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Care packages bring soldiers, volunteers together

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POTSDAM — When Spc. Adam A. Erlewen of Texas arrived in Afghanistan for the first time, he didn’t realize how much the littlest luxuries could make a difference.

“I never would have thought baby wipes could save my life,” he jokingly said.

Spc. Erlewen and other members of Fort Drum’s Delta Company, 3-71 Cavalry Squadron got a chance to thank their benefactors face to face Wednesday at a picnic with the Canton-Potsdam Hospital volunteers who donated money and resources to send care packages to the platoon they adopted last September.

The 35 volunteers in the program sent two care packages to 19 soldiers every month.

“It means a lot when you open the box and see what’s inside, the little bits and pieces people put in there,” said Spc. Terry L. Fischer, Missouri.

Volunteer Sue W. Loope, Lisbon, volunteered to write weekly letters to deployed soldiers.

“It’s kind of different because you don’t know who you’re writing for,” Mrs. Loope said.

She began each letter “Dear Soldier,” and wrote of her life and her family, stories she said she hoped anyone could relate to.

Some boxes included letters and drawings by children.

“The letters really get to you. It shows the little kids appreciate you,” said Pfc. Norberto J. Gonzales, Texas.

Back at Fort Drum in March, the soldiers wanted to meet the people who had been sending them packages for the past six months. They arranged a date, and traveled by bus to the pavilion outside Pine Street Arena.

“It gave me cold chills, really, when they first pulled up and got off the bus,” said Lyndsay L. Macagg, community event coordinator with Canton-Potsdam, who organized the hospital’s involvement with the national Adopt a Platoon charity.

Ms. Macagg requested that the group’s care packages be sent to a platoon from Fort Drum, and the charity obliged.

The volunteers also sent Christmas stockings to their platoon. Christmas in Afghanistan is pretty much just another day, Pfc. Gonzales said. Dinner might be better than the usual fare, but everything else is business as usual.

“They were far away from home, but we were still trying to send a little bit of Christmas over there,” said Jean L. McGuire, a hospital volunteer from Lisbon.

The volunteers were presented with a flag that flew over Afghanistan to honor their efforts.

“We’re thanking them for their service, and they’re thanking us for our service, and I think ours is so small compared to what they’re doing,” volunteer Kathy M. Londraville said.

After the picnic, the volunteers gave the soldiers a tour of the hospital. The platoon plans to return the favor; it invited the volunteers to Fort Drum soon.

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