February 2006, I was reading an article about the heroics of an Explosive Ordinance Disposal (EOD) team leader US Marine Gunnery Sergeant Michael Burghardt, known to everyone as Gunny Burghardt. Please take a few minutes and continue to read about Gunny Burghardt and how Main Line Troop Support aka Philadelphia Treats for Troops started.

 

Gunny Burghardt and his team were in support of the 2nd Brigade of the 28th Infantry Division. The Pennsylvania Army National Guard in Ramadi, Al Anbar Province, Iraq. He had arrived at a very chaotic scene after an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) had killed three Soldiers, LT Mark Dooley, SGT Michael Egan and SPC William Fernandez.

 

Once arriving at the attack site Gunny observed an IED crater. Wearing only his body armor and helmet “Iron Mike” jumped down inside the crater to take a closer look. As soon as he did that, he realized he had made a mistake. There before him was a red detonation cord running around the nose of two 152mm artillery shells. He cut the wire with his knife to neutralize the IED. What Gunny did not see was a third artillery shell buried in the ground behind him. At that moment an insurgent waiting in the distance, pressed a button on his cell phone, causing the artillery shell to explode.

 

The blast threw Gunny about 15 feet into the air. He landed on the ground with no feeling in his legs. Soldiers from the 2/28 BCT cut off his pants to see how badly he was hurt. None could believe his legs were still there. Sergeant Burghardt’s father is a Vietnam vet who is paralyzed from the waist down, so he did not want to come home in a wheel chair and have his father see him like that. After a few minutes Gunny began to feel tingling in his legs and he told the Soldiers he wanted to stand. Miraculously, Gunny got to his feet. He refused to lie on the stretcher and he insisted on walking under his own power. He didn’t want to give the insurgents the satisfaction of seeing him carried off. With that, Gunny lifted his left hand in the air and gave the insurgents who blew him up a “one finger salute”. “I flipped them one. It was like, ‘OK, I lost that round but I’ll be back next week.”

 

At that moment, a reporter from the Omaha World Herald newspaper, Jeff Bundy, snapped the now famous picture of Gunny Burghardt.

 

The article continues and quotes Colonel John Gronski, the brigade commander in Ramadi, as he hailed the image as,” an Exemplar of the Warrior Spirit”.

 

I paused and said to myself, Colonel John Gronski, that can’t be the same John Gronski that I know. Colonel now Brigadier General John Gronski was an old friend and business colleague of mine back when he was a Major in the Pennsylvania National Guard. His civilian job was running the bicycle store that he owned in Moosic, Pa. After losing contact with John for about 15 years I contacted him in Iraq. I wanted to do something for Warriors like Gunny Burghardt and honor his command of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team of the 28th Infantry Division. So I asked John what I could do for the Troops. He said, send them care packages. That by sending care packages, “ you strengthen the morale and the heart of our brave Warriors and their families”.

 

So as long as they are over there, Main Line Troop Support will be here for them.

 

Thank you for reading all the way down and thank you for supporting the Troops,

 

Freddie Klevan

Main Line Troop Support

fred.klevan@comcast.net

 

“While we are getting stronger, the insurgents are getting weaker”

Timothy Gronski

 

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