During his 12 deployments since Sept. 11, 2001, retired Air Force Lt. Col. Kurt Barry was on the receiving end of care packages sent to soldiers overseas.
He volunteered at an Operation Hand-Warmer packing party Tuesday to prepare care packages for those currently deployed.
“A little something from home always makes you feel special,” Barry said. “One of the benefits of being over there, you know exactly what they want.”
Barry made sure to pack a lot of Slim Jims and beef jerky, and anything with lots of sugar and preservatives, as soldiers aren’t always able to get the treats they want.
More than 18,000 hand warmers, about 6,000 more than last year, and more than 3,000 other items including baby wipes, snack foods and candy were collected during the second annual “operation,” organized through Century 21 Larry Miller Realty. Volunteers counted and packed items, collected since early November, and addressed boxes.
“They’ll be in soldiers’ hands the day after Christmas,” coordinator Burt Sappenfield said. “And 100 percent of the funds (and donations) go to the troops.”
Hand warmers are desperately needed by soldiers in Afghanistan, a desert country with extreme temperatures, especially during winter.
U.S. Army Capt. Edwin Seda, a company commander with the 551st Signal Battalion Training Company, brought several students to help pack.
“It means a lot,” said Seda, who was deployed in 2009-10. “It’s pretty cold up there. … There’s a lot of snow. Those hand warmers put a good smile on my face.”
Sappenfield said he’s also sending camouflage hand warmer muffs for the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, the Night Stalkers, which flies attack and reconnaissance missions with the helicopter doors open, even in below-freezing temperatures.
The packages also contain handwritten Christmas cards and letters. The soldiers always like to hear from home, and Seda thanked the group for sending the packages.
“We’re very appreciative of that,” he said.