There's More Than One Way To Say Thank You

11:35 PM, Dec 15, 2009   |    comments
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Army First Lt. Dan Berschinski

Just say "thank you" to a soldier. To every active-duty service-member you see. That's it. Only two words. And then -- consider all the ways there are to say thank you.


We don't -- we can't -- make it through life alone. The toughest, bravest soldier knows that.

"I'm always thinking about my guys," said Lt. Dan Berschinski. "I wish -- every moment, you know, I wish I could be there with them."

Army First Lt. Dan Berschinski of Peachtree City, Ga., wants only to be back with his guys in Afghanistan. He had to leave them in August.

"I just got unlucky," Lt. Berschinski said.  "All of a sudden, it was just a massive 'boom.'  And I almost died."

He lost his legs and nearly his life in an IED explosion. Ever since, through months of surgeries and rehab at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, a whole community back home has made sure Lt. Berschinski knows they're the ones who will be walking with him through the rest of his life.

A long-time family friend, Ric O'Brien, organized a motorcycle ride to raise money for him.

"I thought maybe 25 or 30 bikes" would show up, Ric said.  He had no idea "that we'd get 170 motorcycles there.  It totally blew me away."

It was money to help Lt. Berschinski's parents commute constantly between Peachtree City and Washington, so that at least one of them is always at his bedside.

"I'm honored," is how Annie DeRose-Broeckert described why she has joined so many across Fayette County working hard for Lt. Berschinski.

She and others asked the manager of the Starr's Mill Chick-Fil-A restaurant in Peachtree City if they could hold a fundraiser for the lieutenant there. The manager not only said yes, but offered ten percent of his sales -- money toward a specially-outfitted car, and, someday, a house, for him.

"And he's not the first one to have been hurt that badly." Annie said.  "So I just wish that it was something that we could do for everybody."

"It wasn't rocket science, it's just basic things we can do in our town," said Rainy Chastine.

She put together a blog, DanBerschinski.blogspot.com, with updates on Lt. Berschinski's recovery, raising money on-line for his future. She and Annie and Ric assembled donation boxes. And merchants all across Fayette County and beyond put the boxes on their counters.

Partners Pizza in Peachtree City, the lieutenant's hometown, collects the most of all, for him, every week.

"It's very touching to see the spirit of the American people, even in the recession, where people don't think you have money for charity of any sort or any kind of good deeds," Rainy said. "I think a lot of us reach deeper sometimes just because we're all in the same boat and we realize how much it is when someone helps somebody else right now."

A community -- making sure Army First Lt. Dan Berschinski knows he was never alone, and never will be.

"Basically, it boils down to, they're American soldiers," Annie said.  "I just wish that we could do it for everybody" in the U.S. Military -- active duty personnel, and the wounded, and their families; and the families of those killed in action.

The most recent post on the blog about Lt. Berschinski, added this week, celebrates the advances he is making in re-learning to walk, and includes some brief videos of his rehab.


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There are many ways to give all year.  A few examples:

USOGeorgia.org

SupportOurTroops.org

SoldiersAngels.org

WoundedWarriorProject.org.

And click here for Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

Some programs require early participation in time for the holidays; but even if it's too late this season for some of the programs, giving now will still make sure that service-members know you're remembering them in January, and the rest of the year.

NBC News contributed to this article.

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