Saturday, November 15, 2008

Commander and supporter of Troop A featured in news article

Groups aim to brighten troops’ holidays

By Bryan McKenzie

Published: November 15, 2008

While Washington politicians figure out how to end the Iraqi conflict with peace and honor, the soldiers there and in Afghanistan are still fighting for their lives and those of others.

As long as they’re dodging bullets and rocket-propelled grenades far away, some folks nearby are going to keep finding ways to support them.

Have little, but need much

“I was hoping I could cut back to maybe a soldier or two, but it didn’t work,” said Mary Ellen Wooten, the power behind the one-woman troop support mechanism From Us To You. “I ran across this unit that’s living on rock in Afghanistan, in an area so remote that everything comes in and out by helicopter. These guys have nothing and needed everything, so the next thing you know …”

“Most of us have family members over there or are in contact with troops and we want to do our best to keep up their morale,” said Katherine Warren, of Blue Star Families of Central Virginia. “We want them to know people haven’t forgotten and still care.”

Welcome to the world of the civilian military support organization. Like the soldiers they support, once they get involved, they can’t seem to get out.

For the Blue Star Families, the conflicts and family members in the thick of it are always on their minds. For Ms. Wooten, who has sent specific items to specific troops for five years ago, it’s taken over much of her house and her life.

“I guess I can’t really get out of it until they are,” she said, sounding a bit weary. “They can’t just pack up and leave and I can’t abandon them.”

Both groups, and others, are rushing to get goods out for Christmas. The Blue Star group is sending Christmas decorations to a troop center in Kuwait and packages to other soldiers. Ms. Wooten is shipping long johns to American troops in the Afghan mountains. She’s also working with Starbucks at Berkmar Drive and U.S. 29 to send coffee to the guys in Apache Troop, 6th Battalion, 4th Cavalry of the 1st Infantry Division who are sitting in the rock-pile boondocks.

Every bit helps

“The guys are freezing up there and a $5 donation will get a soldier quality long johns,” she said, adding that Hanes has agreed to a discount and to ship the undies directly to Afghanistan.

Like Ms. Wooten, the Blue Star Families can’t seem to quit until the wars are over, and so they continue collecting goodies and cash donations.

“It’s our way of spreading a little pleasure in what can be a tough situation and providing simple joys throughout the year,” Mrs. Warren said.

For the troops, every little bit means they’re remembered.

“[They] are wonderful organizations that help to remind the soldiers that they are not forgotten and that there are people other than our families that worry and care for us,” wrote Capt. Frank Hooker, of Apache Troop, from its remote Afghanistan post. “The generosity of the American people never fails to amaze me.”

It’s not just the American troops involved in the conflict, Capt. Hooker noted.

“As the winter approaches, anything that can be donated to assist the local nationals in our area would be greatly appreciated,” he wrote.

Donations for 6-4 CAV can be sent to MaryEllen Wooten at

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