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DSFederal employee brings gifts and good cheer to Walter Reed patients

DSFederal employee Sarah Clarke and son Atticus at Walter Reed

"The more you give, the more you have." Sophia’s philosophy was shared by Ambrosia “Mother Clarke” Clarke (1895 – 1987), whose great grandson is the husband of Sarah Clarke, a DSFederal Librarian at the USAMRIID Medical Library. The mother of 24 children, 12 of whom died in infancy, Mother Clarke spent what little free time she had caring for soldiers and military members. During World War II, she served coffee, soup, and sandwiches to convoys of soldiers traveling through Frederick County, near her home. When the Red Cross began to host blood drives in 1942, Mother Clarke was the first woman in that county to donate, giving almost 60 pints of blood before her doctors ordered her to stop.

Her service, however, continued. Mother Clarke wrote thousands of letters to soldiers overseas, and worked tirelessly to collect donations and assemble gift parcels for hospitalized soldiers, work that she continued until she was well into her 80s. Mother Clarke received letters of appreciation from Presidents Reagan, Carter, Ford, Nixon, Johnson, Kennedy, and Eisenhower; she was recognized by Pope Pius XII, and also received countless awards and citations from veterans’ groups and political leaders.

In honor of Mother Clarke, and to give back to the military community that Sarah supports at USAMRIID, Sarah and her husband Mike, with the help of their 15-month-old son Atticus, collected donations, assembled gift packages, and distributed the gifts at the Walter Reed Military Medical Center on February 25.

Sarah writes, “While at Walter Reed, we had a chance to talk with many of the soldiers and to hear their stories and thank them for their service. The biggest thing we noticed was how much some of them wanted to simply talk—some soldiers chatted with us for 15 minutes before getting back to what they were doing. Our son was a big hit, and offered some comedy—he even gave a few of them hugs. Atticus also enjoyed the echo that his voice made in the lobby, and he filled the place with some very happy sounds.”

Ambrosia Clarke, visiting an Army hospital patient

Sarah and Mike have advice for those who are also looking to give back: plan ahead. When they first came up with their project idea, they started small, asking only family and friends for donations. Having first contacted the Warrior Family Coordination Cell to learn how they could help, they knew what gifts would be most appreciated, and when the hospital could accommodate their visit. As Sarah pointed out, their first contact with the WFCC was in December, and their visit was not scheduled until February. With just a bit of planning and effort, Sarah and her family brought badly needed comfort and cheer to men and women who have sacrificed so much, and they also experienced the joy of giving to those in need. “We are hoping to make this a yearly family tradition,” Sarah says.

Visit the Warrior Family Coordination Cell to learn more about how you can help.

To learn more about Mother Clarke, watch a video about her here, or read about her life and work here.


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