12/15/05 — Troops to receive boxes, notes from home for holiday

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Troops to receive boxes, notes from home for holiday

By News-Argus Staff
Published in News on December 15, 2005 1:52 PM

Some Wayne County residents want to make sure airmen who can't be with their families this Christmas will feel a little like they are home this holiday season.

Some Seymour Johnson Air Force Base airmen who are deployed and on remote assignments worldwide will not be home for the holidays. So, the base's Family Support Center has coordinated efforts by local businesses and organizations to send packages overseas so they will have a couple surprises from home under their Christmas trees.

Marilyn Roseborough, Family Support Center director, has worked with the center since 1988. She said this year's effort has been the most impressive.

"This is the first year we've done it at this magnitude," she said. "It has been such an outpouring. What we're talking about is over 150 packages. To me, that's really great."

Mrs. Roseborough said recent events, including the displacement of thousands due to Hurricane Katrina, might have reminded citizens here at home of the importance of family, and spurred more people to think of others this holiday season.

"Service members are told to keep a stiff upper lip and keep going. They, too, have been affected," she said. "I think that's why we are having the overflow of people who are willing to give."

They are remembering that Christmas is about more than shopping and parties, too, Mrs. Roseborough said.

"We're trying to look at the real reason for Christmas, which is not commercialism," she said. "It's more blessed to give than to receive."

Local businesses such as Century 21 and First Command Financial Planning worked with Lt. Rebecca Raymond to get names of deployed airmen. Some items are prohibited from the packages. No chocolates or pork products are allowed, and no religious information may be sent.

"We have a lot of clients in the military, so, obviously, the troops are always on our minds," said Amanda Thornton of Century 21. "We still want to make sure that they're getting gifts this year."

Ideally, the packages would be a surprise. But depending on locations, deployed military members sometimes cannot receive packages from senders they do not know. So in Iraq, Airman 1st Class Joshua Huff will sign for several packages on Christmas morning and distribute them among his fellow airmen.

"Our airmen are getting a lot of packages this year, which is a good thing," Mrs. Roseborough said.

The families of those deployed members are not forgotten either. They gathered this week for a Deployed Families Potluck Dinner.

During years in which local National Guard units have been deployed, the Army National Guard Armory has sent packages overseas.

This year has been much more calm, said Melissa Thames, National Guard family assistance representative, because the troops have returned home. Instead of putting together care packages or sending Christmas gifts, she said the armory hosted a dinner for soldiers and their families Sunday.

"Last year, we sent packages to them. Through the family readiness group, we gave teddy bears to the soldiers to give to Iraqi children," Mrs. Thames said. "This year, we just had a party for them."

Although the deadline has passed to send overseas care packages to troops for Christmas, the United Service Organizations in Jacksonville is accepting certain items for care packages.

The list includes individually packaged nuts, beef jerky and cookies. Also, according to the USO, travel-sized bathroom items, such as shampoo, mouthwash, deodorant and shave gel would be accepted.

The USO, however, will not ship homemade baked goods, carbonated drinks, aerosol products, liquid products and bulk-sized items.

But gifts are not the only way to acknowledge those who are serving overseas.

Capt. John Winstead, of the Wayne County Sheriff's Office, is organizing a letter/card campaign for the servicemen and women.

The former Marine said he wanted a way for county officials to contact soldiers and express their appreciation. So, Winstead offered to accept letters for Marines and forward them to the branch's headquarters. The letters would then be dispersed throughout Afghanistan and Iraq.

"It's good that something I'm doing is making them feel better," Winstead said. "This is support for our fighting men."

Those interested in sending letters to Marines stationed throughout the world can send the letters to Winstead at: P.O. Box 1877, Goldsboro, N.C. 27533.

Winstead suggested well-wishers place their return addresses on the letters so the soldiers can write back.