America Supports You: Top Enlisted Servicemember Gets Special Delivery
By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Mar. 15, 2007 The military’s top enlisted servicemember received a very special care package at his Pentagon office this morning.
Jeanette Cram, founder of troop-support group Treat the Troops, personally delivered a box of chocolate chip cookies to Army Command Sgt. Maj. William J. Gainey, senior enlisted advisor to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Treat the Troops is a member of the Defense Department’s America Supports You program that highlights and facilitates support for the nation’s men and women in uniform.
Cram has been shipping cookies to deployed servicemembers around the world for 17 years with the help of her volunteers, or “crumbs” in 38 states. “I do this for all of them,” Cram said. “I can’t imagine not doing it for the soldiers.
“There’s a lot of us out here that love you, and we want you to come home safely, but we know you want to do the job,” she added, directing her comment directly to the servicemembers.
When Cram began her effort in 1990, her first box of cookies went to an Army staff sergeant based out of Fort Stewart, Ga. Valeria Smith wrote to thank Cram for her kindness, but that was the last contact she had with the “Cookie Lady” as Cram has come to be known. “I’ve never found her,” Cram said.
Cram acknowledges that after nearly two decades and more than 430,000 cookies, it’s more complicated to send packages than it was when she sent Smith that first box in 1990. Now, her shipments typically require a servicemember’s name and mailing address, and Cram said she understands why it’s necessary.
“Back in 1990 … when you would send a box, you could just send it to ‘Any Soldier,’” she said. “I can understand they need that paperwork. They need to know who these cookies are coming from.”
Gainey said Cram’s long-term efforts, which send a message of total commitment, are even more important today than when she began. They prove to the troops that the people back home are behind them, and that’s where the biggest risk of losing the war lies - with the American public, he said.
“We’ve got to stay strong at home,” Gainey said, acknowledging that Cram is doing her part to make that happen. “She’s building up the morale of all the troops that bite into one of those chocolate chip cookies.
“She’s doing more for her country than she’ll ever realize,” he added.
What Cram does realize is that, while every cookie may bring a smile, perhaps not every servicemember wants a cookie. “America Supports You has a lot of organizations,” she said. “There’s a lot of things you might need, (and) we’re going to connect you with the right people.”
Treat the Troops was fortunate to be connected with the right people last year.
DuPont Teflon organized “The Great American Cookie Swap,” which encouraged friends and family to come together and send homemade cookies to deployed troops. For each of the more than 17,000 cookie swap parties registered through the DuPont Teflon Web site, the company is making a donation to help offset Treat the Troops’ cost of baking and shipping cookies.
“It’s an honor and we’re deeply appreciative to show our support for our combined efforts, and to made donations and provide support to groups like America Supports You and Treat the Troops,” Dan Turner, a DuPont Teflon spokesman, said. “We’re glad to be able to be a part of that effort.”
Cram and Turner presented each other gifts of appreciation after meeting with Gainey.
As for the box of cookies Cram brought Gainey, he said he’d sample a couple and run some extra miles to work them off. The rest of the five dozen cookies will brighten the days of some of the injured servicemembers recovering at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., he said.