USA Honor Squad members are front row (from left): Zachary Boeckermann, Army flag bearer, Paul Holmgren, Air Force flag bearer, Alex Bellefeuille, rifle guard, Shane Lambrecht, Marine Corps flag bearer. Back row: Peyton Guthrie, assistant squad leader, Olivia Mettler, rifle guard, Abby Kurowski, squad leader, Nathan Lambrecht, Navy flag bearer, Logan Janssen, assistant squad leader, Jeron Wensmann, squad leader. Missing from the photo is Isaiah Wardlaw, Coast Guard flag bearer.

The USA Honor Squad, a military drill unit of third, fourth, fifth and sixth grade students in the Swanville and Upsala Schools has completed its project to assist U.S. military personnel who have been wounded in Afghanistan and are receiving treatment at American military medical facilities in that war-torn country. In addition, the squad is continuing to provide aid to medical evacuation unit (MEDEVAC) at Forward Operating Base (FOB) Latham in Afghanistan in the form of snacks, games, books and magazines. So far, the squad has sent more than 350 pounds of items to this unit.

In all, for the wounded warrior project, the squad collected more than 75 pairs of new sneakers which are given to wounded U.S. military personnel at the medical facilities since most arrive at these facilities with their clothing cut off by field medics or corpsmen and all their gear left behind at their FOB. The sneakers allow the ambulatory wounded to go to the mess hall for meals and to go to the area where satellite phones are located so they can call their loved ones at home.

In addition to the sneakers, the squad collected more than 150 pairs of socks, about 25 pairs of wrap-around sunglasses—Afghanistan is a very dusty place and the wounded arrive with no eye protection. The squad also sent more than 500 pounds of snacks, games, books, razors and other badly needed items to the wounded warrior project. Items for the wounded warrior project were donated by students and faculty in the Upsala and Swanville Schools, churches in Swanville, Upsala, Little Falls and Bowlus, and the Upsala Senior Center.

The postage bill for sending these items to Afghanistan was nearly $1,500 and money to cover the cost of the postage was provided by the Swanville American Legion Auxiliary, the Swanville Women’s Civic Club, the Upsala Legion, the Little Falls Legion, the Bowlus Legion and the Morrison County Farm Bureau.

“We have to thank Commander Shannon Tolliver, the commanding officer for the Navy Recruiting District for Minnesota and his executive officer, Commander Thavee Douangaphavong for their help in linking us up with Navy Lt. Will Lewis in Afghanistan,” said Cadet Captain Abby Kurowski, one of the USA Honor Squad leaders. “Lt. Lewis was attached to an Army Corps of Engineers unit in southern Afghanistan and he was able to connect us with the wounded warrior project in his area of operations. This gave us a definite place to send these items where we knew they would be given to our own people who needed them. We also want to thank all the students and teachers, the churches, the senior center and the service organizations who provided items for the wounded warrior project or for the postage to get these things to Afghanistan.”

Cadet Captain Jeron Wensmann, the other squad leader, also noted that thanks were due to U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Susan Dukes for her assistance in connecting the squad with the medevac unit at FOB Latham. Lt. Col. Dukes is the daughter of Terri Holmgren and the late Paul Holmgren of Swanville. Her nephew, Paul Holmgren, is a member of the USA Honor Squad.

“Lt. Col. Dukes was able to connect us with this unit that is located at a very isolated FOB and they only get a single meal a day so the snacks and other things we’ve been able to send them have been very welcome,” said Wensmann. “We will continue to assist this unit for the rest of the school year so anyone who would like to donate items to be sent to these warriors who are rescuing our people who are wounded can give them to one of our squad members or drop them off at the squad’s headquarters at 3593 75th St., Swanville. They especially like fruit cups, beef jerky, dried fruit, nuts, cracker snacks, candy, drink mixes, chips in cans, beef sausage (no pork products), dried fruit and current issues of magazines. We’d also welcome any donations for postage to get these items to Afghanistan.”

This is the eighth year the USA Honor Squad has done a project to assist U.S. military units deployed in combat areas. The first three years were with units in Iraq and the last five have been with units in Afghanistan.

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