America Supports You: Virginia Reservist Helps Troops
By Ashleigh Covington
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, June 5, 2006 An Army Reserve soldier who received care packages from Americans while serving for a year in Iraq is taking that effort to another level through a program he started in Fairfax, Va.
Army Sgt. William Dunn (front row, left) takes times to pose with a few "Project We Care" volunteers at the James Lee Community Center in Fairfax County, Va. Boxes of goodies are packaged and shipped over to soldiers deployed in Iraq. Courtesy photo
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Sgt. William Dunn, of the 229th Engineering Company, said that after his tour in Iraq, he wanted to reach out to troops still serving overseas, particularly soldiers from his own unit. He founded "Project We Care," which calls upon the community to donate and mail packages to deployed servicemembers.
Dunn and others in the community maintain lists of soldiers they know and units that are deployed. People can then ship care packages to individual soldiers and remain in contact with them throughout their duty, making the gifts personal and meaningful over time, he explained.
We Care got its start in 2004, with Dunn calling on his colleagues at the Fairfax County Department of Community and Recreation Services to bring in items to send to troops in Iraq. Though the program began on a small level, it immediately drew attention from the community.
"People truly do want to help. They just didn't know how, and they need a little guidance," Dunn said.
Since then, the campaign has received overwhelming support from the community, including senior citizens, church congregations, high school clubs and even children's groups. Dunn said he tries to do at least two especially big shipments each year, but donations and mailings go out every day.
"For soldiers, something so small can mean so much. The only thing that's guaranteed out there is mail," Dunn said.
Dunn said his main program goal is to show soldiers the community's overwhelming support for their efforts. Voted "Best New Program of the Year" in Fairfax County for 2004-2005, Dunn's program has sent out more than 600 packages from the James Lee Community Center alone.
To send a package full of goodies or to donate items for care packages, people simply stop by any community center in the county. We Care also accepts cash to help defray mailing costs, Dunn said.
While We Care remains one of Dunn's main priorities, he said, he also emphasized that any individual or group can begin its own packaging efforts. He wants people to know their help is always appreciated.
"It means something to me, because when I was (in Iraq), I was getting boxes from an elementary school out in Arizona, and I didn't know any of those kids out there," he said. "And they kept sending me boxes, and it meant a whole lot to me." Dunn said he wrote back to the class, and he and the children stayed in touch.
Dunn's first trip after returning from Iraq was to visit students who had sent him packages. "I flew out to Albuquerque, N.M., to a public school to surprise those kids and let them know how much they made my day," he said. Visiting citizens who supported them during their deployment isn't an uncommon thing for soldiers to do, he added. Dunn stressed the importance of supporting the nation's servicemembers, especially in the time of war.
"Outside of the fact that they are giving up their lives and their freedom out there so people can spend time with their families in a safer environment, it's just important to support the soldiers because they know they have a job to do, and their job is to protect America," he said. "Without them, just imagine what would happen."