Josh and his unit loved the thoughtful treats, cards, and letters.


Hematology/Oncology Team Pitches in to Help Air Force Unit

When Josh Gerlach was deployed as a staff weather officer last August for Operation Inherent Resolve, he just had one request for his mom, Wanda Gerlach: Please send sauce packets.

“The food they get in the chow hall is pretty bland,” said Wanda, a registered nurse in Hematology/Oncology at Liberty. “The units appreciate anything that can enhance the flavor, especially spicy sauces.”

Wanda would know. She comes from a long line of active, retired, and reserve Air Force family members. Her husband and her dad are retired Master Sergeants, and Wanda served as a medical technician in the reserves where she got her nursing degree and eventually landed at Cincinnati Children’s nearly 15 years ago.

Josh is currently a weatherman in the Air Force. His primary responsibility is to give weather briefs to help Army pilots and tailor weather products in order to support the mission.

Wanda began canvassing her unit for any available sauce packages. When a couple of colleagues heard what Wanda was trying to do, they pushed for more.

“My co-workers Kate Woolery and Meredith Reeve thought we could do better,” said Wanda. “So, they reached out to the Sunshine Committee.”

The Sunshine Committee is a group of nurses that provides resources for celebrations and other important employee life events. The committee collected money from several staff members and sent care packages to Josh’s unit, after getting Wanda’s expert input on what to include.

“Obviously, this wasn’t the first time I’d ever sent Josh a care package,” said Wanda. “The temperature is around 115 degrees there, so I learned the hard way not to send chocolate and gummies because they melt. Also, they don’t have a lot of room in their living quarters, and sand gets everywhere, so it’s best to send non-perishable single-serving items. This way food stays fresh longer and is easily shared.”

Josh’s unit received care packages filled with peanut butter pretzels, small packs of crackers, tuna packets, instant drink packages, and flavored instant coffee and creamers among other food items. The Sunshine Committee also packaged travel-sized games and personal cards and letters of encouragement.

Josh’s unit was blown away by the kindness from Cincinnati Children’s staff. To show their appreciation, they sent a flag flown during a combat MEDEVAC mission, along with a certificate of authenticity, as a thank-you to all the staff that showed their support. The Hematology/Oncology team also received a letter of appreciation from Captain Jeff Maler, who serves with Josh in the 22nd Expeditionary Combat Weather Squadron. He worked as an intern with Cincinnati Children’s before starting his military career.

“When I presented the flag, certificate, and letter to the unit, we were all in tears,” said Gerlach.

Gerlach continues, “The support everyone showed during my family’s time of need was above and beyond what I could have hoped for. I’m thankful for the kindness everyone has shown to my son’s unit while they’re far away from their family and friends.”

Josh and some of his unit with care packages from Cincinnati Children's.

Josh and Captain Jeff Maler, a former intern at Cincinnati Children’s.

The flag, Certificate of Authenticity, and letter from Captain Maler now live in the Liberty Hematology/Oncology breakroom.

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