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Sgt. 1st Class Doug Crossley mans the grill Tuesday at a cookout he and his wife, Carolyn, hosted for wounded troops.

Sgt. 1st Class Doug Crossley mans the grill Tuesday at a cookout he and his wife, Carolyn, hosted for wounded troops. (Steve Mraz / S&S)

Sgt. 1st Class Doug Crossley mans the grill Tuesday at a cookout he and his wife, Carolyn, hosted for wounded troops.

Sgt. 1st Class Doug Crossley mans the grill Tuesday at a cookout he and his wife, Carolyn, hosted for wounded troops. (Steve Mraz / S&S)

Airman 1st Class Jonathan Hilton struggles to shuffle cards with an injured left index finger.

Airman 1st Class Jonathan Hilton struggles to shuffle cards with an injured left index finger. (Steve Mraz / S&S)

Truman Goodwin, left, an Air Force retiree and former Marine, shares a laugh with Marine Lance Cpl. Jose Martinez.

Truman Goodwin, left, an Air Force retiree and former Marine, shares a laugh with Marine Lance Cpl. Jose Martinez. (Steve Mraz / S&S)

KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — If not for the hospitality and generosity of one couple and several volunteers, a group of wounded warriors likely would have spent our nation’s 230th birthday stuck in the barracks.

Instead, nearly 30 volunteers and “walking wounded” gathered Tuesday at the Kaiserslautern-area home of Doug and Carolyn Crossley for a Fourth of July cookout.

The Crossleys have been hosting cookouts for the wounded troops year-round for the past 2½ years.

“It gives them one day away from everything,” said Carolyn Crossley, a nurse at the ambulatory procedure unit at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center. “This one kid here told me on the way over, he said, ‘Ma’am, I just ain’t in Iraq.’ It gets their minds off of it. They talk. They open up. They tell stories that just send chills up your arms.”

His wife seeing the wounded troops at the hospital prompted the couple to start hosting events at their home, said Sgt. 1st Class Doug Crossley, who is assigned to the Army’s Center for Health Promotion and Preventive Medicine-Europe at Landstuhl.

“Back then, a lot of them were here for weeks in the barracks with no place to go, nowhere to hang out,” he said. “So we started inviting them over.”

The walking wounded troops from downrange staying at Kleber Kaserne’s medical holding barracks suffer injuries that do not require constant hospitalization. They are housed at Kleber while they receive treatment at nearby Landstuhl Regional Medical Center for ailments that medical facilities in Iraq and Afghanistan are not tailored to treat. Vans transported the wounded troops Tuesday from Kleber to the Crossleys’ home.

Once there, the soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines enjoyed a variety of grilled meats, played cards and dominoes, watched movies, cracked jokes and laughed.

“I think it’s cool that they’re willing to give us guys here in med hold kind of a break so we can get away from the base a bit,” said Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class John Hurhula.

In addition to the cookouts, the Crossleys also take the wounded on short trips around Kaiserslautern.

Carolyn Crossley is the vice president of Operation First Response, a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting wounded troops and their families. The Crossleys receive financial support from the organization to host the cookouts. Until a few months ago, the couple was paying out of their own pockets.

So why do they give so much time and effort?

“Just to see them smile afterwards,” said Doug Crossley. “We get e-mails from all over the world now. Everybody stays in contact with us and tells us how they’re doing. Families e-mail thanking us for taking care of their son, daughter while they were here.”

“I get a lot of hugs, lots of hugs, and that’s what I like,” Carolyn Crossley said. “I stay in touch with a lot of them. We still send things downrange to them when they get down there. We still send them boxes and e-mails. If the wives are having babies, we buy cribs and stuff for the wives. Just anything like that you can do just to say thank you. It’s all about them.”

For more information about Operation First Response, visit www.OperationFirstResponse.org.


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