Small quilted squares, used paperback books, Girl Scout cookies, decks of cards and domino games are just some of the “swag” available for deploying Soldiers and civilians leaving from Freedom Hall.
The giveaways come from all over the country, said retired Lt. Col. Ken Sines, who collects the items for the deployments.
A church group in Pennsylvania sends the “prayer squares” monthly and the Girl Scout cookies came from Las Vegas, Sines said.
The Prayers and Squares group with Westmont Presbyterian Church in Johnstown, Pa., sends the 6-and-a-half-inch squares made out of red, white and blue fabric, tied with white string to make pocket quilts.
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“We wanted to support the troops,” said Joyce Norris, a church member.
“We wanted them to know that there are a lot of people back home that are praying for them, love them and care for them and are so proud of the fact that they are so willing to give their lives for us.”
The CONUS Replacement Center deploys Soldiers and civilians on Fridays and a group of regulars, including Sines, retired Command Sgt. Maj. Virgil Greene and Glenda Osborne, an Army widow and member of Association of the United States Army, go to Freedom Hall to set out tables of free items and help with food service.
Greene said he considers it part of his duty to make sure they’re taken care of.
The effort put in by Greene and others has not gone unnoticed by Soldiers and civilian contractors.
Master Sgt. Joyce Palmer, who has deployed before, said she enjoys seeing the setup of free items before her deployment.
Palmer picked up a pocket quilt, two cards and a pack of dominoes for herself.
“It’s awesome because our Soldiers are deploying and they are already going through a lot of different emotions and when they come into a place like this (that) embraces them — giving them little trinkets,” Palmer said.
“It’s a good motivator for the Soldiers, letting them know on their way out the last stop that someone still cares. And that’s a good thing and that’s a good feeling as well.”
Maj. Richard Delaney, 947th Forward Surgical Team, will be a general surgeon in Iraq.
“I think (this is) a real blessing,” he said. “I think it’s a real show of how the people in the country feel about us and what we are doing. So it’s a pretty good pick-me-up.”