- Cullman, Alabama

October 21, 2012

VFW collecting gifts for troops overseas

By Loretta Gillespie
The Cullman Times

— Ever crave something that you can’t find? Chocolate? Peach tea? Grandma’s fried chicken?

Fortunately, with the exception of your grandma’s chicken, you can probably run down to a whole host of convenience stores or supermarkets and satisfy just about any culinary craving that you can think of. Shelves lined with everything from cookies, crackers, cokes and coffees from 20 different countries are available 24/7 in multiple locations, with smiling folks just waiting to serve you.

However, if you happen to be standing guard on a lonesome outpost in Afghanistan, this might not be the case.

Being far from home is rough, even for seasoned veteran’s who have been on the front lines several times. The basic comforts of home like warm, soft beds, hot showers, and clean clothes, fresh from the dryer and smelling of country gardens are out of reach for them. But there are some things that they have expressed a wish for that are being assembled as you read this.

Christmas Boxes for Vets, a project to assemble gift boxes for our Cullman County National Guard unit is underway now at the local VFW Post 2214.

According to Col. Ken Brown, USAF-Ret., this is the second time the group at the VFW has undertaken this project. “We did this two years ago when Charlie Company was in Iraq and we got good response from it, so we decided to do it again.”

Col. Brown also said that the wife of one of the soldiers is taking requests directly from the members of Charlie Company and turning the list over to the VFW group, who is doing their best to supply each item on the wish list.

All boxes will be delivered to members of Charlie Company, 167th Infantry Regiment of the Alabama Army National Guard from Cullman County, currently deployed to Afghanistan.

These aren’t expensive or hard to find items, just things that a soldier might miss, such as a reminder of home as simple as a Slim Jim, or a package of pretzels. Things you and I take for granted every day.

Each box will cost $35 to assemble. There are 138 men and two women in Charlie Company who will receive these much anticipated gifts just in time for Christmas.

The total cost of  assembling and mailing these boxes will be over $4,000. “We’ve raised about $1,600 so far,” said Col. Brown. “We are stationed in the Wal-Mart parking lot on Tuesdays and Fridays so that people can donate items or write a check to help us fill the boxes.”

Anyone interested in supporting this effort may send a check for $35 per box to VFW Post 2214 (Christmas Box), 112 Veterans Drive, Cullman, AL 35055. Checks should be made out to VFW Post 2214/Christmas Box.

Anyone wishing to bring items or donations by the post should do so on Thursdays between the hours of 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. Post members have the postal boxes and will wrap and mail them in time to get them to the troops for Christmas.

The deadline for donations is Saturday, Nov. 10, 2012.

"For all we know, this may be the only thing some of these soldiers get for Christmas," said Junior Vice Commander, Randy McGraw, who is overseeing this years program, along with his wife, Jeanette. Jeanette McGraw is a member of the VFW Ladies Auxiliary, who have been a tremendous help in shopping for and packaging the items.

Items that have been specifically requested are portable meat snacks (Slim Jims, beef jerky, pepperoni), instant drink items (Milo, Gatorade, hot chocolate), hand sanitizer, snacks (cheese/cracker packs, pretzel/cheese combinations, sardines, popcorn, candy, cookies, Nature Valley cereal bars, dried fruit snacks), instant noodles, sardines, Suddenly Salad pasta mix, cream of wheat, eyedrops, Band-Aids, game books (crossword puzzles, word searches, Sudoku), Gillette Mach 3 razors, AA and AAA batteries, deodorant, nasal spray, Q-tips, dental floss, toothpaste, toothbrushes, Clorox wipes and Advil.

VFW Post 2214, in conjunction with The Cullman Times, is also undertaking another Christmas project for their overseas members. “We want to send cards from every school child in Cullman County to our Charlie Company troops,” said Col. Brown. “These cards will arrive in time for the holidays and should include a note from the child with a sentiment and possibly a photo of the child.”

“We don’t need any envelopes or stamps for this project, only the card,” stressed Col. Brown. “We just need the cards with the child’s message.”

Cards will be collected by teachers, who will then drop off the cards at the appropriate location.

The VFW Post 2214 in Cullman also houses the offices of the American Legion and Disabled Veterans Administration. If you have questions about or donations for any of these groups, you can find them at VFW Post 2214, 112 Veterans Drive, Cullman, Alabama.


For further information on how to make a donation, contact one of the following:

VFW Post No. 2214: 256-739-6611

Commander Jerry Willibey: 256-347-0807

Junior Vice Commander Randy McGraw: 256-287-5650

Col. Ken Brown: 256-507-1121