News: ‘Raiders’ get sweet treats during Operation NTC Cookie
Story by Sgt. Kimberly Lessmeister
FORT IRWIN, Calif. – For Donna Drake, visiting her son after his training at the National Training Center, here, began as a joke about a mom bringing her son cookies.
The joke, however, turned into a full-fledged donation extravaganza.
Donna and a group of local volunteers from Antelope Valley, Calif., brought more than 12,000 cookies for the soldiers of the 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division “Raiders” to enjoy as they prepared to return home to Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., after a monthlong rotation at NTC.
Donna, the mother of Pvt. Greg Drake, an infantryman with 2nd Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, gained support from coworkers and church members, and received donations from local grocery stores, businesses and community volunteers for the surprise event.
Her main motivation was to show support and appreciation for the soldiers, she said.
“We know how hard you work and how you sacrifice so much to be here for your country and families, so we really appreciate it,” she said.
She also wanted to bring the feeling of family to the soldiers who are so far away from their own.
“It’s so important because they need to know their family is supporting them and encouraging them and loving them all the way through,” said Donna. “I know you’re sacrificing a lot to be away from your families, so it’s that little connect from family, even if it’s not the direct family member, you know there’s that love behind it.”
The morning of June 24, Donna and the other volunteers of Operation NTC Cookie packed up the treats into vehicles and drove roughly two hours to NTC.
The group also stopped by a local store outside Fort Irwin that wanted to donate drinks.
As soon as the volunteers pulled into the Rotational Unit Bivouac Area, soldiers gathered around and helped unload everything into the covered area where meals are normally served while staging for the return home.
Both homemade and store-bought cookies started piling up quickly on the gray, concrete counters.
“Honestly I didn’t expect it to be this big,” said Drake. “They went above and beyond.”
Before everyone enjoyed the baked goods, Lt. Col. Thomas Feltey, the commander of 2nd Bn., 23rd Inf. Regt., gave unit coins to the volunteers to thank them for their support. Later they were able to tour the inside of a Stryker.
To Drake, the event showed him the volume of support people have for the troops.
“It’s good to feel the support, especially not just from family, but friends as well,” he said.
Drake, a Lancaster, Calif., native, said he appreciated his mother’s support of both him and his fellow soldiers.
“I know for a fact that, no matter what, she would’ve been here,” said Drake. “Not just for me, but for everyone.”