Friday, November 14, 2014

For troops, care packages show ‘the little things’ are a big deal

If you read Land Line on a regular basis, listen to our Sirius/XM radio show “Land Line Now” or follow us on social media, chances are you’ve heard about OOIDA’s Truckers for Troops campaign, which is happening all this week.

For eight years now, Truckers for Troops has been raising money to assemble care packages to send to our U.S. military members deployed in combat zones overseas. OOIDA members and corporate sponsors have raised over $400,000 to date – not counting the generous contributions that have already rolled in during our annual telethon, which is happening this week. The way it works is simple – for $35, you can join or renew your OOIDA membership, and 10 percent goes to pay for the care packages. OOIDA matches that 10 percent dollar for dollar.

And just like in life, where it’s the little things that sometimes make the biggest difference, veterans
who have been on the receiving end of the Truckers for Troops care packages say the supplies, personal care items and letters bring a much-needed taste of home to people who are thousands of miles away.

The 507th Engineer Battalion opens up a previous
Truckers for Troops care package.
“We didn’t have a shop or a store on our base, so you can only imagine how nice it is to get anything from magazines to a bar of soap or a toothbrush and toothpaste,” said U.S. Army Capt. Jacob Holl, who received one of the care packages while on deployment in Afghanistan. “It’s always nice to get something from somebody you don’t know. It shows there are people who know it’s not easy. A little love from home can go a long way.”

Holl was just one of several veterans to be interviewed by “Land Line Now” in advance of this year’s telethon. Portions of those interviews are being broadcast during this week’s shows. In addition to interviews with the troops, the show is also reading thank-you letters we received from recipients, and talking with members whose sons and daughters are deployed overseas.

One of those folks is Senior Member Craig Scott, of Lyons, Ga. Scott, who was himself deployed overseas during Operation Desert Storm, signed up his daughter Anisha Taylor and another friend, Army Sgt.  Dave Fulsom to receive care packages while they are on deployment.

“I know exactly how it feels when you receive a care-package like that,” Scott said. “It just motivates you and it’s a morale booster. When I heard about Truckers for Troops, I’m thinking this would be the prime opportunity to do something for them. I didn’t actually have the time to sit there and put a package together, but this would be the opportunity to get a package to them and just knock out two birds at one time.”

Scott said the reaction he got from his daughter and friend when the packages arrived was priceless.

Selection in one of the gift boxes sent out in a
previous Truckers for Troops campaign.
“They couldn’t believe how much stuff it was; they were able to share the stuff with other friends there,” he said. “It just makes (the troops) know that people appreciate them and haven’t forgotten about them. You’re away from home, you’re over there doing your job and you want to be focused on your job. But sometimes you do get, you know, you miss being where you’re from …. When you know people are caring about you, it makes your job easier as a soldier.”

But it’s not just our members who are serving or who have family abroad. The staff at OOIDA and Land Line also have family members who are doing their “patriotic chore.”

Adam Johnson, the son of OOIDA Marketing Coordinator Nikki Johnson, served two tours of duty with the Marines in Afghanistan in 2011 and 2012 as a forward observer.

As part of forward ops, Johnson said he and his unit often didn’t have the creature comforts of an established military base. So while the personal care items and things like socks were much-appreciated, he said the boxes of raviolis his unit received were one of the biggest hits.

“We were just eating MREs the whole entire time,” he said. “When (my unit) saw that ravioli, they went crazy. The sardines in there too. After you eat MREs for so long … it pretty much just tastes like slime.”

And on a personal note, when I found out my cousin, Staff Sgt. Brian Grisolano was going to be deployed at Bagram Air Force Base last fall, I immediately signed him up for a Truckers for Troops delivery. I told him ahead of time to what to expect, but he said even the advance notice couldn’t prepare him for the size of the box.

“There’s a lot of organizations that send care packages to troops overseas, but what I really liked about the Truckers for Troops boxes is it’s not just for one person,” Brian said. “These are really big boxes … so not only am I getting use out of this, but the 12 guys in my room and the 20 to 30 guys in the rooms next to us, everybody can share what’s inside.”

He said one of his unit’s favorite items were the cans of Silly String.

“It really seemed out there at the time but we had a lot of fun with it,” he said. “Every time we got a Truckers for Troops box, within 20 minutes, there’d be a silly string fight.

“It’s easy when you’re home to take for granted that everything is just within arm’s reach,” he said. “So even something real small, that you don’t think is that big a deal, it makes a huge impact on a soldier that’s overseas. Everything we got meant a great deal to me and all my guys.”