On January 15th, 2010 LTC Aldridge left for his third active duty deployment since joining the Army Reserves Medical Corps. Before leaving, Danielle Mostoller, the hospital’s PR representative, had LTC Aldridge promise to write regular updates that would be placed in the hospital’s email newsletter, which reaches 1600 people.
By February, 2010 LTC Aldridge was settled in with the 909th Forward Surgical Team (FST) in Forward Operating Base (FOB) Shank located in Logar Province, Afghanistan.
Soon after Aldridge’s “updates” hit the hospital newsletter, people began to respond. Danielle asked if there was anything they could send him. Maybe some care packages of snacks or books and such? LTC Aldridge, knowing that there were so many people around him that really did need something, responded with a simple request of socks for the Afghan soldiers and school supplies for the orphaned children of a nearby local village. A singular sentence. A simple whisper.
Within a week, boxes started to come in. Tens of boxes, filled with school supplies, socks, clothes and snacks. Thirty boxes alone came from Danielle and her co-workers. Before he knew what was going on, the people in his community began to organize a concerted effort to send more supplies.
At first, LTC Aldridge could give supplies to the day laborers of FOB Shank, who were very thankful. One laborer had 7 brothers and sisters that benefited well from the generosity. But soon, he became nearly overwhelmed with the deluge of boxes.
Everett McLaughlin, a community activist and Aldridge’s next door neighbor, wrote letters to the 3 local newspapers and arranged for drop boxes to be placed around all the local high schools. Mr. McLaughlin sent over 30 boxes of supplies personally.
Then, as a testament to the personal character of Dr. Aldridge, his self-termed “human network” began to take hold. Several thousand dollars began to pour in to pay for shipping. Hundreds of boxes began to arrive from the far ends of our nations shores. They came from New Hampshire, Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Idaho, and California.
LTC Aldridge then teamed up with FOB Shank’s Chaplain, CPT Chad Zielinski as well as the 173D Airborne’s Alpha Company, and Civil Affairs. The civil affairs group was able to channel the bulk of supplies to the local villages with the 173D Alpha company providing the movement and security. They delivered socks, clothing and school supplies. They even built soccer goals out of angle iron and delivered those to the children (who incidentally love to play soccer).
Father “Z” as he is known to us makes personal trips out to the surrounding smaller FOBs and Combat Outposts (COPs) to see the troops and provide them with spiritual comfort.
Once Father “Z” has provided for our troops, he then sets out to provide for the children of the local villages. He slogs through the mud, personally carrying the supplies.