America Supports You: WWII Vet Notes Cell Phone's Value to Troops
By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May 4, 2007 When Purple Heart recipient Earl “Scotty” MacKenzie was a World War II Army sergeant, communications with loved ones back home from the South Pacific where he was serving were extremely limited.
Purple Heart recipient Earl “Scotty” MacKenzie, a World War II Army sergeant, poses with Jenny Boyle after she performed on stage for military and DOD personnel in the courtyard of the Pentagon, during a May 4, 2007, America Supports You ceremony in honor of Military Appreciation Month. Defense Dept. photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Molly Burgess
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
“Oh my God, we had nothing, … no telephones, nothing,” he said, adding that a simple letter could take months to reach him -- “if they could catch up with us because we went from island to island.”
Communication is no longer a problem for the former “fox hole technician.” MacKenzie now works with “Cell Phones for Soldiers,” an organization started by Massachusetts teen siblings Brittany and Robbie Bergquist.
The group recycles used cell phones and uses the cash to buy pre-paid calling cards for troops serving overseas.
The organization is a member of America Supports You, a Defense Department program connecting citizens and corporations with members of the military and their families at home and abroad.
“I couldn’t believe it that two young children would get involved like this, and they have just gone so far with the program. They’re just great people,” MacKenzie said. “The family (they’re) just great people. I can’t say enough about them.”
MacKenzie has been very involved in helping collect cell phones in his region for the organization.
“I have drop sites at … bases, (and) we’ve been collecting a heck of a lot of phones,” he said. “I wish we had something like that in our war. I really do.”
Because of his work on behalf of the group, Gail Bergquist, the teens’ mother, asked MacKenzie to represent the group at the third annual America Supports You Salute Concert today at the Pentagon, which kicked off Military Appreciation Month.
He also brought along former Air Force Senior Airman Max Ford. Together they spread the word to the Pentagon work force about Cell Phones for Soldiers.
This isn’t the first time Ford, a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom, has lent MacKenzie a helping hand.
“Scotty … was trying to find a way to distribute the cards, and he asked me whether or not we had a lot of people deployed,” Ford said. “We know that we always have somebody deployed.”
He started helping MacKenzie distribute Cell Phones for Soldiers prepaid calling cards after he returned from his tour in Balad, Iraq, in October 2006. He worked with his family support center and with his unit, the 341st Logistics Readiness Squadron, to get the cards into the hands of those serving overseas before separating from the military.
Though he was never a recipient of a Cell Phones for Soldiers phone card, Ford attested to the importance of receiving such support while away from family and friends.
“It was always nice to receive a (package),” he said. “But it’s not that, it’s just knowing that the people back home remember you, care about you.
“Just knowing that boosts your morale,” he said as he turned to watch local recording artist Jenny Boyle perform for the crowd gathered in the Pentagon courtyard.