Packaging a little care for those in harm’s way
Appeal Staff Writer
Toilet paper. Bubblegum. Hackie Sack. Popcorn. Body wipes. Things that most people take for granted every day, but for the troops stationed overseas, they are more than trinkets and snacks.
They are reminders.
“Once you get those little tastes of home, it reminds you of why you are over there serving,” said Staff Sgt. Jason Hillman.
Hillman has served for nine years and re-enlisted twice, once while deployed in Iraq. He has been deployed overseas three times, once in Afghanistan and twice in Iraq, including a year in Baghdad. He returned home in April 2006.
Saturday, Hillman was helping run the Army’s rock wall during a fundraiser for the USO’s Operation Care Package. The program, being run jointly by the USO and the Department of Defense, allows private citizens to purchase care packages for soldiers and marines stationed abroad.
“There is so little we can actually do to support our troops. We do this because we want to let them know that we care about them,” said Amy Clemens, event organizer.
The packages can be purchased for $25, and the USO sold 414 of them on Saturday.
The event included antique military vehicles, representatives from several branches of the military, tours of a Chinook Helicopter and information about several support organizations, including Blue Star Moms.
“We are a support system for the mothers of sons and daughters who are serving abroad,” said Erin Alvarez. “We are out here and we want people to know who we are so that any mom can join us and receive that support.”
Alvarez, whose son recently returned to Camp Pendleton, said that even with the support of others, having a child in harm’s way is very difficult.
“It’s very emotional. You go through highs and lows, and it’s scary, but the pride you have is overwhelming. You have great faith in their training and abilities,” Alvarez said. “You have to have faith that they are strong and will stay strong.”
The group also sends about 10,000 Christmas cards a year to troops overseas and those recovering in domestic hospitals. The can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hillman said the rock wall and the event also lets people see what the military can offer them.
“We are giving them an opportunity to see that the Army will give them something outside their normal life,” Hillman said. “An experience that’s outside their normal.”
For more information or to purchase a care package for troops stationed overseas call 841-4033 or go online to http://www.usocares.org
• Contact reporter Jarid Shipley at email@example.com or 881-1217.
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