When I was inducted into the U.S. Army the first duty station following basic training where I was assigned was in Kirchgoens, Germany, a remote, Godforsaken, freezing, Third Armored Division outpost where I arrived on December 22.
I spent my first Christmas away from family and friends in a drafty army barracks where I didn’t know anyone and felt very alone.
To this day I can still recall how exhilarating it was to receive letters and packages from folks back home and the looks of disappointment on my fellow soldiers faces as they walked away from mail call empty handed. Social media back then was a letter from home.
That’s why I applaud the efforts of folks like Amelia Island resident Janet Wolff who has volunteered like she’s on steroids to get packages sent to U.S. servicemen serving overseas during this Christmas holiday.
Since September Mrs. Wolff has sent about 35 packages to troops in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait, Jordan and Yemen funded by her own money. She has shared her efforts on Facebook to ask others to participate after receiving inspiring “thank you” emails from the troops and letters from chaplains. She’s currently working on another 10 boxes with plans to mail them next week as December 10th is the deadline for ensuring a Christmas delivery.
She also pays to have them mailed using a USPS discount for priority mail of large flat rate boxes addressed to APO’s that ranges from $16.75 to $18.75. Some friends and Facebook readers have provided cash donations which she puts toward purchases and postage.
Mrs. Wolff’s efforts were inspired by her and husband Ken’s son, SSGT Aaron Wolff , a seven-year Air Force veteran who was stationed in a combat zones in Kandahar, Afghanistan in 2012. “During that deployment receiving mail was a highlight of the day for Aaron”, says Mrs. Wolff. Sgt. Wolff also served in Japan and Turkey before he received his current orders to return to the U.S. at a base in California.
Anyone who wants to provide assistance for Mrs. Wolff’s volunteer efforts can contact her via email at email@example.com. “I can accept financial donations, but I can’t provide a tax deductible receipt because ‘Adopt-a-Soldier’ is not a 501c3 as it’s basically a group of women choosing to support our deployed troops,” she says.
The lead sponsor of the program is Carol Megathlin, who is based in Savannah and more information can be obtained at her website www.adoptasoldier3id.com.
According to the group, a list of items troops request from home most often are: coffee (ground and k-cups) is the most requested item; cocoa (packets & K-cups); chocolate (during cool months only); power bars and breakfast bars; nuts (all types); jerky; hand warmers; laundry pods and dryer sheets; lip balm (they love Burt’s Bees); quality razors; shaving cream in tubes (no aerosol); body wash (male & female); facial moisturizer; deodorant (stick or roll on); shampoo; puzzle books; games (Jenga, Connect 4, etc.); playing cards and card games. All items must fit into a 12 x 12 inch box and no aerosol cans, carbonated beverages or glass can be sent.
Following is a copy of a letter that Janet received recently from a Kuwait-based chaplain and there is nothing more I could possibly add except that if you don’t get a lump in your throat reading it there is something wrong with you:
Janet and Wolffpak Team:
Thank you for the boxes of socks, deodorants, hygiene items, and cards we received today at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait! Thank you also for your many prayers for our deployed troops and Family Members back home! We received three boxes today, maybe more. My chaplain assistant is opening them like a little kid at Christmas, so I can’t keep track of how many. Ha. We’re walking around this afternoon to pass out the items to the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines, and Coalition partners here in the CJTF. As the Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF-OIR) HQs, we oversee all ongoing operations in Iraq and Syria. Please keep our Soldiers forward in prayer and the civilians caught in the middle of this conflict, especially at Mosul. The Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) are primarily fighting. Our Soldiers only advise and assist; however, we do have some Special Ops Soldiers in the middle of it all.
The Soldiers truly appreciated the packaged care and love. The socks lasted about 5 minutes on my table outside the chaplain office door. And the cards went fast too. The Soldiers really love sending holiday cards to their loved ones.
Whenever we receive packages from home, it reminds the Soldiers they are loved, cared for, and prayed for back home. Thank you for ALL you do. During this month of Thanksgiving, we give THANKS for our Adopt-a-Soldier and Wolffpak Team!! We return home to Fort Bragg, NC next July 2017.
We pray everyone is doing well in Florida, as I see you are from Fernandina Beach. Hopefully you escaped the damage from the previous hurricane. As you all are thinking of us over here, know that you all are constantly in our thoughts as well.
Lord’s continued blessings upon you all for a joy-full holiday season. Thank you again!
CH (MAJ) Shannon K. Philio
CJTF-OIR Operations Chaplain
Camp Arifjan, Kuwait
Speaking Of Helping Folks: The Green Turtle’s Jeff Werder tells me that this Sunday, November 27, the South 3rd Street Green Turtle Tavern will have a special fund raiser from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. to honor Sheriff’s Deputy Eric Oliver, who died in Yulee this past Wednesday in the line of duty and to help out his six-year-old daughter. For those of you looking for a way to help others during this tragic time join with neighbors and friends to listen to Jim Barcaro and Robert John Barlow as they donate their time and musical talent, to celebrate the life of fallen Deputy Oliver. Jeff says 100% of the proceeds will go to the deputy’s family.
Pajamapalooza! When you get out of bed this Friday morning do what our kooky island resident Pajamadave Voorhees does, just wear what you wore to bed and head downtown as today the Historic Fernandina Business Association and Pajama Life’s Pajamadave (Who else?) will be hosting the annual Black Friday Pajama Party in downtown Fernandina from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m.
Downtown merchants will be offering special discounts and refreshments for shoppers and you can enter the pajama contest with prizes awarded for the best individual, best group and most creative pajamas. And I get to be one of the judges again this year and can be bribed with cold beer. On South 2nd Street Pajama Dave will be hosting a block party with a variety of family activities and live music by Jim Bacaro, Michele Anders, Larry LeMier and Sean McCarthy, Hotshot Carter and Ernie Elum. And if you’re looking for clever Christmas gifts check out Pajama Life’s new line of Pajamadave PJ’s, nightwear designed to delight any recipient or the cute stuffed rabbits with sharp pointy teeth.
Santa Claus will also be cruising around Centre Street and there will be opportunities to have photos taken with him in the pocket park next to the Amelia Island Coffee Shop.
Sign Of The Times? Following our next door neighbor’s Facebook outburst and violent threats of “My rifle and shotgun are loaded and I’ll be getting a handgun , etc….” directed toward us after we planted a celebratory “Trump” sign in the midst of our Veterans Day American flag yard display we decided to put up another sign that reads as follows: “Hands up, don’t shoot! Republican Lives Matter!”
There’s No Business Like Show Business….Oh Wait A Minute! I’m not a big fan of Rolling Stone magazine or the E Street Band, but last Saturday the magazine printed band guitarist Steven Van Zandt’s disapproving tweet of the treatment of Vice President Elect Mike Pence at a New York City performance of the Broadway hit Hamilton that said: “A Broadway show — or anywhere where art is performed — is not the proper venue to ‘bully’ an audience member.” Van Zandt said no one disagrees more with President Elect Trump and Pence than him but he adds: “A guy comes to a Broadway show for a relaxing night out. Instead he gets a lecture from the stage. Not a level playing field. It’s bullying. You don’t single out an audience member and embarrass him from the stage. A terrible precedent.” Well said Mr. Van Zandt. Also, Mr. Pence handled the situation with dignity and class, terms that appear to be foreign to the cast of Hamilton.
Tough Talk Department: A quote by four star Marine Corp General James “Mad Dog” Mattes, who is being considered for Secretary of Defense, should indicate to U.S. foreign opponents that he’s not a person to be taken lightly when he told his troops: “Be professional. Be polite. And be prepared to kill everyone you meet.” Good choice and I hope he is selected.
Fun Radio: I just can’t get enough of National Public Radio (WJCT-FM, Jacksonville, 89.9) following the November 8 election and am waiting for Donald Trump to take the oath of office to see if the bleary-eyed, befuddled and bewildered election night announcers there might finally project that Mr. Trump won the presidency. Not only do NPR’s staff and guests appear confused and delirious, but it also seems that they are trying to convince themselves that the members of the Electoral College will do something they’ve never done before and vote for the loser on December 19, instead of Mr. Trump, a total impossibility that would take a rewrite of the U.S. Constitution. I’m almost beginning to pity these sad and inconsolable NPR folks as much as the stunned and enraged liberal Facebook posters, who spent the election campaign condemning Trump for his temperament and fascist tendencies and are now exhibiting precisely those same traits. Hopefully President Trump will pull the plug on any further tax-payer funding of the NPR left-wing propaganda outlet and put these pathetic folks out of their misery or put someone in charge of that organization that understands objective news and rational commentary. In the meantime I’m discovering that “schadenfreude” is fun as CNN and MSNBC are also supplying lots of giggles. And for a non-stop laugh fest stop by Starbucks and pick up a used copy of the New York Times, so you don’t waste your own money on that silly newspaper, and read the hysterical editorials that have abandoned any pretense of being rational. Then make sure you have the overpaid Starbucks barista write “Trump” on your cup so he or she has to call out that name when your outrageously overpriced coffee is ready. Isn’t this fun?
Things I Wish I Had Said: “We’re all here because we’re not all there.” — 77-year-old Pete “Pistol Pete” Bassin, explaining to an AARP Bulletin reporter why he and other Vietnam war veterans and a group of artists chose to live in the remote, desolate, abandoned coal mining town of Madrid, New Mexico (population 200).
The Last Democrat President? Barack Obama may have something in common with the country’s 13th President, the Whig Party’s Millard Fillmore, who succeed Zachary Taylor as President in 1850 after Taylor’s death. Fillmore was the last Whig Party member to serve as President and Obama could very well be the last Democrat to ever hold that office due to his failed policies, the Democrat Party’s inability to comprehend what caused its election failure and the total decimation of the party on local, state and federal levels. I’m hoping they’ll vote to keep the loopy Nancy Pelosi as House Minority leader and name far left Minnesota Congressman Keith Ellison as head of the Democrat National Committee, as what better Christmas gifts could they possibly give to the country and the Republican Party than those two losers who helped leave the Democrat Party in shambles and will preside over its ultimate collapse as they keep driving it further to the left?
Things I Don’t Understand Department: All those people who said that if Trump was elected President he would destroy the country, then they took to the streets following his election and tried to destroy the country. It looks like the anti-Trump crowd found their inner Donald.
Drinking, Dining & Dancing: I’ve discovered that The Green Turtle Tavern is a great pickup joint and my wife, Linda, is delighted as this past Wednesday I picked up a homemade pumpkin pie from the tavern’s Pub Grub Chef, Vickymarie Alicea Cruz and her business partner Stacy Altman. Ms. Cruz and Ms. Altman cooked up a pile of big fat pies to pickup that included $22 pumpkins, $24 pecan and $24 pecan-chocolate. Ms. Cruz said the pies were very popular with the “getting-off-from-work-early-for-the-holiday-but-stopping-for-beer-first-crowd.” There are none left but her ovens will be fired up again at Christmas and I suggest you don’t miss out as they are delicious. In addition to cooking up flat bread pizzas, hot dogs, ham & grilled cheese sandwiches, fat pretzels (for only three bucks) among other tasty items at the Green Turtle 7 p.m.-midnight Wednesday-Sunday, Ms. Cruz also owns and operates the Sugar Flour Pastries Bakery at 1293 S 5th St. For special order items contact ’em at 904/699-5009 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Eric Deady and Bill Childers, co-owners of Locals’ really know how to throw a party as their grand opening soirée last Saturday, November 19 was packed to the rafters and it stayed that way long after the free stuff cutoff time of 11 p.m. portending a very successful future for the Sadler and South 14 Street cocktail lounge. If you ever get an invitation to join Ed and Michele Johnston for a holiday spread, jump on it, as we just pigged out for the third year in a row at a Thanksgiving buffet at their home with friends who all agree that Michele — a former caterer — may be one of the best cooks who ever stepped foot on Amelia Island and makes it all look effortless. If you run into Ed and Michele downtown, suck up to them and you may get lucky next year.