Volunteers pack holiday boxes to send to soldiers overseas
During a chilly Friday morning in Solvang, nearly 20 volunteers for We Support the Troops, Inc. gathered at the Solvang Veterans Memorial Hall again to pack up food and supplies and ship the boxes to troops overseas.
The nonprofit has been mailing out boxes every month since 2004, and the Christmas/Holiday packing Friday morning marked the final packing of 2020. The volunteers will pick back up again in 2021.
This month, the volunteers packed and mailed 187 boxes with various items inside. While last year’s Christmas packing total reached 244, COVID-19 restrictions impacted the capabilities of the organization.
Packages are sent to soldiers in a combat outpost or a forward operating base, because they don’t have access to a base exchange.
“Some of them are reduced to eating just meals ready to eat,” Pat Sullivan, an organizer of the packing, told the News-Press. “So they depend on us for hygiene, particularly the women, because they are not well supplied at all.”
Ms. Sullivan herself served 26 years in the Air Force and understands the soldiers’ need for basic necessities of life, personal hygiene items and educational materials not available in the field.
“Those are our people over there,” she said. “I was in the Air Force for 26 years and I have an understanding of what they’re going through.”
The contents of the Christmas packages featured Santa hats, Christmas cards, candy canes and hand-knit items such as scarves and helmet liners from Atterdag Care Center in Solvang.
In addition, items in the boxes include things like beef jerky, coffee grounds or Keurig cups, gum and hard candy, shampoo and conditioner, deodorant, chapstick or lip balm, feminine hygiene products, toothbrushes/floss/toothpaste, Q-tips, flashlights and batteries, instant hand and foot warmers, slippers, T-shirts, boot socks, towels, canned goods and non-perishables, soccer balls, colored pencils, laundry detergent, ziploc bags, DVD movies, board games, books and magazines.
Ruth Kunkle was among the volunteers helping pack, and has been involved in We Support the Troops, Inc. for a number of years.
Her husband, Jim Kunkle, was a P-38 fighter pilot who fought German Luftwaffe over Nazi-occupied Europe. He earned a Distinguished Service Cross (one step below the Medal of Honor) for downing an enemy aircraft as he was shot down during a dogfight.
Now, he’s widely known in the Valley for his heroism and for meeting notable public figures such as Paul Allen, the cofounder of Microsoft, and President Donald Trump.
“I have a special place in my heart for veterans,” Mrs. Kunkle told the News-Press. “I think that we as a country need to let our veterans know that they’re always in our hearts.
“This is especially true at Christmas. We have veterans overseas that never even get a letter, much less a package.”
Kay Reid was another volunteer at the Christmas packing.
“I just love being able to do a little something, so anything we can do,” she told the News-Press.
To donate to We Support the Troops, Inc. and help send supplies overseas to soldiers who need it, visit https://www.we-support-the-troops.org.
Volunteers prefer mailed checks, as donating actual items can make the job of packaging and fitting everything inside the boxes difficult. In addition, there are some restricted items such as pork products and aerosol products.
Donations can be mailed to: P.O. Box 915, Santa Ynez, CA, 93460.
Each package that gets delivered has a letter inside from We Support the Troops, Inc.
“So many of our countrymen and women seem very removed from the war,” it reads. “We know that you who are taking the battle to the enemy make our secure life possible… What you do may not be obvious to some, but it is to those who wish to destroy us.”