Brian Wellinger meticulously examined a variety of goodies as he made his way to several packing stations at American Legion Post 192 Thursday. He was there to support Operation Hand-Warmer, which provides care packages for service members overseas for the winter months.
It was not so long ago the Army vet found himself on the receiving end of the campaign. Wellinger left the Army after completing his tour to Afghanistan on Nov. 9. He reflected on the experience as he filled a box of his own.
“It was always a good feeling to receive it and I always appreciated getting (the care packages),” he said. “So it’s good to give back knowing what it’s like.”
More than 60 volunteers followed suit during the morning packing party.
Burt Sappenfield, founder of the operation, encouraged them to pack their boxes tight and leave a note acknowledging each military member’s service. He began the campaign in 2012 for troops in South Korea, Afghanistan and other duty stations in countries that traditionally experience extremely cold winters.
This year’s campaign, which began in November and continues until Jan. 15, directly supports Army troops in the Signal Corps based at Fort Gordon and other Georgia-based forces. Those include the Combat Aviation Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division; the 3rd Battalion, 160th Special Operations Aviation Airborne Regiment; the 75th Ranger Regiment; and the 3rd Infantry Division .
“This is a grassroots thing and everybody in the CSRA has come together to donate to this cause,” Sappenfield said as he directed groups to tables filled with supplies . “It’s tremendous and I know the soldiers who receive these packages in about a week will know that people care about them in the Augusta area.”
Lillian Klien, of Augusta, was among those who wrote a letter of love and appreciation during the event, and placed it inside of her stuffed box before it was sealed for delivery. The 10-year-old’s father is expected to deploy after the holidays.
“My dad lives in New York and he is going to Iraq in January or February so I want to do this for the soldiers there,” Klien said. “And I bet these other soldiers have thier children so I want to do this for them because I know how much they’ll miss their dads like I do.”
Jack Ellis, an 80-year-old Army veteran who served for two-and-a-half years in Germany, worked to tape and stack boxes as they were completed. The Augusta resident has been an active volunteer for the campaign since it began. He referred to his commitment as a reflection of “the brotherhood.”
“It’s part of the brotherhood,” he said. “I’m grateful and I’m blessed to be where I am today, and I like to stay busy.”
Boxes from the party are expected to ship in two weeks. Residents can continue to pack boxes, or drop off hand-warmers and other items at Century 21 Larry Miller Realty headquarters office at 235 N. Belair Road in Evans until Jan. 15.