NEW YORK NURSE: March 2010
by Erin Silk
Gorete Crowe is many things to many people. For NYSNA, she serves as chair of the Council on Legislation, president of District 16, and PAC trustee. At home, she is a Boy Scouts of America leader and the proud mother of a daughter, Alice, and two sons, Sean and George, currently serving in the military. Crowe is also a member of “Semper Fi Parents,” a support group for families whose children serve in all branches of the military: Army, Navy, Marines, and the Air Force.
Semper Fi Parents of the Hudson Valley is a non-profit, 501(c)(3) organization started by Paula Zwillinger, an RN and mother of fallen soldier Robert Mininger, who was killed in the Iraq war in June of 2005.
“Semper Fi” means “faithful forever.” Crowe, whose eldest son, Sean, has been in the Air Force for seven years and youngest son, George, in the Marines for two years, knows what it’s like to be the faithful parent who must remain strong when loved ones are away during wartime.
Originally, Semper Fi Parents was formed to help families navigate the complexities of what to expect when their sons and daughters were called to serve. But as the group grew in size (60 members currently), it was realized that energies spent worrying about the safety of their children could be mobilized to send packages and words of encouragement to soldiers who are deployed. “We asked ourselves, we have all of this love and concern, how can we help?” said Crowe.
Semper Fi Parents puts together packages of the everyday items (soaps, lip balm, trail mix, playing cards) that soldiers miss the most. Crowe estimates that, throughout the year, the group sends more than 1,000 boxes of these basic necessities. She reports that the most-requested items are baby wipes (used to maintain personal hygiene in lieu of water that is rationed) and underwear (laundry service is hard to come by). At Christmas, more than 300 boxes are sent containing homemade cookies or stockings filled with little gifts to help soldiers through a holiday season away from loved ones.
Through limited contact with grateful soldiers, Semper Fi Parents has heard that requests for these coveted personal items are processed faster by their group than by military personnel. “An e-mail request that reaches us on a Friday afternoon will result in a package being mailed out as soon as the next day,” Crowe says. She and fellow parents take great pride in answering these most basic of needs.
On Dec. 11, 45 members of Semper Fi Parents visited Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. Walter Reed is where severely injured soldiers return to receive care. The group spent a day meeting with patients; handing out gifts of an eagle that bore the inscription: “To Our Hero.”
Included in the road trip was a visit to Arlington National Cemetery, where our nation’s war heroes are laid to rest. Semper Fi Parents took part in “Wreaths Across America Day,” an extension of the “Arlington Wreath Project,” which honors the fallen with wreaths placed on headstones in the famed military cemetery. For every wreath that is purchased, another is donated by founding member Morrill Worcester, who began the tradition in 1992 with a donation of 5,000 Christmas wreaths in the cemetery.
After paying their respects, Semper Fi Parents laid their wreaths on graves in Section 60, where recent fallen soldiers of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars are buried. Crowe said that she was proud to be a part of the project and that, as hard as it is to be reminded of a war’s worst possible outcome, she “needed to do it for myself and for my children.