Coffee provided as a small way to thank overseas soldiers
Chaplain Andrew Sholtes
Lt. Cmdr, United States Navy
Kandahar, NATO Role 3 Trauma Hospital
We live and work next to the military airfield (busiest single runway airport of the world) in Kandahar, Southern Afghanistan. The amenities of normal life are painfully missing. Good air, tolerable temperature, tasty food, alcohol, and personal privacy are just non-existent. We work around the clock every day, no days off, to save lives of local civilian and military, and our own. We see death, pain and destroyed lives several times on each day.
The only luxury we have is good coffee thanks to a man in Connecticut and shipping donated by FedEx. The First Congregational Church in Wallingford, CT started an unusual ministry 5 years ago to chaplains: sending them coffee and coffee makers into the war zone.
I am a chaplain in the United States Navy from San Diego. During the pre-deployment infantry training in last November I received a phone call from Tom Jastermsky who has been supplying over 500 chaplains in Iraq, Kuwait and Afghanistan. He asked me, “What kind of coffee do you like?” – what an odd question to a soon-to-deploy chaplain. He explained how they have been redistributing donations from Green Mountain Coffee and my future duty station, the NATO Role 3 trauma hospital is one of the happy costumers in Kandahar.
As I arrived, I realized the tremendous impact these donations have on the staff of health care providers. The best surgeons and nurses, medical technicians and Hospital Corpsmen from 6 NATO nations are treated consistently with quality gourmet coffee. Coffee houses are a good walking distance from the hospital. I often wondered, what would it be like in the middle of the night to get a cup of freshly brewed tasty coffee if it weren’t for this ministry, we call Holy Joe’s CafĂ©? Four machines are supplied by a very expensive shipping price with different flavored coffee on a regular basis.
Realizing the sacrifice people are making to donate for the costly shipping, I have been shy to ask anything special and been very grateful what we had. One day Tom excitedly informed me that he received an enormous 40 palettes of coffee donations from Green Mountain but he has no way of shipping it. He and I frantically searched different ways how the military might be able to ship that from Wallingford CT to Kandahar. We had some promising leads but eventually we ran into all kinds of red tape. Just as we were getting discouraged, FedEx stepped forward and offered to fly the shipment to me.
It was as close to a miracle as it gets in these days! The generosity of FedEx benefited 33 Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine units in Southern Afghanistan. Additional machines by Keurigs started up new CafĂ©’s in smaller bases. We have 11 new chaplains who have been given an opportunity to enhance the standard of living of his or her unit by providing coffee and create a place and an atmosphere where war-fighters can relax and talk uninhibitedly to their chaplains. While the caffeine helps them to get through the day, the advice and counseling they receive will have a long lasting impact on their lives. Many soldiers will have a chance to talk undisturbed to a chaplain because of the coffee house setting. The impact on our troops is truly immeasurable!
Thank you, thank you, thank you! FedEx made a huge difference in the lives of those who volunteered to fight this war so far away from home.