U.S. Army Capt. Michelle DiGuglielmo was at Harlem United Methodist Church on Monday to talk about her one-year deployment in Iraq.
DiGuglielmo, a member of Harlem United Methodist, shared her experiences along with the Rev. Roger Vest and three members of the church's Care Ministry to give them a better idea of what deployed soldiers need and want.
DiGuglielmo is a 13-year Army veteran who served in the Middle East in the early 1990s, returning in November from a second deployment with the 86th Combat Support Hospital, which was stationed at a hospital in downtown Baghdad.
"The thing that was different this time is that we had computer access," DiGuglielmo said, adding that the computer access enabled her to order items online and to send and receive e-mail, pictures and short videos.
DiGuglielmo said she had access to the PX, a military store. But medical personnel stationed in Afghanistan, such as the 249th General Hospital, did not have the conveniences of hard-walled homes to sleep in, nice hospital beds and supplies, and hospital-quality ventilators, DiGuglielmo said.
"Their experience was a little different than mine because they were in a field setup, where we took over a hospital, an Iraqi hospital that was actually Saddam Hussein's hospital," DiGuglielmo said. "It was really nice to have marble and gold and all that in there. So we had a pretty nice place to work."
Vest said he liked the idea of supporting the troops in Afghanistan with care packages, cards, letters and phone cards. Church members have been sending care packages regularly to deployed church members, such as DiGuglielmo, and other soldiers with no family. Vest said he also e-mails or mails monthly newsletters and weekly Sunday bulletins to keep soldiers in touch with home.
"E-mail is nice," DiGuglielmo said of the church newsletters and bulletins. "That kind of kept me in touch with things at home and what's going on in the church. ... (It's nice) just to know what's going on in the real world, back here, just kind of a taste of home."
DiGuglielmo said prepaid phone cards are great, especially for injured soldiers. The hospital staff also makes supply bags for injured soldiers, who often must have uniforms cut off when they go to an emergency room.
The bags include T-shirts, underwear, pajama pants and flip-flops.
Vest and Janice Newsome, the ministry head, said providing items for the bags would be a good way the church could help.
Willcox makes a point of sending jokes via e-mail to deployed soldiers she knows just so they get a chuckle and can pass the laugh along to others, she said.
"Funny jokes get shared. Humor is good. It gets you through the year," DiGuglielmo said, adding that entertainment items such as DVDs, CDs, games, books and blank cards to send home are appreciated after 16-hour days. "We were just always looking for something to do in our off time to kind of decompress from all the stress and things that are going on.''
Photo by Valerie Rowell
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.