United HC

Locals pitch in to help troop morale

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By LPR Staff

Editor/POST-REGISTER

As the United States moves into its fourth holiday season at war, several organizations are turning their eyes toward the Middle East, and the men and women serving in the armed forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.

There are several programs, both locally and nationally, designed to provide soldiers with both needed supplie

s and needed morale.

Operation Continued Support, based out of VFW Post 3413 in San Marcos is a cooperative effort to send care packages to troops abroad.

“Our involvement started when my daughter had a school letter-writing project,” said Michele Schalin. “We sent a letter to her favorite babysitter, who joined the Navy, and she sent it to a friend of hers on a ship. He wrote us back, and we sent him a care package.”

Schalin said that the soldier and his buddies were so excited by the package, which contained Girl Scout cookies, that she and her family felt inspired to do more.

A friend put her in touch with Operation Continued Support.

On Saturday, Operation Continued Support sent a total of 200 care packages to troops abroad.

“Putting the boxes together is kind of like shopping,” said Cynda, a seventh-grader from Miller Elementary in San Marcos. “You go from table to table with your box, and pick up things like socks and magazines.”

Each care package costs about $15 to mail.

For Saturday”s “send-off,” Schalin said that Lockhart contributed more that $400 in cash donations, as well as donations from the soldiers “wish list.” She recognized the students and teachers of Plum Creek Elementary and Lockhart Junior High, as well as the Girl Scouts from Lockhart”s Troop 11 for their donations. The junior high students also started a letter-writing campaign, providing the group with dozens of letters to send to the troops.

Lockhart resident John Manning has also organized several “care package send-offs” over the last several months.

“We”re not part of any organization that does it,” Manning said. “It”s just something that we [he and wife Sally] think is right.”

Upon a request from his son, Manning worked with the community to raise the funds for four laptop computers to be sent to the troops. According to his son, who is on active duty in the Navy, computers are the best way to keep in touch with family and friends at home, but are hard to come by.

On the national level, a group of Marine wives from California has founded a tax-exempt organization called the Injured Marine Semper Fidelis Fund (IMSFF). The purpose of this fund is to assist the families of those wounded or killed in action with needs above and beyond what is provided by the Marine Corps or the Veterans Administration.

The IMSFF provides assistance along the lines of the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society, but far beyond things such as rent money for the month. It provides extended stays near Naval Hospitals for spouses or parents of those with long term hospitalization, or provides whatever help the families require.

Even for those unable to make a financial contribution, it is still possible to contribute to the morale of American soldiers abroad.

The American Legion has launched a free website to provide electronic greeting cards to the soldiers.

“Our troops serving overseas often have access to e-mail and they look forward to the cards that do not take up a lot of bandwidth,” said Thomas P. Camdus, the national commander of the American Legion.

The cards are available at www.legion.org.

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