Working For The Children Of Iraq
March 29, 2008
When I first read this story, I thought to myself, how great it is to live in a country, with men and women like this gentleman. How great it is that we have people with this type of character, pride, conviction and grace, serving in our country’s Armed Forces. This young man exemplifies what it means to serve with courage, honor, dignity, respect and pride.
He graduated from West Point in 1989 and served in the Army as a Ranger, until 1993, when he left the Army and entered the Individual Ready Reserve. He never dreamedthat he would serve in Iraq. In October 2005, when he was 38, Tom Deierlein was working as the chief operating officer for Dynamic Logic, a market research company. One day, out of the blue, he received a telegram, ordering him to report for active duty and prepare to deploy to Iraq. When he first received the telegram, he thought there had been a mistake and called the Army.
“I called them up and said, ‘Man, I think you got the wrong guy,’” Deierlein said. “I read them my Social Security Number. They were like, ‘No,that’s you,’ and I’m like, ‘No I don’t think so.’”
However, he quickly resigned himself to the fact that he’d been activated and called back to active duty. He then began quickly making last minute arrangements. A few days before he was scheduled to show up for duty, an Army official called him to say that he didn’t have to report afterall. Deierlein continued to follow through with his initial orders.
“Something told me not to fight this, but rather to embrace it and go ahead and serve my country with honor, dignity and pride,” Deierlein wrote to his family and friends in an email.
Deierlein reported for active duty and soon found himself in Iraq, assigned to the 414th Civil Affairs Battalion in Sadr City. The job of his unit was to find ways to rebuild schools and hospitals and help businesses to reopen, help local governments and utilities back into action. One thing he immediately noticed, as that the Iraqi people neeed supplies. While the military was doing what they could, they couldn’t get the supplies to the people fast enough. That’s when Tom asked his family and friends to help out.
“I was trying to shortcut the Army bureaucracy of getting basic humanitarian aid supplies,” Deierlein said.
The heart of the American people showed their true colors, once he asked for help. Once he put the word out to family and friends, people began responding by sending large quantities of supplies, including vitamins, school supplies and clothing.
“When we gave out vitamins, that’s when the women showed up,” he said. “We wouldn’t look them in the eye and they wouldn’t look us in the eye. But they risked contact with us because their children were so thin and small.”
Though the children didn’t repond as excitedly as their parents did, when it came to vitamins and school supplies, they did respond to the toys that Deierlein handed out to them as well. One toy that they asked for over and over again was soccer balls.
Unbeknownst to him, things were getting ready to change drastically for Tom Deierlein. In September 2006, they’d been receiving reports of garbage collectors being shot in Adhamiya. On September 9th, Deierlein went ut with a patrol to check out the situation. That’s when a sniper shot him in the left hip. Everyone on the patrol immediately jumped to action, popping smoke to obscure the area. He was exmined by a medic and then tranported to a medical aid station and eventually evacuated by a helicopter.
The bullet had shattered his pelvis and sacrum, damaging nerves along it’s path. At the time, he was unable to walk. He was eventually evacuated to Walter Reed Army Medical Center where he began his recover, finally completing it at the James A Haley VA Medical Center in Tampa, Florida. In June 2007, his recovery complete, he returned to work, though he was still attending physical therapy.
“In the beginning, I was very obsessed with them finding the guy and killing him, but does it really matter?” Deierlein said. “The reality is that we just have to get things fixed over there.”
While Tom was hospitalized, several friends of his had the idea to continue where Tom left off - helping the Iraqi people. They knew how passionate Tom was about providing the help to the Iraqi people, that was so sorely needed. So they began the TD Foundation.
This foundation was started after Tom Deierlein, a West Point graduate was activated in late 2005 to active duty military service after 12 years in the inactive reserves. While deployed as a Civil Affairs Officer focused on reconstruction, he reviewed the terrible conditions in Sadr City a slum of 2.3 million people in East Baghdad Iraq. The goal was to help children affected in war torn East Baghdad with basic life needs from shoes and clothes to school supplies and vitamins. After Tom was seriously shot in September of 2006, Sean Finnegan, Bill Flately, and Paul Bremer, advertising executives took the lead and started the Foundation with a fund raising kick off event at the Forbes Gallery in NYC in November 2006. Now that Tom is recovered and back in New York, the important works continues and grows. These innocent children are in desperate need of life’s most basic necessities.
That foundation, today has grown and is accomplishing many great things to help the Iraqi people, especially the children. Tom is now recouperated and runs the TD Foundation. Funds are raised to help arrange for medical treatment and the purchase of items such as clothing, food, water, school supplies and vitamins, as well as toys.
This year alone, the foundation sponsored 5 children from the country of Jordan, to come to the US for heart surgery. The foundation also sent 18 boxes of soccer balls, uniforms and equipment to Iraqi children. All participants in the organization are volunteers. The foundation partners with organizations and individuals in other countries to distribute the goods ad services to the people who need them the most. The first fundraiser conducted by the foundation, held in November 2006, raised $23,000. In May 2007, a fundraiser raised $100,000. All to help make the lives of those less fortunate, than we in the United States, a little bit better.
To learn more about the TD Foundation, the work they do and perhaps to participate, please visit their website.
Source: April 2008 Issue, VFW Magazine