Greenfield - Young Wisconsin soldiers who landed in Afghanistan about a month ago soon will have care packages and letters from local youths offering them a sense of "home."
Greenfield High School students "adopted" the soldiers and donated things that filled dozens of care packages, which are already in transit.
"They'll feel the love coming from us and not be quite as lonely because they have something to hang on to from home," said Greenfield High School senior Abbi Farrell, who as a cadet colonel with the U.S. Air Force Junior ROTC program at the school helped organize the effort. "We want to make sure they know we're thinking about them."
The soldiers are members of the Wisconsin Army National Guard field artillery unit from Plymouth. The care package project began in December when students wrote and sent soldiers holiday greetings expressing their thanks for their service. The unit was in training at the time, getting ready to ship out, Davis said.
Packaged with care
The care packages were a joint project between the Junior ROTC, whose members decided to adopt a military unit from Wisconsin this year, and the homeroom committee, which wanted to use the holidays and homerooms to focus on service projects.
Each homeroom adopted an individual soldier. Donations of gum, wet wipes, magazines, DVDs, cards, candy, beef jerky, hand sanitizer and other items poured in for "their" soldier.
"Getting a care package is like getting gold," said senior Rosie Hagen, cadet lieutenant colonel in the Junior ROTC. "It's a little taste of home. They miss being home as much as we miss them."
The care package project also taught the students an important life lesson, said the homeroom committee's Adrienne McKeown, who helped coordinate the project.
"We feel that it is important to build a sense of community and service with our students and feel that homeroom is a perfect place to do this," she said. "We would like to honor those that have sacrificed so much for us. It is important for young people to understand the gift of giving thanks and doing things for others."
And it seems they understand that very well, said Lt. Col. Andrew Davis, Junior ROTC commander.
"We got double the amount I thought would come in," Davis said.
Davis added: "It was a beautiful thing," noting that the students seemed to know that there are some great people out there who are away from ordinary comforts.
The cost of getting the packages and letters to the soldiers is already taken care of with donations and funding the school regularly sets aside for community service, "for which this obviously qualifies," Davis said.