Troops wounded in Iraq are often flown to hospitals with nothing but the clothes on their backs.

It’s Thomas Grossarth’s job to get them something fresh to wear.

“They have been very grateful,” said Grossarth, a customer service employee of the Army and Air Force Exchange Service. “None of them expect to get anything when they get to the hospital. They’re overwhelmed and completely grateful that Congress would take care of them.”

Grossarth, a 28-year-old German, has been assigned to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center to buy clothes for troops, using $250 vouchers recently allocated by Congress.

“The Army liaison gives me a list of new arrivals every day,” Grossarth said.

“I go to each ward and make sure to cover all the soldiers and check them off the list.”

“Usually, it’s for around six to eight [wounded troops] a day, but there are days when there are 10 to 15 to take care of,” he said. “If they’re too badly wounded, I’ll give them time to recover.”

Their requests vary, he said. Some of the bedridden troops ask for just pajamas and sweat suits to wear around the hospital. Those who are up and around might need winter boots or a heavy jacket. Some need clothes to wear home.

Grossarth will ask them their sizes and preferences and make a list. Then he’ll head for the exchange at Ramstein Air Base.

“We saw a real need for somebody out there,” said Gary Burton, AAFES’ general manager for Ramstein and vicinity.

“[Grossarth] is real familiar with soldiers coming in and their special needs.”

Burton said there are other programs that help outfit wounded troops. The Landstuhl Chaplain Services, for example, runs a lending closet for those who arrive at the hospital with no personal belongings. It is completely supported by donations.

But those programs cannot provide everything, and Grossarth’s job is to fill the gaps.

“He makes the soldiers feel like somebody really cares,” Burton said.

Maj. David Accetta, an AAFES spokesman, said the congressional money can also be used to buy a small suitcase or backpack, shaving cream or a comb, for patients who are going to be traveling.

Grossarth said it can be hard to see so many wounded troops at Landstuhl. Since the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom in March, more than 8,000 have been treated there.

“I’m glad I have a job where I can give a little back to the soldiers for what they’ve been doing for everybody,” Grossarth said, “even though it’s just going shopping for them.

“It’s a very rewarding job. The soldiers are very thankful for everything done for them.”

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