News: Volunteers helping to make Soldiers smile
Story by Sgt. David House
Boxes, boxes everywhere, and someone needs to fill them, hundreds of them, and all are headed overseas to Iraq and Afghanistan courtesy of "Operation Make a Soldier Smile." The boxes were filled during a volunteer pack-and-mail session held at the DuPont Civic Center Fire Station Nov. 18.
"This event was part of a plan to send at least 1,000 holiday care packages out to deployed Fort Lewis Soldiers," said Denise Dhane, event coordinator. "So far we've sent out 600 packages and tonight we are looking at doubling that."
Each box contains donated items such as personal-hygiene products, paperback books, magazines, CDs, DVDs, playing cards and various nonperishable snack items including everyone's favorite, beef jerky.
"We actually started this project about four years ago and it eventually developed into what we call Operation Make a Soldier Smile," added Dhane. "It is a little something to give back to those who serve and help protect our freedom."
A seemingly daunting task, but one that moved very quickly with nearly 100 volunteers available to work the assembly line where boxes were filled up by hand, sealed, labeled and then stamped.
"The biggest part has actually been the buildup to what we have here tonight," said retired Command Sgt. Maj. Doyle Watters. "With Fort Lewis losing Soldiers recently, donations have been pouring in with special thanks to the various businesses that surround the base."
Surprisingly, the one item that many tend to forget about is postage. Each box costs $10.50 to mail, but the entire tab has been picked up via cash donations as well as donated stamps from the community.
"Stamps and lots of them," Randy Wilson, postmaster for DuPont, said as he continuously applied cancellation marks to each of the packages. "The volunteers are putting each stamp on by hand, and I'm here to make sure they are processed correctly and will move the five cargo crates back to the post office to send them on their way."
Even Soldiers who are not currently deployed are grateful for the effort.
"I'm extremely moved that so many people would come out and support something like this," said Capt. Kristin McKenna, Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment commander, 6th Military Police Group. "My husband is deployed right now and I am sure he would appreciate getting a package like this."
"I've been [deployed] before and every package makes a difference and I'm glad to be able to help out," added Spc. Roderick Hooks, 6th MP Group.
The four-hour event helped push out more than 1,200 boxes for the month of November surpassing the group's original goal of sending 1,000 boxes. The boxes will arrive at deployed units just in time for the Soldiers' holiday season.