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Helping Body and Soul
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Terry Georgia
 
January 30, 2008

Red Cross volunteer Burt Oranburg, a former Marine, helps a wounded soldier strengthen his grip in the Physical Therapy Clinic at Walter Reed Army Medical center. (Credit: Hector Emanuel/American Red Cross.)
Red Cross volunteer Burt Oranburg, a former Marine, helps a wounded soldier strengthen his grip in the Physical Therapy Clinic at Walter Reed Army Medical center.
(Photo: Hector Emanuel/American Red Cross)
Every Monday and Wednesday, Burt Oranburg arrives at Walter Reed well before 7:00 a.m. so he can disinfect every piece of equipment in the physical therapy clinic and prepare the room for the first appointments at 8:30. A key member of the clinic’s team, Burt is always ready with a warm towel, a cold bottle of water, or an enthusiastic word of encouragement. When the other staff members get too busy, Burt helps the young amputees with their exercises.

“I’m in better shape now than when I came here,” says Burt, throwing a weighted ball back and forth with a soldier who has had both legs amputated at the hip. “He’s in better shape than I ever was,” the soldier says of Burt, who, at 84, still has biceps as hard as steel.

“I’m a Marine” Burt confides, heading for another amputee who needs help. “I’m taking care of them as best I can.”

So, too, is Cordy May, quite possibly the most popular Red Cross volunteer at Walter Reed.  Everyone she passes stops her to say hello. In fact, it’s difficult for her to get from one place to another without drawing a crowd.

Cordy May, one of several four-legged Red Cross volunteers at Walter Reed, brings smiles to the faces of her owner, Molly Morgan (left), and a recovering soldier. (Credit: Hector Emanuel/American Red Cross.)
Cordy May, one of several four-legged Red Cross volunteers at Walter Reed, brings smiles to the faces of her owner, Molly Morgan (left), and a recovering soldier.
(Photo: Hector Emanuel/American Red Cross)

Cordy May particularly enjoys spending “quiet time” with the Wounded Warriors. She sits patiently and listens to their stories; she doesn’t seem to mind their shrapnel scars and bandages.  If invited, she might even go as far as to crawl into bed for a cuddle. After all, as a trained pet therapy dog, Cordy May is a skilled cuddler.

Along with her fellow pet therapy volunteers, Cordy May—a 6-year-old Bernese Mountain dog—is the darling of Walter Reed. Every other Friday the dogs visit the hospital wards, providing comfort to patients, families, staff members and anyone else in need of a warm, furry hug.

Cordy May and her owner, Molly Morgan, have comforted thousands of patients during their four years’ visiting Walter Reed. Molly says she is always humbled by the experience.

“I see so much courage, so much bravery,” she says. “And the fact that just bringing my dog makes them smile for just a few seconds makes them feel a little bit more at home. It makes them feel a little safer. It’s all worthwhile.”

Molly would visit the hospital with Cordy May every day if she could. “It’s the best job in the world,” she says. “I get to spend the day with my dog and with a lot of really cute guys, all of which I could bring home, except my husband probably wouldn’t go for it.”

Cordy May isn’t saying how she feels.  She’s already moving on to the next room, using her big brown eyes to charm another handsome young Marine in a wheelchair.

The American Red Cross is not a government agency. We rely on the assistance of caring supporters like you to deliver our critical services. You can support U.S. military members and their families through the American Red Cross as we provide assistance and comfort. Your gift will support the nationally coordinated Red Cross services provided to military families across the country and to American service men and women located throughout the world. Please make a financial donation to Services to Armed Forces by calling 1-800-RED CROSS or 1-800-257-7575 (Spanish). Contributions may be sent to the American Red Cross Services to Armed Forces, P.O. Box 91820, Washington, DC 20090. Internet users can make a secure online contribution by visiting www.redcross.org.



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