From home to the front

Wednesday, April 7, 2010
By Seth Daniel

It can be very easy to relegate the War on Terror to the political arenas in Washington, D.C. or to the nightly updates on the news – leaving the reality of day-to-day soldier life a world away.

However, that hasn’t been the case for a number of Winthrop residents organized by Richard Honan and others – who have tirelessly sent monthly care packages to those soldiers whose efforts are so frequently highlighted on the news and in Washington, but whose daily needs are so infrequently considered.

Honan and several other residents have combined efforts with the Boy Scouts, the Girl Scouts, several classes at the Gorman-Fort Banks School, the Emblem Club and the Friends of Belle Isle Marsh to fill monthly care packages directed towards soldiers in Afghanistan.

“We provide a positive link to these soldiers who are thousands of miles away from family and friends,” said Honan recently after taping a WCAT cable show about the care packages at the Gorman-Fort Banks School. “I like to think that we put a smile on their face, a smile in their heart and a smile in their stomach.”

The efforts have not gone without numerous thank you’s, even from one Winthrop soldier who is serving in Zabul Province, Afghanistan.

Alex Bloch, a Winthrop resident serving in the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division, said the packages do provide a positive link, not only for him, but also for soldiers in his unit that have no idea where Winthrop is located.

“I cannot begin to express my appreciation for all the wonderful things that you and all the incredible folks of Winthrop have done for me and my unit,” he wrote recently from Afghanistan. “Care packages keep our spirits up, and knowing that there are people back home who care enough to take time out of their day to send us well wishes is motivation for us to push on through the hardships we are facing.”

He said that their tour will be over later this month and he is anxious to get back home to his family and hopes to be able to take leave to visit Winthrop in June.

“I would like to see and thank you and your organization in person,” he wrote Honan. “Once again, thank you so much for all the outstanding support and we will continue to fight hard for all the great people back home.”

And while it is good for Winthrop to take care of their own, perhaps it’s the soldiers who have never been to Winthrop that are the most in need – and the most gracious.

Jibreel Jimi is a soldier from New York City who is on his second tour in the war. He is now stationed in Afghanistan, but previously was in Iraq. Both times he has received care packages from the group in Winthrop, and he said that they probably saved his life.

It was, he said, more than anyone from his hometown of New York City had done for him.

“This time in Afghanistan, living conditions are fairly comfortable, but when I was in Iraq, care packages from Winthrop were a life saver,” he wrote recently from Afghanistan. “I was without electricity or running water for almost six months. I went 69 days at a time without a shower, but fended off disease thanks to the hand sanitizer and baby wipes I got from Winthrop. I wore the same pair of crusty socks for a month until I got socks in the mail from Winthrop. I had one ration a day until I got cookies in the mail from Winthrop. I had horrible joint pain until I got Tylenol in the mail from Winthrop. I know I have been thanking you and the town of Winthrop every month I was in Iraq and now Afghanistan, but I want you to know the true extent of your good deeds. They really did make a huge difference in my life.”

Clearly, Winthrop’s heart for caring for our soldiers has reverberated halfway across the globe on a monthly basis.

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