“This is where I do all my stuff. It’s kind of messy, anything from care packages, which you can have all kinds of stuff from canned goods to beef jerky, to M &M’s…”
23 year old Kylie Hinger is in her Soldier’s Room, upstairs in her Katy house. During the day she works for a courier service, but in her spare time this where she stuffs packages, writes emails, and makes survival bracelets for a group of US soldiers stationed all over the world.
“I have 5 soldiers. I can only go by their first names: It’s Stuart, Chris, Marvin Robert and Anesha.”
Hinger is a supporter in the Adopt a U.S. Soldier program. She and thousands of others have registered on line to be connected with service men and women stationed anywhere from Iraq and Afghanistan to Africa and Japan. Whenever they can, these supporters send letters, emails, and care packages to soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines, most of whom they’ve never met.
“I looked this morning, and we had 321,065 supporters, and that’s in 89 countries around the world.”
Ann Johnson started Adopt a U.S. Soldier in 2005, after she heard how little her son had as a medic in Iraq.
“They were living in an airplane hanger with their cots jammed up against each other. They had MREs, which are meals ready to eat, and that was about it. So I couldn’t even send him enough things, so I asked my friends, neighbors, even people walking down the street — would you help? And they did.”
“Marvin, he’s in the Navy. He asked for gobstoppers…”
Hinger sends at least one package a month, which at a flat rate of $11.95, is not a bad deal. But she says that for her and her adopted soldiers, the best are the letters.
“Here we talk about our dogs. That’s what we talk about all the time. Stuart, he has a dog back at home that he misses a whole lot. So it’s such simple conversations, but you can’t wait for when you log on to your email, and you see his email, and you’re like, YES, he wrote back!”
Getting a letter about dogs may not seem like a big event to most of us. But it’s different for soldiers says Lt. Col. Steve Osterholzer, who called from his base in central Afghanistan.
“It brings you a touch of home. We’re half way around the globe, in the desert, with camels, and people shooting at ya, so the letters bring a taste of home. Mail comes maybe once a week or so, and the word spread s like wildfire through camp, hey, mail’s in! And the whole atmosphere of the campus just changes, just like Christmas.”
Kylie Hinger says she is always surprised by how often her soldiers say these simple words:
“Thank you. Thank you. You have no idea how much it means to us.”
From the KUHF NewsLab, I’m Melissa Galvez
For more information on the Adopt a US Soldier program, please visit www.adoptaussoldier.org.