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Let troops know we carePosted Sunday, November 23, 2008, at 10:39 AM
We published a story this week about Clara Arth, a Gilliam native who has a number of relatives serving in the military. Her father is on his second tour of duty overseas and although she corresponds with him often, the approach of the holidays has reminded her -- and she has helped us remind the community -- just how acutely the absence of loved-ones can be.
It's always hard, she said, but "it hit really hard around Christmas time."
Arth talks about how much care packages have meant to her father, and because he's there and can see who is in most need, he's taken the opportunity to share the gifts he's received.
"He sees a lot of these young kids who are down and need a boost," she said. "He will pass it on to the guys who really need it." And he said the result is often dramatic. "You can see the fear lift" from their faces.
There have always been those in the community who work hard to keep in touch with area soldiers stationed far from home. Churches, 4-H clubs, schools and of course, Kathryn Carroll has led a group of volunteers who have been assembling monthly care packages for years.
"There are a lot of people with big hearts in this community," she said.
I would encourage everyone to get involved in local efforts, too, rather than participating in easy but possibly ineffective national efforts -- especially those portrayed in e-mail messages making the rounds on the net.
I've seen a number of well-intended messages recently touting an effort to reach out to injured soldiers at Walter Reed Hospital by sending a card addressed to "A Recovering American Soldier." Snopes.com debunks that project, noting that "in these times of heightened security, mail from strangers to unnamed soldiers must for everyone's safety be discarded unopened," adding that if the postal service delivered such letters, "it could be a conduit for those who might do harm to armed services members."
Snopes.com recommends instead the American Red Cross Holdays for Heroes project, which safely distributes holiday cars to service members.
Fine efforts, to be sure, but it's also important to take care of our own, and local projects allow us to directly help members of our own community, which may mean even more to the recipients than cards from people anyoldwhere.
And what people here may need most is a bit of information about how to help.
I'd like to invite any individuals or groups who are doing care package projects for troops this holiday season to please let us know what you're doing and how people can contribute, whether in time, materials or money. Call 660-886-2233 or write firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll help you get the word out.
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Eric Crump is a former editor of The Marshall Democrat-News. He lives elsewhere now but still loves Marshall and Saline County. He's trying to catch up on all the stories he should have written while he was on staff.
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