Joan Barnhardts one woman crusade for her Marines.
We just heard from a HeroBracelet wearer named Joan Barnhardt. She had ordered Deployed HeroBracelets on several occasions and we asked her if she'd share what she was doing. We were all pretty amazed at what she's done for a group of local Marines from Red Bank, NJ. Here is her story.
"I am so thrilled to have my Deployed HeroBracelets. I wear two for my friends, Col Bob Danko and GySgt Gerald Graham, both Marines deployed in Iraq.
Here's how I got to know them.
I lost my Mom to Alzheimer's on Nov. 21, 2003. On Sept 11, 2001 I was at work and heard on the news and saw on TV what horror had happened. I was afraid and wanted to be with my mother. I left work to be with her. When I got there I turned on the TV and thank God she really did not understand what happened. She just would say "It's orange" every time they showed the towers being hit. That day and my mother's illness have changed me forever.
After she passed I missed her terribly. What I missed most of all was loving her. Doing those little things you do for someone you love. Picking up a little red teddy bear on Valentine's Day, candy she liked. I would see something and want to get it for her and then my heart would catch and I would remember she was gone.
Of course what was happening because of Sept. 11 was in the news. Whenever I saw our service people on TV I was awed by what they were doing for me and our country - willingly for love of our country and our safety at home. That was when I got the idea to find a service person to send those little loving things I wanted to pick up for my Mom and send them to someone that perhaps was not getting too many packages from home.
I asked everyone I know if they knew of someone who serving over there and I called the local Marine Reserve Center in Red Bank to see if they could give me the name of someone I could send to. I had the excellent good fortune of getting Gunnery Sgt Kirk Larson on the phone who put me in touch with Staff Sgt Jack Santelli. Thank God neither of them thought I was some kind of a nut or something. Staff Sgt Santelli invited me to a family day for the Marines that had just deployed from Red Bank. He explained that Red Bank is the battalion headquarters of the 6th Motor Transport Battalion with locations in Providence, Lubbock, Texarkana, Las Vegas, Orlando and New Haven. At the end of the event he gave me a list of three contacts.
I said, "three names?" I was looking for one. He said they would be the contact I could send to and that they would make sure the goodies got dispersed. They had 24 from Red Bank that just deployed. The Battalion had 150 over there.
I realized that the box I had at home filling up with goodies each time I went to the store was not going to be enough. I made a box for work. Put an American Flag on it and a decal of the 6th Motor Transport Battalion.
A few days later I went to Curves in Sea Bright to work out and had a conversation with Linda, the owner. I explained to her that I had "adopted" 24 Marines and she offered to put a box in the club.
In 2004, I ended up sending over 700 pounds of goodies donated by the ladies at Curves! I got donations from people I work with of goodies and postage. As a matter of fact my Chiropractor gave me money every time I went to see him. Soon, my doctors, pharmacist, ladies at church and everyone I knew was giving me goodies and postage money.
Thankfully, our 24 Marines came home and then Red Bank sent 58 in January of 2005 and we were still collecting and sending. It got to the point where my Chiropractor, Dr. Sparling was actually coming to my office to pick up the boxes when they were ready to go. He didn't want me to lift them up.
Staff Sgt Santelli told me about one of our Marines from New Haven. Sgt
Luce lost both his legs. He told me he and Col Danko were going down to Walter Reed to see him next week. I spread the work around and sent him down with the goodies I purchase for him and his wife and the checks I had collected.
I personally collected $1600 from family and friends. The Red Bank Elks Lodge 233 had two breakfasts for him and raised a lot of money. The Leathernecks Motor Cycle Club, Gung Ho Chapter, had a bike run and raise money. All of us did whatever we could.
In the meantime, I got to know the active duty Marines in Red Bank and some of the reservists before they left. Staff Sgt Santelli and Col Danko made sure they invited me to everything including going to the Elks after one event. Col Danko and Staff Sanely asked me to become a member of the Elks with them. They wanted me to be sworn in with them. I was so honored they included me. One of the Elks there said looks like the Marines had adopted you. I didn't think of it but, yes, I guess they did.
I love Col Danko who is now in Iraq. He made sure I was invited to all of the events, deployments and homecomings. We were now members of the Elks participating in events supporting our troops with them too. Thanks to Col Danko and Staff Sgt Santelli (who lost his father to Alzheimer's shortly after my mother) they have given me a family.
My first order of HeroBracelets was for Col Danko and Gunny Graham. I wear both and I Linda at Curves a HeroBracelet for Col Danko. She feels the same way I do about Col Danko. An exceptional man. I got to know Gunny Graham from the events I attended. This is the first time I know personally deployed heroes.
My second order of, I think 11, were for Col Danko's family and friends and friends of Gunny Graham.
Now the word has gotten out to the other Marines in Red Bank and Sgt Fernandez asked Staff Sgt Santelli to ask me if I could get a bracelet for him that he wanted to pay for the bracelet dedicated to Gunny Graham that would benefit the Fallen Heroes Fund. This order is for 3 more. I told Sgt Fernandez since I don't have an address for Gunny Graham yet to send goodies the least I can do is get the bracelet for his friends.
So that is the whole story. It's almost like the movie Titanic!!. Anyway,
I really don't do very much. Whatever I can do for our heroes I will do. I have been an admirer of the Fallen Heroes Fund I am proud to be an itty bitty part.
The 6th Motor Battalion lost CWO Wells in Iraq. That is when I found your site looking for information about fallen heroes. I was so touched by the emotion these Marines have. As I said I have changed.......
Thank you for your interest. I am happy to tell the story of some of the fine young Marines I have had the utmost honor to get to know."