On Thursday afternoon, the caravan traveled to Fort Belvoir in Virginia for a very special afternoon service project with USO. Together with servicemen and women and local volunteers, the Nationals made care packages for soldiers in Iraq, Afghanistan and Haiti.
To date, the organization has shipped over 1.8 million care packages to troops. The care packages include shampoo, shaving cream, razors, toothbrushes and other basic necessities.
Ryan Speier, Danny Espinosa, Drew Storen, Rob Dibble and Jim Riggleman were joined by principal owners Mark and Judy Lerner and dozens of front office staff to prepare over 2,000 care packages.
“This is really special. I can’t imagine anything being more impressive than this,” said manager Jim Riggleman, who was stationed at the beginning of a long assembly line used to stuff the packages. “It really puts in perspective how important this is, as opposed to what we do in our daily lives.”
Espinosa was also quite moved by the experience.
“I was telling the soldiers that I don’t have it in me to join the Army. That has to take a special person to be a part of that,” he said. “I know I couldn’t do it and I thanked them so much. [This] was the best part of my trip so far.”
While the project meant a lot to the Nationals, it meant even more to one soldier whose Dad grew up cheering for the Senators.
“I’ve been waiting for so long to actually meet them. To actually have them look at me and thank me, that is so amazing,” said Shane Warchol, a serviceman at Fort Belvoir and a huge Washington Nationals fan.
“Ever since they came back, I’ve been following them -- since day one. My father used to be a big fan and I looked up to my father, so when they came back it was a pretty big thing for me,” Warchol said.
Warchol watches the games on MASN but he hasn’t yet been out to Nationals Park for a game.
“The first chance that I get to go off post and be able to see a game, I’m going to take advantage of that,” he said.
And he’ll get an opportunity to do so. The Nationals host and honor soldiers during every single home game, a tradition that both Jim Riggleman and Mark Lerner believe is pretty special.
“Our Armed Forces do so much, sometimes you forget,” Mark Lerner said while taking a quick break from assembling packages.
“This is our little way of giving back. It is very important to our family, to the Nationals and to all of us. And you know, they really appreciate it.”
MASN broadcaster Rob Dibble spends a lot of time interacting with soldiers and veterans. He even made a trip to Iraq to visit with troops.
“This is dear to my heart,” he said. “Any way we can support the troops, show them a little bit of love, it’s the best thing you can do as an American.”
More pictures from the USO event at Fort Belvoir are available on MASN’s Facebook page!