10/18/12 — Veterans put together soldier care packages

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Veterans put together soldier care packages

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on October 18, 2012 1:46 PM

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Members of the Wayne County Veterans and Patriots Coalition, from left, Al Greene, Bill Graham, Doug Britt and Danny Johnson pack care packages at the American Legion Post 11 headquarters Wednesday evening. The boxes will be sent to troops serving in Afghanistan.

DUDLEY -- Somewhere near Forward Operating Base Shank, Afghanistan, a 24-year-old soldier and his comrades are engaging enemy forces.

But Pfc. Justin Garrison's reach extends far beyond the war torn country he is currently serving in.

Thousands of miles away, right here in Wayne County, the young man's sacrifice is inspiring a group of local veterans to ensure the nation's fighting force is never forgotten.

Members of the Wayne County Veterans and Patriots Coalition converged on the American Legion Post 11 headquarters Wednesday evening to put together care packages for Justin and the men and women he is fighting alongside.

And while their offerings were simple -- boxed noodles, toothpaste, razors, hand sanitizer, beef jerky and other snacks -- many of those who helped collect the goods said the gesture, alone, can go a long way.

Doug Britt would know.

The Vietnam veteran said he didn't receive his first "thank you" for going to war until just a few weeks ago.

So he was motivated, in part, to make sure history doesn't repeat itself, that no veteran has to endure what he did.

"I know what they're going through. You are sacrificing everything inside of you," Britt said. "So we need to stand up and support them. If we don't support them, how are they gonna feel when they come back?"

Laura Snell agreed.

But she was on hand for another reason -- to carry on the tradition of service her late husband, Kenneth, lived his life by and exemplify the motto of the Ladies Auxiliary to the Veterans of Foreign Wars, "Honor the dead by helping the living."

They came for different reasons.

They represented different veterans' organizations.

But in the end, they had accomplished the mission designed by Coalition President Bill Graham, a family friend to that 24-year-old soldier.

And their simple offerings, he said, will be well-received at FOB Shank.

"They are on the front lines right now -- right in the thick of it -- so anything we can do to say, 'thank you,' we're gonna do," Graham said. "Especially for a fine young man like Justin. When he was asked why he enlisted, he said, 'I'm a young man so it's my duty. It's my duty to serve my country.'"