Mission: Mail Call Hero

Jenny Dwoskin

College students aren’t the only ones getting “care packages” these days; thanks to Soldiers’ Angels, American soldiers deployed in Iraq are receiving backpacks stuffed with the essentials: everything from Spaghetti-Os and playing cards, to a pre-paid calling cards and toilet paper.

Established in June 2003 by military mother, Patti Patton-Bader (mother of Spc. Brandon Varn), the Soldiers’ Angels organization’s mission is “to provide aid and comfort to any of the armed forces and their families.”

“Patti decided that rather than sit back and let depression take over her life, she would stand up and make a difference in the lives of our troops,” Peggy Baker, fellow military mother and member of the Soldiers’ Angels board, explains.

Little did she know that not only would she lift morale among our men and women serving our country on other shores, but she would also bring comfort to those of us here keeping the home fires burning.”

Through the interactive website, Americans in the states can “Adopt a Hero” by filling out a basic online application. Names of soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines have been submitted by military families and the Soldiers’ Angels staff hopes to assign each one of these names to a generous adopter.

For $15, the organization assembles a care package (consisting of food, hygienic products, and more) and then airmails it to military bases in Iraq. Currently, Soldier’s Angels has sent over 2,000 packages and hopes to send many more.

On Feb. 6, Soldiers’ Angels formed an alliance with Keystone Soldiers, as well as other Pennsylvania and nationally based organizations, including: Operation Wounded Soldiers, Operation Sandbox, World Prep and the Wounded Warrior Project. Each organization shares its resources and troop lists, and by sustaining their individual websites, more donators are drawn in.

In addition to these military aid programs, the Alliance of Angels has extended its outreach to the animal kingdom, as well, merging with the United States War Dogs Association/K-9 Warrior Dogs. Together, K-9 Warrior Dogs and Soldier’s Angels supply boxes of food, treats, boots, shampoo, cooling pads and toys for the shepherds and retrievers deployed as military working dogs.

Furthermore, along with basic donations and care packages, the Alliance of Angels also sponsors different events that promote military awareness.

Two of these projects kick off this month: Freedom Ride and Pride Project. On March 1, Soldier’s Angels and Keystone Soldiers united for Freedom Ride, a project devised to bring both east and west coast military support together.

Dan Forant, father of Spc. Daniel Forant III, is conducting a 3,000 mile cross-country bicycling trip starting in Albany and ending in California. The trek is expected to last an impressive 45 days (weather permitting) and thanks to the donation of a laptop, Forant will be sending digital photos and video clips of the journey to New York City, via satellite-broadband uplink (all of which can be monitored online). Along with Freedom Ride, Soldiers’ Angels and Pride Products (another military support organization) have joined to establish an operation called Pride Project, which aims to send at least 100 care packages to our soldiers in Iraq each month. Pride Project asks that every “angel” contribute one dollar, or 20 dollars for an entire care package given in the donator’s name.

Baker feels it is important that every American take time to remember our soldiers overseas. “We can never forget our ‘Defenders of Freedom,'” Baker says, “They are the unsung heroes of the past and the present. They ask so little but give so much.”