The next Treat the Troops packing event is set for 7 p.m. Nov. 19 at the VFW post on Dahlonega Highway. Participants are asked to bring homemade cookies (six per twist-tie baggie), candy, individual servings of packable food, travel-size toiletries and letters or cards of appreciation. Tax-deductible postage donations also are needed. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or go online at www.treatthetroops.org.
CUMMING — Two magazines, toiletries, seven to eight dozen cookies, snacks, letters and candy to fill out all the nooks and crannies.
That’s what goes into each box Treat the Troops Southern Style fills for U.S. military personnel deployed overseas.
During its most recent packing party, the local group filled about 278 boxes, totaling some 32,400 cookies — by far the most popular item — for troops.
“The majority go to Afghanistan, but we do have boxes that go to [South] Korea,” said organizer Linda Jones. “We send to a lot of ships. We send to Africa. We send anywhere we have a deployed soldier that requests cookies.”
While the meeting at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 9143 drew dozens of volunteers to pack boxes and hundreds of thank-you notes penned by local students, churches and volunteer organizations, one of the past recipients also was present.
Staff Sgt. Steven Holman with the Gainesville-based U.S. Army Reserve 802nd Ordnance Co. said his wife had bumped into Jones while both were mailing packages overseas. Holman said he wanted to come show his appreciation for the group’s efforts.
“I always wrote back and I happened to notice she was from Cumming. We’ve talked for six plus months now,” Holman said. “… I wanted to come out and tell you guys thank you from myself and my team. We enjoyed every last cookie.”
Holman said the soldiers who receive the packages are always quick to share.
“We would share with other units, our other teams, our civilian contractor partners … and dealing with coalition forces,” he said. “A lot of people don’t understand the coalition forces guys — which are our partners in these countries — they don’t get the packages that we do.
“Their families, their friends, don’t send them stuff. I guess they don’t have the support like we do.”
Holman also stressed the importance of remembering military families.
“Everyone always thanks the soldier, and thanks us for our sacrifice,” Holman said. “But at the end of the day, unfortunately, the military puts a little bit into your family. But they’re the ones who suffer, they make the sacrifice.”
The recent packing event was the 19th for the group, which to date has shipped 2,725 boxes and 315,990 cookies.
“We started in August 2012, and we do it five times a year,” Jones said. “We have our last one of the year, our holiday one, is coming up in November … They’re always on a Thursday night, always at the post.”