Christmas presents for more than 100 Cullman area National Guard troops will be shipping out this week after several weeks of effort by local veterans.

Gathering at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2214 in Cullman on Monday morning, veterans and members of the Ladies Auxilliary packed well over 100 boxes of treats for troops serving in Afghanistan. Among the gifts will be Christmas cards written by more than 4,000 local students, an effort that The Cullman Times and VFW joined together on last month.

“I can’t say enough about how the community responded to our call for the troops. If it wasn’t for such an active and caring community we wouldn’t be able to do this,” said Randy McGraw, junior vice commander of the VFW.

Joined by his wife, Jeanette, who is an auxilliary member, the McGraws were active in taking the VFW’s solicitation for donations to Wal Mart and Dollar General where they joined other VFW members in standing outside asking for contributions.

“We’re grateful to them for allowing us to do this. We also have received more than 4,000 Christmas cards from the students across Cullman County. The contributions came in many ways and we’re grateful to everyone who took part,” McGraw said.

Several auxilliary members were actively involved in collecting goodies for the troops and were busy packing Monday morning at Post 2214.

“It’s all for the troops. Anything we can do to help them is what this is all about,” said Jeanette McGraw. “We’re always ready to pitch in for them.”

The boxes contain a variety of snacks that impossible to find in Afghanistan. VFW member Ken Brown said the care packages are a way to make the troops know that their friends and families back home are thinking about them.

Bill Korwatch, a VFW member who moved to Cullman County from New York, said he is continually impressed by local efforts to support service personnel overseas.

“I would like to have gotten something like this when I was serving in Vietnam. The Cullman post does a tremendous job; it’s unbelievable what they accomplish here,” said Korwatch, who earned two purple hearts and served 13 months in Vietnam as a Marine Corps platoon sergeant.

“I moved here to be near family five years ago, but being part of this post has made moving here even more rewarding,” Kowatch said.

Post commander Jerry Willibey said the community outpouring for the more than 100 troops serving in Afghanistan has been tremendous.

“Because of the community’s generous response we have enough to send 30 extra boxes to the company commander who can issue those items at his discretion,” Willibey said. “We also have enough to make a donation to the local Childhaven.”

VFW members plan to take the boxes of treats to the Cullman Post Office Wednesday morning. Donations from local banks will pay the cost of mailing the gifts.

* David Palmer may be contacted at or 256-734-2131, ext. 213.

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