12/07/12 — Packages from home

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Packages from home

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on December 7, 2012 1:46 PM

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Jamie Brown, left, and her daughters, Leila, 7, and Mercedes, 11, talk about what it means to have the support of members of the American Legion while Staff Sgt. Audie Brown is deployed.

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Staff Sgt. Audie Brown holds his newborn son, Nicolai.

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A member of American Legion Post 11 packs baby wipes into a care package bound for Afghanistan. The organization will continue to collect -- and send -- goods until all U.S. forces come home.

DUDLEY -- Time was running out.

If Nicolai wasn't born soon, it would be months before he would get to meet his father.

So when, hours before Air Force Staff Sgt. Audie Brown boarded a plane bound for a war zone, his son made his entrance into the world, it was a special moment for the airman -- one that made his pending stint overseas easier to accept.

"Being able to hold his son and see him, I think that was a really big relief for him," said Jamie Brown, Audie's wife. "He said, 'OK, my son is here and he's healthy. Now I can go do what I've got to do.'"

But knowing that Nicolai is doing well back home is not the only thing that will keep Audie in good spirits over the next few months -- on Christmas Day and beyond.

The airman can also sleep easier because of the group of comrades watching over his family while he is in theater -- the members of American Legion Post 11 who vowed to be by their side until their hero comes home.

"They haven't just been supportive of my husband, they've been supportive to us. It seems like every time I come up here, they send me back with all kinds of food. And they call to check on us and have offered to do whatever they can," Jamie said. "Knowing that they're here for us doesn't just make him feel better. It really makes me feel good, too."

But their acts of kindness recently extended far beyond Wayne County.

Audie, they decided, would be among the latest recipients of goods collected during "Project We Care," an effort that will see care packages sent to troops serving in Afghanistan until the war there comes to an end.

The contents of the most recent packages -- several boxes were shipped to a forward operating base last month in care of a soldier and his unit -- include everything from macaroni and cheese, nuts and candy to cigars, socks and baby wipes.

And Wayne County Veterans and Patriots Coalition president Bill Graham said the goods that, until they were boxed and mailed earlier this week, filled the Legion meeting hall, represent thousands of dollars spent by people who likely don't know those who will soon be on the receiving end of their generosity.

But Jamie said the items, themselves, aren't the only things that matter to troops like Audie.

It's the thought, she said -- the notion that the men and women serving overseas haven't been forgotten by those whose way of life they are fighting to defend -- that means the most.

"It's definitely really encouraging to them," she said. "I think the biggest part isn't really the stuff, but it's about letting them know that we're thinking about them -- that we remember them even though they're not here."

Donations will continue to be collected at the Legion headquarters, located just beyond the Wayne County Fairgrounds, until all American forces serving in Afghanistan come home.

Those interested in more information about the men and women who will be on the receiving end of the next offering -- and those who want to help offset the $29 per box shipping costs -- are asked to contact Graham at 919-394-2200.

Items on the troops' wish list include:

* White socks

* Baby wipes

* Ramen Noodles

* Lance Nabs varieties

* Coffee in filter packs

* Coffee creamer packs

* Sugar packs

* Cocoa packs

* Beef jerky

* Slim Jims

* Sunflower seeds

* Peanuts

* Sealed tuna packs with crackers

* Disposable razors

* Shave foam

* Deodorants

* Toothbrushes

* Toothpaste

* Mouth wash

* Unscented body lotion

* Soap

* Hand sanitizer

* Cigarettes

* Cigars

* Skoal

* Puzzle books

* Writing pads

* Envelopes

* Pens