— Ron Smith says he remembers how good it felt to receive a care package when he was stationed in South Korea during the Vietnam War.
To be able share that feeling recently with troops serving in Afghanistan and other locations overseas was incredibly gratifying, he said.
“If you’ve never been overseas, and never been in service, you don’t know how welcome a package from home is,” said Smith, a member of Elks Lodge 980 in Rock Island.
For the eighth consecutive year, members of Elks lodges across Illinois gathered in Springfield to assemble care packages to be mailed to American troops serving overseas. The group met at Hilton Springfield.
Each person grabbed a U.S. Postal Service shipping box, filled it with items and then handed it to other volunteers to be mailed.
The goal this year was to send more than 700 boxes of supplies, containing snack foods, easy-to-prepare meals, toiletries, playing cards, batteries, Tylenol and energy drinks, among other things, Smith said.
The group has shipped more than 5,000 boxes overseas in eight years, said Larry Smith, president of the Illinois Elks Association.
Mike Thonin, Support our Soldiers coordinator, said each of the 72 Elks lodges across the state donated supplies or money to cover shipping costs.
As long as there are troops stationed overseas, Thonin said, the Elks will continue to ship care packages each January.
“Our model in the Elks is, as long as there are veterans, they’ll never be forgotten,” he said.
The national leader of the Elks, Tom Brazier, attended the event.
Brazier, who lives in California, said seeing so many people work together to help soldiers was impressive.
“Whenever I get to go to a state and see how many people they’re serving, it just blows you away,” Brazier said.
Story and photo used with permission from The State Journal-Register. Online: http://www.sj-r.com.