Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Friday, December 08, 2006

"SEL spreads holiday cheer; Pullman employees ship care packages to soldiers in Iraq, Afghanistan"

Nice write up in today's Moscow-Pullman Daily News about SEL's Operation Desert Christmas:
K.C. Brown developed a habit of under-baking her cookies while her son-in-law, Ryan, was serving two tours of duty in Iraq.

She learned how to send care packages overseas so the contents would arrive in perfect condition.

“If you undercook them, by the time the cookies get there, they’re not like rocks,” she said.

Ryan returned from duty in 2005 and is now back with his family in California, but Brown knows many service personnel remain in danger and away from their families.

As a sign of support, the Pullman resident and Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories Inc. help desk coordinator is involved in a project to send holiday care packages to soldiers stationed throughout Iraq and Afghanistan.

She recognizes that troops need to know they are being thought of, especially during the holiday season.

“I want all of them to know how much they are loved,” Brown said.

Kevin Carson, an SEL information systems specialist, started gathering items within his department in the company’s Government Service Division earlier this month. His small project caught on fast, and his co-workers at SEL’s Pullman campus soon began collecting goodies.

Ed Schweitzer, the company’s founder and president, pitched in $1,000. The company also donates food to the Pullman Food Bank and provides gifts for families that receive assistance through regional social service agencies.

Carson and his team did their research before they started packing up boxes. They went online to read Web logs, sent e-mails, and collected information from employees who knew people serving overseas to learn what items soldiers longed for.

They discovered everyday items are what the servicemen and women desire most.

Each package includes essential personal-hygiene products, such as razors, deodorant and shaving cream — an item not commonly shipped to soldiers because it is combustible.

The packages also contain things like compact discs, movies, puzzles and books, which are intended to add a little fun and stimulation to the soldiers’ long days.

“We have a great role in the world this year, because we get to play Santa,” Carson said. “It’s my belief that there’s an untapped need to help, and this helps.”

Also included are small toys soldiers can give to children living in the war zones.

More than 30 care packages were stuffed with goodies Thursday and were slated to be mailed out today. The packages will be shipped to members of the Washington National Guard and other outfits in Iraq and Afghanistan and be distributed to soldiers by their squad leaders.

“I hope they get there before Christmas,” Carson said.

Brown is sure to keep the packages nondenominational, even though it is the Christmas season.

“Whatever the season means to you, just know that you are being prayed for,” she said.

Hal Klein, an SEL lead software engineer, knows firsthand the importance of being recognized during the holidays.

Klein, a former Air Force airman who was stationed in the Azores Islands in the late 1970s, once received a package from his mother that contained a small, faux Christmas tree. The gift lit up what could have been a very lonely time of year.

“It was the only Christmas tree in the whole barracks,” he said. “It was really special.”

Klein’s 23-year-old son is fresh out of basic training and stationed with the Idaho National Guard in Blackfoot. He is safe at home for now, but the threat of being deployed is valid. Klein got involved in the care package project as a way to show respect not only for his son, but to all U.S. troops committed to their duty overseas.

“He didn’t join because he had to, he joined because he wanted to,” Klein said of his son. “We’re very proud of him. I hope the men that are over there know how much we think of them.”
Each package includes a form letter from SEL management expressing thanks to the soldiers for their loyalty to the United States.

Brown added an additional letter — something a bit more personal — that lets the troops know she is thankful for their bravery.

“I want all of them to know how much they are loved. So many of the soldiers are my kid’s age,” she said. “Do you know how many people are affected by this? I want to hug every one of them.”

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