Community groups send Christmas care packages to troops on the front lines
Photo courtesy of Airborne Angel Cadets - Airborne Angel Cadets of Carrollton ship thousands of care packages to soldiers overseas each year. Earlier this month, the volunteer organization assembled Christmas care package boxes stuffed full of goods for U.S. troops in Afghanistan.
The life of a soldier can be stressful and self-sacrificing as it is, but perhaps the hardest challenge for the men and women in arms is spending Christmas in a foreign land.
To help bring a little Christmas cheer to troops serving in Afghanistan and other parts of the world, local churches, schools, businesses and volunteer groups have been busy mailing out care packages so they arrive by Dec. 25.
Airborne Angel Cadets in Carrollton sent care packages last week to 12 adopted military units. The group of 75 volunteers has been sending care packages to active duty military personnel since 2005, shipping to about 12,000 soldiers serving overseas each year.
Included in this year's shipments were 900 large stockings stuffed with goods and phone
cards, 8,500 mini stockings, more than 20 trees, hundreds of boxed greeting
cards for soldiers to send to loved ones, lights and decorations and the usual snacks and toiletries that are always in need, volunteer Nancy Carter said.
While goods donations are always in needs, raising funds for postage remains the biggest challenge, Carter said. In 2012, the group spent more than $52,000 in postage alone, up from
$41,000 the year before.
In addition to sending their packages out right on time, Airborne Angel Cadets also prides itself in being one of the few organizations that sends 100 percent of its donations to troops through their mailing service.
"Troops tell us that they get inundated this time of year, but then the care packages come to a
standstill after the holidays," Carter said. "Folks don't realize that troops are there all year, and summer is the hardest time for them with temperatures soaring and morale lower."
For the past several years, LegacyTexas Bank has held drives like these in time for Veterans Day and the holidays.
This year, the Plano-based bank collected enough goods to mail out 575 boxes, about the same amount sent out last year. As this being its third year coordinating the effort with the help of Blue Star Mothers, the tradition has become one that both bank employees and customers looks forward to every year, said Phil Dyer, LegacyTexas Bank president and Plano mayor.
"We have so much for which to be grateful," Dyer said. "Giving back to our troops, who are making huge sacrifices for us, is the way LegacyTexas Bank and our customers can say thank you."
For Laneca Kesler, her shipment of Christmas goodies this year holds a very special meaning. The kindergarten teacher at Webb Elementary in McKinney coordinated the school's Thanksgiving community service project benefiting troops overseas, including her second cousin, Zach Kesler, who was deployed to Afghanistan a couple of months ago. Her class adopted him and committed themselves to do special things for him and his fellow soldiers throughout the year to help the days go by a little smoother.
"Zach had a birthday early on, and we sent him a birthday card signed by the class," Kesler said. "Zach wrote us back and sent us an eagle patch that says 'Airborne.' We proudly displayed it on our Word Wall for the class to see each day."
The class that brings the most items will earn an extra recess, Kesler said, adding that her classes are super excited to help with such a great cause. So far, the children have collected letters, notes, magazines, gum, cards, dice, powder drink packets, batteries and more, and will be sending the items to Zach so he can share them with his fellow soldiers, Kesler said.