Newsletter Leads to Full-Time Job Supporting Troops
By K.L. Vantran
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jul. 13, 2004 Nine years ago, while her husband was deployed, Arlyn McClaughry started an online newsletter as a way to bring service members and military families information on the Web. She and other spouses also began mailing packages and letters to deployed troops.
Today, Operation Military Pride is a full-time job for McClaughry and several volunteers who lend a helping hand.
The site provides information on several programs, including how to "adopt" a service member.
"Our 'Adopt a Military Member' is the most popular," she said. "It gives people a way to let the military know they support them. We also have Operation Postcard or pen pal program, which is an inexpensive way for people to support the troops. Operation Birthday Card is another favorite."
McClaughry said she has received many thanks from the troops, but the story that touches her the most was a message a mother posted on the Operation Military Pride website last September. It said:
"While on my visit with Christopher this last week he shared a moment in his life every mother dreads hearing. He told me that the end of June he was planning on ending his life and planned on doing it the next day while in Iraq. He said he laid in his tent all night and prayed to God for strength and an opportunity to talk with his family one last time. He would have to wait almost seven days until payday to get a phone card. He said he felt so alone and very homesick. He then told me that next day at mail call he received nine care packages from your organization from caring Americans who did not know him. Packages had phone cards and he was able to call home and talk with his father and me. He said after hearing our voices and how much we missed him he knew he could never take his own life and cause us the grief that comes along with suicide.
"I want to thank the sponsors who sent these care packages. Their generosity is the reason I have my son here with me today. They will never know how much I appreciate what they have done for my family."
"I knew from that point that we were really making a difference," said McClaughry, "and that even a small thing such as a calling card can really change the morale and spirits (of troops)."
She said that as long as the United States has deployed troops, Operation Military Pride will continue to send care packages.
"We just want them to know that there are people back home who love them, support them 100 percent, and pray for their safe return," she added. "And that their sacrifice is appreciated and cherished."