Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Keeping Cool In The Heat Of Battle

Photo by: Reza A. Marvashti
The Free Lance-Star
Date published: 6/19/2007
by Rob Hedelt
photo by Reza A. Marvashti
Stafford parents of soldier in Iraq raising money to buy cool and safe shirts for his unit

LIKE SO many other parents of soldiers in Iraq, Jay and Valerie Chamberlain yearn for the day their son returns.
The Stafford County couple, who live in Woodlawn, nervously follow news reports.
In between infrequent phone calls and e-mails, they do all that they can: sending care packages, checking on their son's wife in Anchorage and praying every day for 1st Lt. Sam Chamberlain's safe return near the end of the year.
"You never can quite relax and feel like everything is okay," said Valerie.
But recently, the couple came up with a practical way to make a huge difference for their son and the 75 or so other soldiers in his company.
"We'd hear from him about how terribly hot and humid it is there," said Jay, a retired FBI agent who now works as a consultant in the Washington area. "It's even worse because he and his men constantly have to be in full gear and body armor, with temperatures in the daytime at 115 degrees or more."
The Chamberlains decided to get 24-year-old Sam, commander of an engineering unit in the Army's 25th Infantry Division, a few new-age moisture-management T-shirts to help him cope with the heat.
They originally planned to send him a handful of Under Armour shirts. But they learned that's not a good idea because the polyester shirts can complicate injuries in combat situations, melting onto the skin.
They were steered toward shirts made for combat and law enforcement, trademarked as driFIRE. The company that sells them says the shirts are "designed to deliver the ultimate in moisture management, comfort and flame-resistant safety."
Initially, the Chamberlains were thinking small, just trying to get a few shirts for Sam, who knew from the time he was a student at Stafford High School that he wanted to go into the military.
But when they shared their idea with him, the young officer, who attended West Virginia University on an ROTC scholarship, gave the idea thumbs-down.
"He told us he wouldn't wear anything all of his men didn't have," said Valerie. "So we just decided to work at getting a shirt or two for all of the soldiers in this company."
Getting enough money to pony up $25 each for the 150 or so driFIRE shirts sounded like an unreachable goal.
But as the Chamberlains went to friends, relatives and members of their church, Christ Lutheran in Fredericksburg, they found people willing to give.
"The idea of helping all the men over there is a little overwhelming," said Valerie. "But helping the men in this one unit in this small way, with a shirt that will help keep them cool in the 115-degree heat, is something that people can relate to."
The Stafford couple has set up a special account at a local bank for contributions and a special e-mail address for questions.
"We're working with a supplier that will handle all the shipping and is giving us a pretty good price for the shirts," said Jay.
The more money they get, the more shirts they'll send.
"We're sure Sam will be able to distribute them to other soldiers equally in need," Valerie said.
The effort has given them a very real way to help their son.
"We're very proud of his service as a combat engineer," said Jay. "But his unit spends much of its time 'outside the wire,' out in the countryside on missions. We won't really be able to relax until he's on his way home."
Until then, it looks like he and his men will at least be better able to cope with the heat.
And it will mean so much because of the support our community is demonstrating in getting those shirts there
Contributions can be mailed to Valerie J. Chamberlain, T-Shirt Account, c/o BB&T, 375 Chatham Heights Road, Fredericksburg, Va, 22405. Contributors may also make deposits at any BB&T branch; they will be deposited in that specific account. For more information, e-mail tshirts4sam@gmail.com

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