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Army Family of the Year - National award recognizes Army family’s service

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posted by alias U.S. Army Garrison Rheinland-Pfalz on Monday 6th of December 2010 02:00:32 PM

Check us out on Facebook! National award recognizes Army family’s service By Rick Scavetta, U.S. Army Garrison Kaiserslautern LANDSTUHL, Germany – The first morning light creeps through Tawny Campbell’s window as she turns her bedroom light on, keeping her eyes closed in prayer. Her thoughts for the Almighty mesh into a silent conversation with her husband, Sgt. Joe Campbell, an Army flight medic serving in Afghanistan – his second combat tour. She clings to her necklace pendant – a Scottish thistle that reminds her of Joe and their traditional Scottish wedding 10 years earlier. “Who can I serve today? How can I make a difference in someone’s life? What can I do for you, Joe?” Tawny whispers. “Something to make it easier, something I can do here.” Her daughters, Ceilidha and Rhynli, are waking up. She reminds them they are stuffing gift bags for deployed Soldiers with Project Rudolph – one of three charities that the Campbell family manages. Operation Angel gifts bring cheer to the wounded, sick and injured troops at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center. Project Portrait offers military families portraits prior to deployments and baby photos for mothers who deliver while their spouse is deployed. For their efforts, the National Military Family Association recently named the Campbell family as the Army Family of the Year. On Dec. 7, they were stateside to accept the award. Even Joe got a break from his tour in Afghanistan to attend. “We’re just the figurehead of a larger group of people who support us and support Soldiers,” Tawny said. “It’s not our name, it’s our volunteering. For those who volunteer, this recognition is just as much for them as it for us.” The award program recognizes “strong military families who embrace their service to the nation, are role models in their community, and understand that together they are stronger,” according to the association website. A friend from Fort Benning, Ga. nominated the Campbells, whose commitment to serving the military goes back several years. Joe and Tawny, both from small towns in Idaho, met in high school. In 2001, after the 9-11 terrorist attacks, Joe’s National Guard unit was protecting a Utah chemical depot. That Christmas, while Joe voluntarily took guard duty for a friend, a first sergeant in a Santa suit delivered Joe his first Red Cross package. Inside was a letter from a boy, Nathan, thanking him for serving. “Joe kept that letter. It meant a lot to him,” Tawny said. “We know the power of a hand-written letter at Christmas.” By 2006, Joe was on active duty in Landstuhl. It was their first Christmas overseas, away from family, Tawny said. One early winter afternoon, while driving past the Burger King on Ramstein Air Base, the spirit of giving crept into their car. Tawny blurted out an idea. “Let’s hand out gift bags at the air terminal,” she said. “How will we do that,” Joe asked, shooting her a puzzled look. “Well figure it out,” she said. That year they passed out a hundred bags to troops at the Ramstein passenger terminal. Now, Project Rudolph is a full-scale operation, with the power of family bridging the Atlantic to support the effort. Tawny’s brother Ian, back home in Idaho, made it his Eagle Scout project. Her parents, Ray and Cheri Archibald, now run the stateside operation. This year, her parents oversee the preparation of 7,000 bags for troops. Even while deployed, Joe helps to pass out bags in Afghanistan as he did during a previous 15-month tour in Iraq. Days are often very busy for Soldiers serving with Company C, 1st Battalion, 214th Aviation Regiment, a U.S. Army helicopter unit that provides medical evacuation for coalition forces. Joe’s mornings also begin in prayer. He’ll look over scriptures while snacking from a care package Tawny sent. One morning, Joe’s stocking medical supplies. On another, he’s helping to rescue wounded comrades from the battlefield. To troops, the Joe’s unit is known as “Dustoff”—a nickname that goes back to the early days of Vietnam. When medical evacuations missions arise, rotors on the UH-60 Blackhawk pound through the air with an urgency that can mean life or death. On one recent mission, Joe’s crew was off to Marjah, where patrolling Marines came across a young boy injured in a motorcycle accident. Joe helped open the boy’s airway while flying to the hospital. After quick re-supply, his air ambulance was once again aloft – back to Marjah to pick up an Afghan interpreter with an infected gunshot wound. Three thousand miles away, back at the Ramstein Air Base food court, Tawny oversees volunteers stuffing Project Rudolph gift bags. Nearby, kids color Christmas scenes onto brown lunch bags. Each decorated bag then gets a handwritten note, a little bit of candy and a hand-made ornament. When the bag-stuffing morning is over, 700 bags are ready to ship. By Christmas, 15,000 bags will be in the hands of troops as far away as Kyrgyzstan. Others will go to military bases in Kuwait, Iraq, Djibouti, Diego Garcia, Kosovo and Afghanistan. As Project Rudolph gift bags make their way to deployed troops, Operation Angel gifts bring cheer to the wounded, sick and injured undergoing treatment in Landstuhl. More than once, Tawny and her daughters met someone who was evacuated from an Afghan battlefield by Sgt. Joe Campbell. “It shows the power of a family,” Tawny said. “He helps to heal them, physically. We help by healing their hearts. He gives them bandages. We give them smiles.” In September, Ceilidha spent time cheering up a Soldier who was shot in Iraq. Afterward, he gave Ceilidha his Purple Heart medal. Tawny insisted he take it back. “No, it’s just a medal,” the Soldier told Tawny. “Every time I close my eyes I think about being shot. I spent a time with you and your daughter and I haven’t thought about it once. That means more.” Interactions like that motivate Tawny and her girls to continue. Ceilidha might break out a deck of cards or read from her favorite book, Shel Silverstein’s “Where The Sidewalk Ends.” A Marine once gave her his rank, but she’s glad to just see troops smile, Ceilidha said. “I like to do service,” Ceilidha said. “It gives me a warm feeling inside.” Raised among charity projects, the girls don’t know the holidays any other way, a fact that Tawny loves. Christmas is spent at the hospital, visiting patients. So is every Thanksgiving, Easter and Veterans Day, Tawny said. “As a family, you can go out and do these things,” Tawny said. “Serve as a family.” U.S. Army Garrison Kaiserslautern site Check us out on Facebook! Link with us on Twitter...

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