MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, NC --
Nicknamed the “Long Red Line”, over 50 personnel from Nassau County Fire Department in New York City traveled over 1,300 miles in their fire trucks and support vehicles to Camp Lejeune for Operation Wounded Warrior.
The operation is an annual support event for service members and veterans in the Camp Lejeune area who have been wounded in Afghanistan and Iraq during Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. This year is the seventh consecutive year that the firefighters have made the trip to North Carolina to visit and offer support to wounded veterans.
“I think this is an awesome thing that they’re doing,” said Stephanie Edmundson, who attended the event with her husband, retired Army Sgt. Eric Edmundson who was crippled while serving in Iraq. “Events like this one are always a great help and can sometimes be a lot of fun.”
Before the event, tables were loaded with everything from clothes, books and food supplies to toys and candy. Along with a surprise visit from St. Nicholas, there were plenty of smiles as families lined up with giant bags ready to be filled with presents.
“The guys with the Nassau County Fire Department spend all year collecting donations and funds so that they can redistribute them to injured service members and their families,” said Gunnery Sgt. Matthew Austin, the wounded warrior liaison for Headquarters Company, Headquarters Battalion, 2nd Marine Division and the main point of contact between the fire department and the division. “This event is a continuous joint effort between the fire department, the Wounded Warrior Battalion, and 2nd Marine Division.”
The idea for the event came to Nassau county firefighters just a few short years after the attack on the World Trade Center in 2001 as some of the U.S. military’s first responders were returning home from Iraq with injuries.
“We were inspired by the actions of our military during and after the September 11th attacks,” said Bill Grogan, one of the firefighters in the Long Red Line and initial coordinator for Operation Wounded Warrior. “After the cleanup there was a popular quote that read ‘I’ll take it from here’ and that’s just what our boys in uniform did. Now as they’re starting to come home injured and we’re learning about the severity of the wounds we want to do everything we can for these guys who sacrificed so much to keep us safe.”
With each year that passes the program garners more attention and support from people who want to reach out and help service members, enabling the firefighters to have a bigger impact on more injured veterans every year.
“Previously when we hosted the operation here we were only able to get word about it to the Marines in the Wounded Warrior Battalion,” Austin said. “This is the first year that we’ve been able to offer the support to not only the battalion but also to all the wounded veterans in the (Marine Expeditionary Force) and the rest of 2nd Marine Division as well as all the others in the Jacksonville area.”
Austin explained that as the program grew bigger they wanted to be able to reach out and offer support to more and more veterans each year.
During the event Marines presented the firefighters a plaque detailing their thanks for the group’s contributions, devotion and continuous efforts to support wounded veterans.
“This is a tremendous joy for us,” said Joe O-Grady, president of the Operation Wounded Warrior program. “All of us want these soldiers and Marines to know that the community cares about those in uniform taking the fight to the enemy and we want to support them in any way we can.”
In addition to Camp Lejeune, the Long Red Line stops at several other military bases along the way to offer their support to all the wounded veterans in the east coast area. For additional information about Nassau County firefighters, Operation Wounded Warrior and how to help support them you can visit their website at www.ncff-oww.com/dev/.
“The operation is an amazing thing,” said Paul Long, one of the Nassau County firefighters who made the trip. “It gives us a small opportunity to show a token of our massive appreciation to these veterans who gave even more than was asked of them. I won’t live long enough to do enough for these guys.”