Fort Stewart, Ga. - Throughout a soldier’s career, they will be given the opportunity to meet many people that will influence their lives. Many of these people who are soldiers, Families, leaders and friends will give a new perspective on life or on a mission or anything, but they will certainly have an effect.
There is a woman here, in Georgia, who has had such an effect on soldier’s lives. Many soldiers may never know who she is, or how she has affected them, but many have felt the effects, one way or another.
That woman is Carol Megathlin, and she is the Third Infantry Divisions Adopt-A-Soldier program coordinator.
When there is a flight that takes soldiers forward to a deployment, Megathlin is there. She will set up a table where Soldiers can sign up to be adopted by a “Sponsor” and receive letters and care packages throughout the deployment.
Megathlin is also there when flights return home. She is there with open arms and a bright smile, ready to show the soldiers that she is thankful for their hard work, dedication, and that they are home safe.
Megathlin has been a part of the 3rd ID Family for years, but she really became involved in Sept. 2002.
“Back in Sept. 2002, Col. Jim Huggins, who was in Afghanistan and was commander of all of the ground troops there at the time, had noticed that some of his troops were not getting any care packages or letters,” Megathlin said. “He was worried about their morale. So he sent word to his father in law. He said, ‘Could you find volunteers that would send letters and care packages to these soldiers to keep their morale up’.”
Megathlin heard about this opportunity in church and immediately volunteered.
“It was such a wonderful experience,” Megathlin said. “It was a PFC Willie Shanahan, and I would go out and buy stuff for him, try to think what he would like and picture him opening it up. It was just a strange, unique, and a wonderful feeling.
“When I adopted him, my whole perspective on the news changed,” Megathlin said. “Before it was like, ‘yes, we [deploy to] Afghanistan’ but you listened with a different ear. But now I had someone over there. I had somebody that was in danger. So, I was riveted on the news.
“When he came home, I kind of felt left out of the war,” Megathlin said.
A few years later, Maj. Gen. Lynch invited Megathlin to a press luncheon at Fort Stewart, which presented Megathlin with a unique opportunity.
“He gave all of us his card and it had all of his personal contact information on it, and he said, ‘if you have any questions, just call me,’ Megathlin said. “You don’t have to tell me something like that twice”
Megathlin called up Maj. Gen. Lynch and made a special request.
“So I call him up, and I say, ‘Gen. Lynch, I would like to adopt a low-ranking soldier, who signed up after we [deployed to] Iraq, who knew what he was getting into, and who doesn’t have much Family,” Megathlin said. “So, he sent word down through the ranks and eventually a Sergeant got in touch with me and gave me a Spc. Joe Dana. So, I was able to support him.
“This was during the surge, so he was there for almost 15 months,” Megathlin said. “Bless his heart the only thing he ever asked me for was Cheeze-It’s.
“Just before he came home, he said, ‘you know, I don’t really need anything, but could you send me some letters.” Megathlin said. “Every day, I wrote him a letter. I sat down and wrote about what I was thinking or what I was doing. I just rambled. I sent him letters every day.” “When he came home, I was out here on the Tarmac,” Megathlin said. “It was just amazing to see him.”
When the other red-cross members saw her hugging her adopted Soldier, they were jealous. They asked how they could get Soldiers also.
“So, I e-mailed Gen. Lynch, and I asked him for more soldiers,” Megathlin said. “Word started to spread and everyone wanted a soldier. I finally asked Gen. Lynch if we could go public with this program. I could write a column about it. He said, ‘Okay.’”
From there, the program just began to spread. People would receive letters from their Soldier’s and they would tell their friends. Eventually, she had people from every state in the nation writing and asking for a Soldier, Megathlin said.
“There are some people who are really into it,” Megathlin said. “They have their own little sub-groups going and when they hear from me, they get their people organized, and they get together and they have packing parties. They send like 40-50 boxes to these people that need help. “
The packages are not just for Soldiers who are deployed, Megathlin said. There are groups that assemble packages for single soldiers who are returning.
It is important for them to not return home to an empty room, Megathlin said.
One of Carol Megathlin's biggest wishes is that the Adopt-A-Soldier program picks up around the nation.
“What I hope is that the people who see this, who live around bases, will say, ‘that is a fantastic idea and why don’t we start something like that,’” Megathlin said. “I will tell you what, I would be willing to fly anywhere in this country and help them set up this program because every unit deserves the support of the American people.”
Megathlin is passionate about helping soldiers.
Mahatma Gandhi once said, “In a gentle way, you can shake the world,” and Carol Maegathlin is certainly making a difference.
“Think of what it could do for the morale of our troops if they knew that people hadn’t forgotten them,“ Megathlin said.