Chocolate is a hot commodity to troops stationed overseas. That’s why the Columbus chapter of the United Service Organization is shipping plenty of candy to members of the 988th Military Police Company just in time for the holidays.
USO volunteers spent last Thursday morning stuffing a selection of goodies into custom-made camouflage stockings to send to the 165 members of the 988th who will be deployed throughout the holiday season.
“I’ve been over there twice already and it means a lot especially to the soldiers that don’t have family that can afford to send them stuff, this is really big to them,” said Staff Sgt. Dawn Shields with the 988th. “It’s just showing them that people still care, people are still thinking about them and they are not forgotten.”
ATM Electronic Payment Systems contributed $2,000 to this project while Fort Benning National Sojourners gave USO Columbus $2,000 to divvy up between its stocking campaign and its Christmas day dinner for active duty soldiers and their families.
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Robbie Watson, director of the USO Columbus, said the money slated for stocking stuffers went toward edible goodies, shaving cream, bibles, phone cards and personal hygiene products.
“Most people wake up to a Christmas stocking on Christmas day, so why should it be any different for those men and women who are over there doing the world’s most dangerous job?” Watson said.
There’s a history between the 988th and USO Columbus. The local chapter of the national organization opened its doors five months ago, just in time to host the MP company’s deployment party in August and Watson said the organization will sponsor the 988th’s redeployment celebration upon its return to the states in August 2009.
“This is a unit that I will have followed, when it’s all said and done, from beginning to end,” he said. “I was the last person to shake their hand as each member of the unit got on the flight at Lawson Airfield, which was really the highlight of my career, that moment shaking their hands, telling them I was going to pray for them and then be back there for them.”
Jessica Lethgo’s husband, Sgt. Nathan Lethgo, is one of the more than 160 988th soldiers who will receive a stocking from USO Columbus. The Army medic is due home on leave in early January, but his wife said he and the other deployed MPs truly look forward to receiving these reminders of home on Christmas.
“It just sucks that they’re not going to be here, I’m not going to lie,” Lethgo said. “It sucks really bad, but it means a lot to do something for all these guys. I know some people don’t have family members that support them. They don’t get packages, so for every one of them to get something for the holidays is just, it means a lot, and I’m really glad that I can participate in getting this done for them.”
Lethgo said home-baked goods are also a hot item atop a soldier’s holiday wish list.
To donate to USO Columbus call 706-687-5111 or visit its headquarters at 3662 Victory Drive. The office is located inside the Suburban Hotel.