U.S. troops may be pulling out of Iraq, but the war rages on in Afghanistan and parts of Pakistan, and Americans continue to die in combat in all three hot zones.
With so many brave men and women still on today’s battlefields and in harm’s way, advocates at home and across the nation are reminding fellow citizens that while these troops are strong and dedicated, they still need a little tender loving care and the gift of knowing someone on the outside cares about them.
Locally, the Mothers of Military Service Personnel, or MOMS Club, sends care packages with gifts such as homebaked cookies, sunscreen, chewing gum or holiday cards. This month’s pack will be Monday and donations are being accepted until 4:30 p.m. on that day at City Hall in Bishop.
But, some military personnel do not have a family, a strong support system or that sense of community that can be taken for granted living in a closeknit community like the Owens Valley. There is a national organization, Soldiers’ Angels, that is working to ensure every American combat troop is being thought of – be it through care packages, letters and other correspondence, or an Adopt-A-Vet program.
Soldiers’ Angels collects donations and organizes local groups to provide care packages to all military personnel.
“Sure you might not be here on the front line, covered in filth, smelling like hell, your heart going a mile a minute, not knowing what’s coming next: if your next step is on that TRP, or if you’re going to be the latest recruiting tool for some insurgent’s new video while they take pot shots at you. But, what you all do with those cards, care packages, cookies is just as important …,” states an anonymous thank you letter from a troop in Iraq to Soldiers’ Angels.
The group’s Adopt-A-Vet program consists of a person, family, organization or business committing to sending a card or letter each week, and a minimum of 1-2 care packages a month, to any military service member. The program is open to any soldier, preferably those who are not already receiving care packages from another organization. “This is one of the most important things that can be done to help bring home a healthy hero; it is so very important for each of them to know they are loved and supported, and your letters and care packages prove just that,” the website states.
According to the website, Soldiers’ Angels was started by a self-described ordinary mother of two American soldiers, Patti Patton-Bader. Her eldest son, Staff Sergeant Brandon Varn, deployed to Iraq from 2003-2004, and her youngest was deployed in 2008.
“In the summer of 2003, Brandon expressed concern that some soldiers in his deployed unit did not receive any mail or support from home,” states the website. “Being a loving and caring mother, Patti decided not to allow a situation like that to continue. She quickly contacted a handful of friends and extended family and asked if they would support a soldier or two.
“Today our hundreds of thousands of volunteers are led by an all-volunteer Board of Trustees as Soldiers’ Angels works around the world to address military-related needs ranging from deployed support to wounded care, to remembrance of the fallen and a wide variety assistance for military families.”
And while troops are being pulled out of Iraq, the question now is how many.
According to the Brookings Institution Saban Center on Middle East Policy and its Iraq Index, as of July 2011 there were 46,000 U.S. troops left in Iraq – down from 150,000 on March 13, 2003, the day of the first preemptive strike by the United States. Combat operations were “ended” by the Obama Administration in August 2010. Since then 59 soldiers have died.
The official draw-down of troops in Iraq began on Sept. 5 with the departure of 700 members of a headquarters unit, as reported at Marinecorpstimes.com on Sept. 7. This is on track with Obama’s troop withdrawal plan, according to the website. What is undetermined is how many troops will stay in Iraq as part of a training contingency.
The MOMS Club will be meeting Monday to assemble care packages for local troops. Items from community members especially needed this time around include homebaked cookies, white socks (“boot socks,” if possible), packets of parmesan cheese and red peppers from pizza restaurants, and lots of cards and letters.
Donations may be dropped off at City Hall on Monday prior to 4:30 p.m.
For more about Soldiers’ Angels go to www.soldiersangels.org .