Soldiers Welcome

No soldier forgotten

May 27, 2010 // 0 Comments

by M. SOLLE No matter what your view of the United States Armed Forces, as Memorial Day approaches and we pause to remember those who gave the ultimate sacrifice so we can have our freedom, let us not forget those who are still fighting to preserve those freedoms for us and for future generations of Americans. Belmont resident Ellen Schmuker never forgets. Imagine you are a soldier returning from an 18-month deployment in the desert. Imagine you are a soldier who saw things most people would have nightmares about and can’t comprehend. Imagine you are a soldier returning home to West Michigan and no one greets you at the airport when you arrive—no one. Imagine your thoughts as that soldier. Now, imagine you are soldier returning home to West Michigan late at night—you are tired, sore, and just want to sleep in a warm bed. Imagine your surprise to find yourself greeted by strangers, dozens of them, all of whom just want to say “thank you” for defending our country and risking your life in the process. Imagine it. Schmuker, a married mother of two, makes that image happen on a regular basis. Schmuker heads Hats Off to Service Members, a local organization that provides memorable homecomings to area soldiers and prides itself in recognizing area soldiers both at home and abroad. She finds volunteers to make signs, stuff gift baskets full of goods from area merchants, and greet those men and women of the Armed Services, who risk their life for our personal freedom. It’s a thankless job, but as Schmuker says, “It’s the least I can do. If I don’t do this, who will?” Not only does Hats Off provide bags to soldiers as they return, but it also puts together bags for troops as they deploy and deals directly with chaplains who e-mail Schmuker to let her know what soldiers need at their remote outposts where creature comforts are few and far between. Schmuker has many stories about her experiences doing what she feels is her duty as a citizen of the United States. She says often she just hangs out at the Gerald R. Ford Airport waiting and hoping a soldier is on a flight, hoping she and her group of […]