Monday, September 17, 2007

Support for Soldiers doesn’t go unnoticed, unappreciated

Sgt. Chris McCann
2nd BCT, 10th Mtn. Div. (LI) PAO
Multi-National Division – Center

CAMP STRIKER, Iraq — Deployments can be long and difficult, but Soldiers across Iraq and Afghanistan have seen an incredible outpouring of support from people all over the United States, both in cards and letters and in packages of snacks and comfort items.
Especially for those in forward posts and battle positions, these have been a tremendous morale booster. AR 600-8-3 states that the “military postal program exists to move and deliver personal mail in the deployed force and on the battlefield, to contribute to the fighting will of soldiers.”
In any unit, when a Soldier gets a care package, the other troops gather around to see what’s inside. Soldiers always share – what they don’t want, they will gladly give to someone who does want it.
So many organizations have generously supported troops that it would be impossible to name them all, but a few stand out.
“Bear Hugs from Mom” was started by Sara Dutton, the mother of a Soldier in the 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) out of Fort Drum, N.Y. The 4-31 “Polar Bears” inspired the program’s name; Dutton and her family and friends make individual care packages for the Soldiers in Company C, 4-31.
“I joined the Adopt-a-Unit program, now the Adopt-a-Platoon program, after reading an article in the Fort Drum Blizzard,” said Dutton, mother of Sgt. Thomas Dutton, a rifleman and a native of Wadsworth, Ill., who is serving his second tour in Iraq. “We were visiting my son at Fort Drum during Memorial Day weekend of 2006 when I read about it. I e-mailed (former 2nd BCT commander) Mike Plummer and asked if I could adopt my son's platoon. I think he thought it was a little daunting for an individual, but I convinced him I could do it.”
The Adopt-a-Platoon program is usually joined by large organizations such as churches, businesses, and scouting groups, but Dutton took the bull by the horns and began contacting large corporations for donations. A friend of the Dutton family began passing a bucket at the bar he owns, she said, and she’s even gotten friends and neighbors involved.
Another group which has given unwavering support is – which allows people in the United States to send care packages to any Soldier without compromising security or having to have a specific name or address.
From new socks and boots to magazines, cookies, sunscreen and lip balm, Soldiers across our area of operations have felt the support of the American public.
Sherry McDonald, who has a daughter serving in the Army, sends packages not only to her daughter but to other Soldiers, including a platoon in the 2nd BCT.
“I have been taking care of the scout platoon in 4-31, which I really enjoy. I also have adopted the 514th Maintenance Company,” said McDonald, who joined the program “because of a deep dedication to and admiration of everyone that is currently serving in Iraq.”
In total, McDonald supports about 60 Soldiers, she said.
“I’ve sent ‘my’ platoons CD's, movies, T-shirts, snack items and other assorted goodies,” she said. “It is my greatest pleasure to be what I consider an ‘adoptive mother’ for the Soldiers, and what I am doing means a great deal to me. Every day I think of everyone, and am thankful for the opportunity to support them in any way I can.”
The Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd BCT family readiness group also goes out of their way to let the Soldiers know that they are loved – even the single Soldiers who don’t have family in the group.
For Christmas of 2006, the FRG sent a stocking stuffed with holiday goodies to every Soldier in HHC. The group, headed by Tanya Potter, wife of Capt. Chip Potter, the company commander, has also created banners and other items to boost morale, turning group meetings into a chance to write, draw or fingerpaint on a large sheet. The sheets are then sent to Camp Striker and hung on the outside of the building where most HHC Soldiers work.
“Over the course of the deployment, the FRG has made two banners for our Soldiers,” Potter said. “We wanted to express how much we appreciate their sacrifice and how much we miss everyone. It is always hard to put into words the magnitude of respect we have for our Soldiers, but we thought a few banners could help try and get that message across.”
The FRG tries especially to remember their Soldiers over the holidays.
“Being away for the holidays is not easy on anyone, so for Christmas, the FRG made stockings for the single Soldiers, and at our holiday party we made a video with family members sending a message to their Soldier,” said Potter. “For Valentine’s Day, we sent our Soldiers a small heart-shaped box of candy with a Valentine’s Day card.
“We just wanted to send some love to our Soldiers so they know they are always thought of. And now, we are preparing a wonderful welcome home for of all our Soldiers.”
From the earliest days of war, messages and notes of encouragement have kept Soldiers fighting, reminding them who they fight for.
It is a tradition well-represented – and well-executed – during the war on terrorism.

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