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America Supports You: Group Sends Holiday Gifts to Deployed Troops

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 10, 2005 – A group that began in a Marine Corps wife's basement when her husband deployed to Iraq is in the midst of sending thousands of care packages to deployed troops for Christmas.

"Give2theTroops" is a nonprofit group aimed at supporting the physical, moral and spiritual health of America's armed forces in combat zones through the world through letters and packages prepared and shipped by volunteers.

Andi Grant of Connecticut founded the group three years ago when her husband Brian and his Marine Reserve unit prepared to deploy to the Middle East for Operation Iraqi Freedom. As he packed and attended briefings to get ready for the deployment, Grant said she, too, felt she wanted to play a part.

Grant knew her husband would receive cards and letters from his family and friends at home. What concerned her was that some troops would not, so she and her 10-year-old son Ryan began helping fill the void.

What began as a small family project evolved into an ongoing community effort, with schools, churches and other groups pitching in to help. Grant's personal goal is to expand the effort to show troops that communities in every U.S. state support them.

Now, after shipping more than 12,000 packages to 500,000 troops, Give2theTroops is now focused on shipping what David Jester, the group's California state director, describes a "a ton" of Christmas gifts.

Gifts range from high-tech gear like computers, video-game systems, software and compact disks to personal items like T-shirts, hand lotion and candy treats, Jester said.

To Jester, a Vietnam veteran who remembers being in a war zone and receiving few packages and even less in the way of public support, Give2theTroops reinforces public support for men and women in uniform. "It shows we're behind them and remembering them while they're deployed," he said.

Give2theTroops, part of the Defense Department's America Supports You effort, aims to continue building its efforts to reinforce that message. And troops offer "nothing but positive feedback" for the care packages they receive, Jester said.

Army Staff Sgt. Cameron Eichen, from 1st Battalion, 110th Infantry, wrote thanking the group for the care package her unit received. "The guys are gonna love everything in it," he wrote. "I'm going to put the items in some of the stocking you sent for the holiday. They can share them with the others.

"It is such a wonderful thing you do," Eichen said of the group's effort.

"Thanks for all you guys do back home!" echoed Army Staff Sgt. Brian Combs, from 7th Squadron, 158th Aviation Regiment. "I have a lot of troops under me and around me who do not get care packages from the rear. Christmas is coming up, so I am so glad I now have items from you that I can give to all of them!"

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