11/27/05 — Campaign seeks to boost morale of troops

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Campaign seeks to boost morale of troops

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on November 27, 2005 2:07 AM

You don't have to have a family member stationed overseas in order to feel the urge to brighten the holidays for an airman or soldier. While mothers, wives and other family members flood the post office with gifts, others also are thinking about the men and women who won't be home for Christmas.

And in Wayne County, with so many military families living here, there are many people who want to let them know that they are remembered.

Dan Mahoney of First Command on Cashwell Drive knows first-hand the need for military men and women stationed far from home to be able to connect with someone at Christmas. Mahoney is a retired Air Force senior master sergeant.

Mahoney said one of his clients has a daughter who will be deployed in two weeks and won't be home for months. Another has a spouse already overseas who won't be home until some time next year.

To help boost the spirits of the men and women in uniform, Mahoney has helped organize a "holiday cheer drive" to enlist people to send gift boxes to military members in the Middle East and elsewhere.

Stoney Sloan, another employee at First Command, also knows how important it is for deployed military personnel to receive packages from home during the holidays. He also is retired from the Air Force.

"To receive something unexpected from someone you don't know is an extra treat," Sloan said. He said while he was overseas during Operation Desert Storm, a class of 30 students wrote to him.

He said he still has letters.

The company is providing boxes and a list of suggested "goodies" that would be appreciated by men and women living under combat conditions. Cash donations are also accepted. People who want to help have until Wednesday to pack a box or contribute.

For information about the drive, people can call 751-8772.

Sloan said some people packed a beach ball into one box.

He said some military personnel joke that a deployment to Middle East is like "going to the beach."

"It sounds so much better than I'm going to the desert," he said. "If you're not on patrol, there's nothing to do, and even silly things relieve the tedium."