October 25, 2014

Elyria
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Special delivery from Mom


‘Scrub Mom’ collects supplies for front-line Army medics in Iraq

ELYRIA — The e-mail was short and sweet, but it contained all the important stuff: “Just wanted to drop you a line and say I’m alive. And I love ya.”

Val Fields has come to accept that messages from her son in Iraq are a rare commodity. Her soldier son, Army medic Sgt. Joseph Stanberry, 35 — an Elyria High School graduate in the 1980s — left for the battle-battered country in May for his first Iraq tour. 

CARL SULLENBERGER / CHRONICLE
Valerie “Scrub Mom” Fields holds pictures of her son, Army Sgt. Joseph Stanberry, and his unit in Iraq as she sits among some of the scrubs she has collected to ship to them.

His e-mails rarely mention his safety and never mention his location.

“Most recently, he e-mailed me that one little line,” said Fields, a Wakeman resident. 

Like any good mom, Fields is hoping her combat-medic son is safe, secure … and clean. 

A medical technician at EMH Regional Medical Center, Fields knows a little something about the importance of medical cleanliness — sterile tools, clean environment and proper work clothes.

So she can’t help but shudder when she thinks of her son, a 17-year Army veteran, scrambling about the southern regions of war-wasted Iraq, working as a first line of medical care for comrades injured bullets or explosions. 

“The guys in the field, basically what they do is pick up (injured soldiers), wash them up and say, ‘This one needs to go to the hospital,’ or ‘This one needs bandages,’ ” Fields said. “The medics are like aides — they do the foreground work and then ship them out.”

This past summer, Fields received a quick phone call from her son.

“He called me in June and said he needed a favor,” Fields said. “It took me back, because he’s never really asked for anything.”

As always, Joseph Stanberry’s message was short and sweet: “He said, ‘We need scrubs, mom.’ I said, ‘What, the Army doesn’t supply any?’ ” 

Stanberry told his mother that his platoon receives shipments every so often, but medical scrubs — the plain-Jane, two-piece attire typically used by hospital workers — are not often at the top of the list. 

“He said the supply sergeants have room to ship this, or room to ship that,” Fields said. “What are they going to ship? When it comes down to scrubs or bullets, what do you want more of? Definitely bullets.”

Fields said her son and the other medics in the field — not medics assigned to military hospitals — typically receive just one or two sets of scrubs they can wear in the field as a matter of personal choice, but they have to wash and reuse them whenever they get a chance. 

“How long is that uniform really going to last?” Fields said. “I’m sure they can get scrubs at a discounted rate, but if I can step in and help get them for nothing, I’ll do it. It’s not only my patriotic duty, it’s my duty as a mother.”

Fields figures reusing scrubs is also a health hazard, too.

“It’s not like they can just walk in and wear their uniform and say, ‘Oh, I got a little poopy on me,’ ” Fields said. “No, this is blood and guts on them — it’s the real deal.” 

In June, Fields organized a scrubs drive among her medical-worker friends and some community members — a Vermilion boating organization, Elyria Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1079 and various other organizations.

Her son told her beforehand: “If you can’t get them for all of them, don’t get them for none of them.”

“I cried, I was so proud,” Fields said.

Fields ended up collecting enough scrubs to last 40 medics about two months. The clothes were shipped out from the Elyria VFW post on South Abbe Road, where Post members chipped in more than $200 to pay for postage.

This time, her son needs even more.

“He told me there’s still a need for them,” she said. “His team was split up three times, and the guys who were left behind gave up their scrubs to the guys going out into the field.” 

They were recycling scrubs. 

“There is no proper amount, until the last person comes home,” Fields said, when asked how many scrubs the medics need.

Everyone should feel proud, no matter how they feel about what’s going on in Iraq — positive or negative.

“They should feel proud to do anything possible they can do — give $1, or a shirt, or ChapStick,” Fields said. “And a little thing like a set of scrubs can help.”

As for why the government doesn’t supply the soldiers, Fields said her son and the other medics realize the scrubs are a “want” and not a “need.”

“Scrubs are not a need, except in a hospital setting,” Fields said. “When it comes down to brass tacks, it is the government — it’s a financial issue.”

But not only do clean scrubs make for cleaner soldier-medics, they’re also more comfortable.

“It makes it easier for them to move, and they’re a lot more comfortable,” Fields said. “In 104-degree weather — in the shade — that’s a good thing to have on your back.”

So far, Fields has collected enough scrubs for 65 medics. But she’s hoping to deluge the overseas medics with enough supplies to ease their worries. 

“If my son was coming home tomorrow, I wouldn’t want this to stop,” she said. “I kind of like being called Army Mom, but now it’s ‘Scrub Mom.’ "

Contact Shawn Foucher at 653-6255 or sfoucher@chroniclet.com.