Deployed servicemembers receive a touch of home

Soldiers in Iraq pose in the shirts sent to them by Christmas For Our Troops (Courtesy Photo)

Soldiers in Iraq pose in the shirts sent to them by Christmas For Our Troops (Courtesy Photo)

GOODFELLOW AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- The holiday season is upon us and, as always, it is a time for giving. One local organization, Christmas for Our Troops, Inc., kicked off its yearly campaign to collect for, and give to, a very specialized group--men and women deployed across the world in military service to the United States.

The organization has grown from three Texas residents trying to spread holiday cheer to a few deployed friends, to an all-volunteer force of 20 helping total strangers across the globe as they fight the Global War on Terror.

"This is our third year and I'm glad to say it's grown every year," said Terry Giroux, a member of CFOT and one of its original organizers. "We sent 265 packages last year and hope to send even more this year."

This year's campaign kicked off Tuesday and will end Nov. 20. Packages include simple items such as travel size toiletries, snack foods and playing cards, and specific things such as .223 caliber rifle bore cleaners and gun solvent, all of which has been donated by the local community to support deployed servicemembers.

"We stay in contact with servicemembers both during their deployments and after and inquire as to what items are hard to come by in the deployed locations," Mr. Giroux explained. "We've made a list of the most requested items so people know what to donate."

Mr. Giroux said the list, located on CFOT drop boxes and the organization's web site, is updated during the year's campaign to ensure the items being donated are relative to the war fighters' needs.

"Sometimes people donate large containers of toiletry items," Mr. Giroux pointed out. "Though, as a shopper, this seems like a better deal, we just can't mail some of the big bottles. The travel-sized items are what we are looking for, and they are more suitable for the people on the battlefield that need them."

Local warriors here at Goodfellow have been recipients of some of CFOT packages while being deployed down-range.

"I received a package from Christmas for Our Troops during my last deployment," said Master Sgt. Matthew Simmons from the Louis F. Garland Department of Defense Fire Academy, part of the 312th Training Squadron here. "It was great to receive a package from people out in the American public. It lets you know that people out there care." Master Sgt. Simmons was deployed to Iraq from Aug. 2007 to Feb. 2008.

Last year's shipping costs, a formidable sum of money for 265 packages, was paid by the 1st Community Federal Credit Union. Mr. Giroux, himself, sent out those packages, a laborious task he said he was proud to perform.

"This year, we're going to use pre-paid mailing boxes," he explained. "It should make the process a bit smoother," he said, pointing out that those wishing to donate to the cause could consider giving the pre-paid boxes instead of goods.

CFOT has several drop boxes around San Angelo and Goodfellow Air Force Base to collect donations. They also maintain a website at www.christmastroops.com with contact information and answers to frequently asked questions.

"We're totally non-denominational," Mr. Giroux said, referencing the web site as the primary means of submitting names and addresses for recipients of CFOT packages. "It's about giving, regardless of anyone's faith" he added, "and it's about showing our troops that we care."

No federal endorsement is intended or implied.