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Freedom Fund Supports Deployed Troops

By K.L. Vantran
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 19, 2004 – On a baseball field in Vermont Aug. 7, a group of National Guardsmen will join forces with families of troops deployed in the war on terror to honor the 11 Vermonters who have paid the ultimate price for freedom.

The event, designed to promote the Freedom Fund, also will feature a baseball game, according to organizer Beth Cornwell-Friese. The Freedom Fund is a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting those deployed in the fight for democracy around the world.

Cornwell-Friese created the Freedom Fund after she mailed her first package to her son, Dan, deployed with the 1st Armored Division. "I realized I couldn't send a package to my son alone," she said. For the more than 14 months the unit spent in Iraq, she sent care packages full of such items as neck coolers, space heaters and many letters of support.

Before she began the Freedom Fund, which received tax-exempt status in December, Beth said the family sent at least one package a week to Dan's unit and to other units, such as the 82nd Airborne Division. Since April, they've sent about 15 packages, which contained items for 185 soldiers.

"We're currently trying to mail packages for up to 50 soldiers, because we've found distributing such large amounts is difficult to do since the units are in different locations," she added. "This doesn't include the packets of letters we send. I've found that soldiers need letters just as much as packages."

As the Freedom Fund grows, Cornwell-Friese said it will reach more and more troops. "We're constantly recruiting volunteers to help with the mailing," she added.

Fundraising efforts also are going quite well, she said. "We had a car wash and sold yellow ribbons at a local fairground. Only three people refused to buy a ribbon," she added.

"Our goal is to keep the soldiers' morale high by showing support back home," she said. "Homesickness is a big problem, and a simple letter from a stranger can help to lift spirits."

Beth said her family is "deeply patriotic" and feels it is their duty and an honor to support service members.

Sept. 11, 2001, was a "horrific day that changed my life," said Beth. "I am appalled that these terrorists conducted an unprovoked attack on our innocent people. My son, too, felt that way when he enlisted with the Army." She said her 16-year-old son, Stefan, often talks about enlisting.

While Cornwell-Friese is busily preparing for the "big game," foremost in her thoughts is her son, Dan. The soldier is supposed to be home by the end of July and Beth said she hopes he'll be able to play in the game.

"But now I am trying to help families here in Vermont and elsewhere by sending packages to their loved ones," she said. "Danny said mail call was the highlight of each day. Imagine those who receive no mail. That's one reason we try to get as many letters and packages out as we can."

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