STERLING, Va. (WUSA)— Thanksgiving dinner is an extra special time for members of the military who often cannot be with loved ones for a long time.
Through donations to the Turkeys for Troops program, the United Service Organizations’ USO-Metropolitan Washington will prepare Thanksgiving gift baskets for military families in need.
Stefanie Wall, 31, volunteers for the USO Lounge inside Dulles International Airport.
“My family has a history of service in the military I wanted to give back to the organization that has treated my family so well,” Wall said.
Interacting with the military reminds Wall of her “little brother,” and how she almost lost him.
On Oct. 24, 2009, Wall’s brother, Army Captain Mark Wise, 27, was hit with an IED in Afghanistan. He was 24 at the time.
When paratroopers rescued him, the left side of his body was severely injured.
“I had just gotten back from my trip when I was told. I think I didn’t believe it at first, because I didn’t want to believe it,” Wall explained.
Captain Wise began his strenuous recovery at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (formally Walter Reed Army Medical Center).
“They put him in a medical coma to allow his body to reduce the brain swelling and help his organs and everything stabilizes,” Wall said.
Doctors said Wise would have to use a wheelchair for a long time due to the extensive damage to his legs.
“He wouldn’t accept the doctors saying he wouldn’t walk. ‘It’s going to be a long time before you can do that.’ He would push himself to walk and he would push himself to wear these contraptions on the legs that would help rebuild the muscle.”
Today Wise not only walks, he runs. He is an active participant in triathlons, marathons and other physical activities.
Meanwhile, the injury has brought Wall’s tight-knit military family, even closer.
“I think the accident has changed the family in just not that we never didn’t appreciate each other. But you don’t walk out that door without saying ‘I love you’ one more time or without making that extra step to call,” Wall said.
During her brother’s recovery process, Wall witnessed the impact of the USO on wounded warriors. Wise enjoyed the entertainment and family dinner nights organized by the USO. The holiday season was also a special time.
“When my brother was at Walter Reed the USO…would come and bring Thanksgiving meals to the troops that maybe couldn’t leave the hospital wards to get down to the cafeteria or to get out and celebrate the holidays,” she recounted.
“So I know it’s extremely important. It’s something that helps lift their spirits.”