Mother of fallen soldier hands out donations at Landstuhl
January 9, 2009
LANDSTUHL, Germany — On Thursday afternoon the mother of a soldier killed in Afghanistan lent a hand to a soldier wounded in Afghanistan.
Linda Ferrara, the mother of the late Vicenza, Italy-based Capt. Matthew Ferrara, helped Spc. Stephen Stout sort through a box of donated goods at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center. Stout will fly back to the States soon for surgery, and wanted to find a teddy bear for his son — whom he’ll meet for the first time.
"I’m a big believer in God and that’s how God works — through somebody with her strong will," Stout said. "I don’t think I’d be able to do that. I’d still be in deep depression if my son died."
Ferrara, of Torrance, Calif., has been interacting with soldiers and handing out donated items at Landstuhl all week during a Soldiers’ Angels-sponsored trip to Landstuhl. Soldiers’ Angels is a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting U.S. troops.
"I’ll hone my operation to suit what [Soldiers’ Angels] needs," Ferrara said. "Every day we come down here, talk to the guys and see what they need."
The trip came about because of a series of improbable events surrounding Matthew Ferrara’s 2007 death in Afghanistan, a robbery in southern California and a blog run by an American living in Germany.
Ferrara found herself at the hospital after reaching out to MaryAnn Phillips, who volunteers with Soldiers’ Angels and runs a military-related blog. In early 2008, Phillips re-posted on her blog a video clip of an Army helicopter removing Matthew Ferrara’s remains from the battlefield. Ferrara’s family members saw the video, and Linda contacted Phillips.
The two women corresponded over e-mail, and Ferrara decided she needed to do something to help the troops. She began gathering donations and making blankets. Pretty soon, she had $8,000 worth of items that were loaded into an RV parked outside her family’s bakery in Compton, Calif. In early December, thieves broke into the camper and stole nearly everything.
The press picked up on the story, and Ferrara was subsequently flooded with donations — around $30,000 in cash and enough clothes and items to fill 50, 35-pound boxes.
All the donations will make their way to the troops. The first of the boxes — filled with clothing, blankets and the sort — just reached Landstuhl.
The entire event has brought about several memorable experiences for Ferrara. A soldier in Afghanistan sent Ferrara a card with a $10 bill in it. A soldier who was with her son on the night he died got Linda Ferrara’s e-mail address from one of the news stories. That soldier, along with others from Ferrara’s unit, spent New Year’s Day at the Ferrara family home in southern California, sharing stories.
"I just feel with the whole thing, it wasn’t a planned event," she said. "It’s something that’s just evolved throughout. I think it’s a great thing. It’s been really nice for me to see some of the young guys here."
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