Adopt a Platoon collects items for troops

Laura Maycock

Like many Americans, John Szcepkowski, 38, of Ardmore, knows soldiers who are fighting overseas. And like many Americans, he wishes he could do more to show his support.

“It amazes me that anyone could go and risk their lives fighting for some other country,” Sczepkowski said.  “They must have to endure so many inconveniences and difficult times over there. I wish there was something I could do for them.”

Now, there is. The mothers of soldiers deployed overseas have started a national organization called Adopt a Platoon. The goal of the group is to boost the morale of the men and women stationed in Iraq by sending letters and care packages to them. They believe that no soldier should be forgotten at mail-call. Adopt a Platoon also strives to teach, by encouraging young children to write to their soldiers and collect items to send.

Campus organizations have brought the Adopt a Platoon campaign to the University. Students are encouraged to purchase and donate everyday items such as toothpaste, deodorant, socks and underwear, as well as to write letters of thanks to the soldiers. The items are then packaged and sent to Iraq.

Individual University organizations including residence halls, Greek organizations and academic departments have all adopted platoons. This means that each organization was given an actual platoon number as well as a number of items to collect and amount of money to raise.

Senior Dana D’Orazio is the head of the steering committee on campus. It is because she has friends serving in Iraq that D’Orazio decided to bring Adopt a Platoon to her campus.

“There has been a huge outpouring of interest in what we’re doing,” D’Orazio said. “We are going to extend the campaign well past the original end-date.”

The care packages sent by the steering company in December include personal hygiene items like shampoo and deodorant as well as “fun stuff” like candy, DVDs and art supplies.

One person donated a few Christmas decorations, while another baked a tin of snickerdoodle cookies.

The 12 boxes which were packed weighed over 300 pounds and cost $245 to ship.

“We are hurting for money,” D’Orazio said. “We’ve got a ton of items, but we’re running out of funds to send them anywhere.”

The group is trying to raise money for shipping by selling yellow ribbons for a dollar and Adopt a Platoon t-shirts for $12. The making of the t-shirts was sponsored by a number of local businesses, including Gullifty’s Restaurant and Wallace Auto.

Lt. Marcus Wilson says that the work of Adopt a Platoon is very important.

Soldiers do not have access to many of the things we take for granted here at home because they can only get their day-to-day supplies from post exchanges.

“Post exchanges are like WaWa for soldiers,” Wilson said. “But there are only two or three of them in all of Iraq and they have to convoy through very hot areas to get there.”

According to Wilson, the soldiers in Iraq must endure a great number of day-to-day discomforts. The average man carries 150 pounds of gear on his back. In many places, they cannot take showers during the day because the soaring temperatures heat the water.

They are only able to call home two or three times a month and have access to e-mail even less. Conveniences like snacks and up-to-date magazines are hard to come by, and leisure items like CDs or DVDs are even rarer.

The work of Adopt a Platoon will go on at the University as long as the items and money keep rolling in. D’Orazio hopes that the campaign will touch as many soldiers as possible.

“Someday, I hope to meet some of the soldiers we are sending packages to,” D’Orazio said. “I am so grateful for what they do and are willing to sacrifice. This is the least we can do.”