Ft Belvoir in Northern Virginia is home to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (WRNMMC) specializing in the treatment of TBI and PTS. They have some of the most incredible individuals working there. The level of committment to our Warriors is unparalleled. We knew we had to make Ft Belvoir the nexis of our Homefront Support program for our wounded, their families and the dedicated men and women who care for them.
SKK had laid the groundwork for this event early in July. It was her determination and tenacity that got us in the door. (I think they just got tired of answering her phone calls and figured it was the easiest way to get rid of this irritating woman.)
When we met with the Outreach Coordinator for the 1st BN Warrior Transition Brigade in August we were pleasantly surprised with the response. She was onboard and on our side the moment we sat down in her office and started telling her about the 9-11 Cookouts and other events we had done at the old Walter Reed Medical Center on Georgia Ave. Once I gave her a jar of my world class BBQ Sauce, she was ready to start cooking right then. It's amazing what a mixture of brown sugar and spices can do for one's perspective and attitude. When I laid out the menu of BBQ chicken, smoked beef, fried squash and assorted sides, I swear the lady swooned. (She's an Okie and she hunts, fishes, and won a prize for the largest fish caught in a ProAm/PBA BassMasters tournament.) To say she is a country-girl would be an understatement of epic proportions.
Our team arrived onsite at 0900 and immediately had more help than I ever could have wanted. The Red Cross sent 3 wonderful Ladies with bottled water to assist with the setup and serving line. These Ladies went way above and beyond the call. There was a detail tasked to set up the tables on the patio for those who preferred to dine al'fresco. The young Warriors pictured below elected to do just that, and Virginia Artesian Bottling had provided us with water.
We took over the kitchen at 1000 and began cooking the squash and setting up the steam trays. I prefer to cook and serve the squash hot. It just tastes better when its freshly cooked. I slice the onions and squash the night before and pack in ziplock bags on ice. My technique for cooking is simple. Large (16") deep frying pan; lots of butter; fresh sweet onions saute'd in melted butter; add the sliced squash and stir/blend until hot and tender. Salt and pepper spareingly while cooking so the person eating it has the opportunity to adjust the level. (We are careful with salt during our events.)
I have to say, as proud as I am of my BBQ sauce, it was the fried squash that received the most praise/feedback. Soldiers were coming back for 2nd's and 3rd's on the squash. The most frequently heard comment was "Dude, that squash is MONEY!!!" I got more "thank yous" for the squash than I got for the entire meal.
I had prepared about 30 pounds of London Broil with a dry rub and smoked with wild cherry wood. My ace sidekick and best friend, (my wife), sliced the meat after it was smoked and cooled and put it in half-size steam table trays. That was the best idea, (except for having the good sense to marry me), that I could have gotten. She was also instrumental in choosing the cuts of meat.
I cooked the chicken last. We served Perdue boneless skinless thighs and bone-in thighs. These are cooked on the grill in BBQ sauce in the steam trays. I transfer them to a clean tray and cover and put them in the oven to keep them above room temperature. I try to get the chicken onsite while its still warm.
Olive Garden came through with spaghetti, pasta dishes and two huge salads. Pinera Bread gave us more bread than we needed but trust me, nothing goes uneaten on a military base. The one thing that is a constant in the military, no matter the branch, is that Warriors will eat. Buffalo Wild Wings gave us 150 wings.
We had 300 cupcakes from the Cupcake Lady. She said this was the first time she'd done anything like this, and then she said, "but it won't be the last." Red Velvet cupcakes with butter cream icing; Oreo cupcakes; German Chocolate Cake cupcakes; Reese's Peanut Butter cupcakes; cupcakes with red. white and blue sprinkles. I was OD'ing on sugar just looking at the trays.
God Bless America.
Once we had the tables set-up and the food in the trays, we opened the serving line and they started coming; and coming and coming. Fishmugger and I are cooking squash and keeping the trays full; the Red Cross Ladies are filling plates and handing out utensils. We had our volunteers (Freepers all) serving the salads and cupcakes.
Military.com up in McClean, VA had sent us some copies of The Military Advantage to make sure our Warriors were as educated as possible about the benefits and rewards available to them both while in uniform and after leaving the military.
After it was over, we cleaned up, loaded the equipment, and had a sit-down with Queen, the Outreach Coordinator. Her first question to me was , "When can we do this again?"
My answer was "Super Bowl party."
Lock and load.
Lots of people to thank and they know who they are and I hope they were hugged and thanked sufficiently before they left.
The Red Cross Ladies
The Gang of Reprobates:
Katherine (be still my heart), Lisa, Olga, Courtney, Chad, Fishmugger, SKK, Queen and Pinch.