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Tue, 23 Nov 2010, 11:40 AM

Team Summit Germany Troop Visit Blog Day 2
Courtesy of Jon Knapp


The Team Summit drivers completed their second day visiting the troops in Germany on Monday will a full day of activities in and around the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center. In today's blog, Bigfoot driver Dan Runte, the only non drag racer in the group, offers his thoughts on today's events, as well as the overall experience:

I came into this trip a little leery for several reasons. First, I was the only monster truck driver in a group of drag racers, and even though I know the Summit guys, it's not only been a while since I've been overseas, but I've also never been to Germany before this week, so heading into this week I have to admit I was a little nervous. However, as far as coming here, it has been an absolutely awesome experience. Summit and the USO have put this deal together to make it a life experience for each one of us that was fortunate enough to come.

Today was a very powerful day. After having breakfast at the Deutsches Haus, which is actually a German Air Force officers and NCO's club run by them, we headed over to the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, where we met some incredible people. We started in the ICU, where we were greeted by Dee Dee Price, an RN who has been there for five years. The ICU is a 12-bed unit where they receive patients from Iraq and Afghanistan, with the majority of their patients of late being Marines. They are the first stop for our most severely wounded warriors, with their assignment to treat them before their transfer to hospitals back in the United States.

It is a state-of-the-art facility, with a computer assigned to a station outside each room. Every precaution is taken to protect their patients, including donning a fresh gown and gloves every time one goes into the room, which made for an interesting sight when the four of us did our quick-change routine. We had the privilege of meeting a few of the soldiers, including one who had arrived from Iraq just last night, and all I can say is that it made a huge impression on each one of us.

One item they were most proud to show us was a board filled with messages and news on former patients, including letters of gratitude from parents of soldiers who had not made it home, and it was obvious how much this meant to the staff from how Dee Dee Price talked about it.

We then headed to the 13th Floor, D Section, where the charge nurse was Lt. Olson, an enthusiastic young man who informed us that their patients include American, as well as NATO troops, and that, depending on the severity of their injuries or length of their rehabilitation, their stay could range from a couple days to several months. Among the people we visited were two soldiers from Poland that had actually asked to see us through his translator. In addition, we met a young man from the Republic of Georgia, who had been taught to speak English by the night staff, and had his father in the room with him. Despite the severity of his injuries, we were encouraged after speaking with his doctor, who informed us that his functions had been steadily improving.

Before we left, the head nurse told us of a program where people back in the States make quilts that are presented to the soldiers upon their arrival at the hospital in order to give them a sense of home. It is a tremendous program that I suggest you check out at their website More than 30,000 blankets have been distributed, and the nurses wanted to honor our SFA hosts Wayne and Dieter by presenting them with their own quilt in thanks for their efforts with these troop visits, a gesture that truly moved our veteran guides. The four drivers were also presented with a special memento, as we were each given a Soldier's Angel pin that we will wear proudly.

>From 13 Delta, we proceeded to the 23-bed 8 Delta wing, where Capt. Teresa Timms, who just got back from Iraq, took us around to visit with the troops. The best news of the day for me came at 10:21 however, when Wayne called United and learned that my suitcase had finally arrived in Frankfurt, and would be at the main gate in over an hour. Although it delayed my sitting down for lunch, it was great to know I would finally have some clean clothes to wear.

After a quick lunch (which turned into an impromptu autograph session) and a stop by the baggage office, which takes care of the troops personal belongings when they aren't able to, we made the short drive over to the USO Warrior Center. Unlike your typical USO center, it is not open to the public, but it is instead reserved for the wounded on site. We spent about an hour and a half signing autographs and talking to the soldiers who came over to the facility, including Command Sergeant Major William "Buck" O'Neal, who welcomed us and thanked us for coming to see the troops.

Our official duties ended with another autograph session at the Contingency Aero Medical Staging Facility at Ramstein, who are among the first to see the troops when they arrive, and are the last before they head stateside, prepping them for the flight home.

Throughout the day, the one thing that impressed me the most was the incredible attitude displayed by the both the patients and the medical staff. As we all agreed, these are some awesome people treating some very special folks. It was an extremely humbling day that gave me an even greater appreciation for what those guys do, and the sacrifices they make for our country. I could say my hat is off to those guys, but that would be an understatement. It's a life changing experience that I'm glad we did, and I would do it again in a heartbeat if the occasion ever arises in the future.

The last event of the day was a tremendous dinner at the Spinnradl, a restaurant located in the oldest building in Kaiserslautern, where we had some tremendous food typical of the area. Finally our hosts Wayne and Dieter were again honored, as their friend and German officer Stefan Roth (who leaves for Afghanistan in the next few days) had successfully petitioned General Petraeus for a commendation, which was presented to them before dinner - a well deserved honor.

Well, that about does it for today. We have another full day of activities planned for tomorrow, for which I will turn you back to one of my drag racing buddies, so I invite you to stop back in and see what we're up to.

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