Support needed for local soldiers
December 09, 2010Ed Lazar will celebrate the holidays with his wife Karen, three of his children and a heavy heart.
Their family, not unlike many others, will be thinking of loved ones thousands of miles away serving their country.
Andrew Lazar is one of those. He's two months into a 6-month deployment at a forward operating base in Afghanistan. A graduate of Grosse Pointe North High School, he is a medic attached to the 18th Fires Brigade of the 82nd Airborne Division of the United States Army.
It's his job to help heal the wounded, a job Ed Lazar says is "the most honorable thing you can do. Help save lives."
When Andrew Lazar arrived, it didn't take long for him to assess the needs of the unit of 18 people.
"He said security was tight on the base," Ed Lazar said. "They couldn't use cameras or cell phones. Webcams are prohibited. They can have mail and limited access to a phone and Internet. They lack any real entertainment."
Which Andrew Lazar pointed out in an e-mail home early in his deployment.
"Other than our equipment, guys have nothing here, Dad. It is really sad," Andrew Lazar wrote in the e-mail. "All they can think about is war, and while that's why we're here, they need a mental break. They get support from their families, but to know our whole community is behind us would mean a lot. they also need to have some fun and keep in better touch with their families. What can we do for them."
That's when Ed Lazar went to work. Andrew discussed what could be done and a wish list was developed. Back at home, Ed started raising funds for purchases for the soldiers just in time for the holidays.
And the most natural of partners in the effort became the Grosse Pointe War Memorial and its president, Mark Weber.
"This is what the War Memorial does," Weber said. "We support our troops, especially Grosse Pointers however we can.
"Our goal is to raise money to help here and then help others from Grosse Pointe. We need families to contact us if they have soldiers serving in the war. We will help."
Ed Lazar and Weber formed the Grosse Pointe War Memorial Soldiers Support Fund, which has collected money to help provide the unit with PSP game systems, PSP games, XBox 360 games, iPods and gift cards so soldiers can order holiday gifts for their families. Funds also are used to buy needed hygiene supplies and healthy snacks.
Donations are tax-deductible through the War Memorial and Ed Lazar and Weber agreed the project will be ongoing.
"We take it for granted sometimes that we have freedoms only because someone fought for them," Ed Lazar said.
Ed Lazar reached out to friends, local businesses and State Farm's corporate offices - all which have helped support the cause.
"We still need help to support these men and women," Ed Lazar said. "This community and the War Memorial have been very supportive."
Once the news got back to Andrew Lazar, he sent the following in a e-mail home: "I'm totally blown away with the amount of support you're getting from people and how the community is coming together! Everyone here is really excited and super appreciative! There are going to be a ton of thank you letters coming from all the guys here and probably recognition from the unit. I don't want this to sound like we are just asking for cool, free stuff because we surely are not. We would appreciate some items that would just remind us of home, the good old United States of America. I don't know what that might be. Whatever you and the community are willing to send will be most appreciated and will change these guys' deployment and definitely be something they won't forget."
Ed Lazar said it's exactly what he and Karen hoped for.
"Our kids are all supportive of Andrew. There's a sense of pride and it's also the scariest time of my life. I will never forget when he told me he enlisted. He didn't say 'I'm thinking about this.' He said he was going. As a father, I had to be supportive. But all I could do is cry. I didn't sleep for six or seven nights.
"The pride and fear set in at the same time. We get to talk to him 30 or 40 minutes every two weeks. There's only so much he can say, so it's pretty much about what's going on here at home."
Andrew Lazar will return to Fort Bragg, N.C. after the 6-month deployment, where he will train and could return for another deployment after six months.
"We're so proud of him," Ed Lazar said. "But we just want him home."