Soldier helps fellow wounded get warmth
MANNHEIM, Germany — Spc. Mark Stottsberry remembers the simple bliss of finally getting out of his dusty boots and desert uniform and slipping into a pair of sweats and sneakers the day he was medically evacuated to Germany from Kuwait in May.
“Someone just handed us a bag of clothes that people had donated and it was like the greatest gift in the world,” said Stottsberry, who left the combat zone with little more than the clothes on his back after hurting his shoulder in a fork lift accident.
“Finally getting out of those tactical clothes, it was like I felt human again.”
Fast-forward seven months. Stottsberry is out of the hospital, but still recovering from his injuries.
A truck driver with the 70th Transportation Company in Mannheim, Stottsberry says he can’t help but think about the injured GIs still flowing into Landstuhl Regional Medical Center.
“Somewhere along the line, someone had donated and collected those clothes that had made such a big difference for me,” Stottsberry said. “I wanted to be able to give back.”
That’s why he helped organize a drive to collect coats and other clothes for the newly arrived wounded at Landstuhl.
“There’s about a busload of wounded soldiers arriving every day,” Stottsberry said. “So, we’re trying to do what we can to help them out.”
As the newly elected president of the Mannheim chapter of Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers, he has just the platform to do it.
He and the outgoing BOSS president, Spc. James Wilson, organized Operation Warm Up in Mannheim a few weeks ago to kick off the clothing drive, enlisting local AFN DJs to mobilize community attention.
“Those are two soldiers who are putting their heart and soul into doing something that really matters,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Steven Voller, the Mannheim-area 293rd Base Support Battalion command sergeant major.
“Based on what doctors tell me, there are wounded soldiers showing up with basically nothing, some with just surgical gowns. There’s a real need there for this.”
“Back in May it was still pretty cool, especially compared to Kuwait,” said Stottsberry, recalling when he arrived from downrange. “One of the first things I did was go out and buy a coat.”
That’s why with Germany’s winter weather now in full force, Stottsberry has emphasized donations for coats — “if nothing else so they can then go out and buy their own clothes” — but says the drive is accepting donations for nearly any clothes that would be of use to newly arriving troops.
A donation box has been set up at the Mannheim USO office at Benjamin Franklin Village. “Anything that is new or mostly new is preferred,” he said.
“So far, we have collected about 50 coats and sweaters,” Stottsberry said. “Plus a few gift certificates, which are also great.”
Hopefully, he said, the donations will pick up even more.
“I can tell you firsthand,” he added, “that every item that gets donated makes a very big difference to that soldier who shows up here with nothing.”