Soothing soldiers in Iraq

EHS students send care packages to troops

By Julie Fann
star staff

Though most high school students don't know what it's like to live out on their own in a world that is safe, much less in a bunker accompanied by the constant threat of death, they do know something about troubled times. After all, they're teenagers.
   "I wish it could be a lot better for them over there," said Allissa Walker, a junior at Elizabethton High School, about soldiers in Iraq. "It must be hard for them being so far away from the people they know. I'm just glad we get to do this and help out."
   Members of three student groups at Elizabethton High School gathered in the school's commons area Tuesday afternoon to separate pasta from deodorant and canned food from baby wipes for care packages to send to four local soldiers who are based at al-Asad Air Base, 11 miles northwest of Fallujah in western Iraq.
   Members of the Civinette Club, Beta Club, and the National Honors Society at EHS participated in the project.
   "Sara Johnson, who is Sean Johnson's sister, is an EHS graduate, and she came to us and basically told us that morale was a little less than stellar ... She said that it's really so expensive to mail stuff she wondered if some of the clubs wanted to help, and of course we all wanted to help," said Kathe Johnson, Beta Club sponsor and math teacher who helped organize the project.
   Sgt. Brian Fraley, Sgt. Sean Johnson, and Sgt. Andy Wetzel, all members of 3-24 Lima Company and EHS graduates, as well as Pvt. Stephen Thompson, Bravo 67th, will receive the packages. The students followed a list of frequently-requested items they obtained from the Reserve Center and spent the afternoon sorting through everything.
   "We have to get pork and ham products out because they can't go to Islamic countries. Also, any pictures of women in shorts or short skirts are considered pornographic in Islamic countries. We also can't use any boxes that contained chemicals," Johnson said.
   A 60-pound care package sent priority mail costs $105, according to Johnson, who said the clubs will probably need more postage money for the project.
   "Some people have given us money just for postage, and we've had a coffee house and raised a lot of money that we're going to use for postage," she said.
   The clubs divided the project among the city school systems' three elementary schools, T.A. Dugger Junior High School, and EHS. "We gave 10 easy things, like candy and macaroni and cheese, to the elementary schools, 20 things to the middle school, and we took 30," Johnson said.
   Some creative package ideas on the list include a pizza party in a box with all the necessary ingredients and tools, beef jerky, and easy cheese. Johnson said soldiers especially like beef jerky because they can carry it with them easily.
   "What some of them want right now also are sun glasses and disposable cameras," Johnson said.
   Though the transfer of power to the Iraqi people is scheduled for June 30, many troops' stays are being extended by six months to one year.