Sunday, April 13, 2003

Packages for soldiers filled with caring and support

Tristate reacts to war

By Maggie Downs
The Cincinnati Enquirer

[IMAGE] West Chester's post office opened early Saturday morning for Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy students and members of West Chester's VFW post, who shipped 148 boxes for soldiers in Iraq and Kuwait.
(Dick Swaim photo)
| ZOOM |
WEST CHESTER TWP.--A Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy van, that usually totes students was filled with something very different Saturday - packages for U.S. soldiers stationed in the Middle East.

The 148 boxes, filled by about 100 students and 20 staff members from the Symmes Township school, were shipped early Saturday morning.

But the K-12 school of some 1,400 students had help. Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 7696 in West Chester chipped in to pay the $798 shipping costs. And the West Chester post office opened an hour early to accommodate the influx of boxes.

The effort began last month as a simple e-mail circulated throughout the academy by Stel Kirbabas, the school's communications coordinator. She requested some goods to ship to Army First Lt. Brad Bodley, 23, a 1997 CHCA graduate and the son of two staff members. That snowballed into almost 150 boxes - with items paid for by students and staff - for soldiers in Kuwait and Iraq.

"It's overwhelming to see the outpouring of caring for these guys, not just our son, but all of them," said Raymond Bodley of Deerfield Township, CHCA network administrator.

The Pentagon officially discourages sending unsolicited mail or packages to service members unless you are a family member or personal friend. The reasons are security concerns and limited space on transports. For those who send mail:


Use a servicemember's full name (with or without rank or rating), unit and APO/FPO (Air/Army Post Office or Fleet Post Office) address with the nine-digit ZIP Code (if one is assigned) and a return address.


Obscene articles (prints, paintings, cards, films, videotapes, etc.).

Pork or pork by-products.

Religious materials contrary to the Islamic faith are prohibited in bulk quantities, but items for the personal use of the addressee are permissible.


Remember that desert temperatures typically exceed 100 degrees.

Remove and wrap batteries separately from items such as radios or electric razors.

Tape the opening of the box and reinforce all seams with 2-inch wide tape.

Source: United States Postal Service

However, that generosity hit a stumbling block when the school couldn't pay for shipping so many large, heavy boxes. That's when VFW Post 7696 became involved.

"When I heard, I said we would absolutely help," said Frank Hickman, post commander, of Liberty Township. "I can't think of any better way to spend our money than to help the people who are putting their lives on the line today."

Inside the packages, troops will find hygiene products (eye drops, razors, toilet paper and tampons), food (granola bars, candy, dried soups), clothing (T-shirts and underwear) and more (aspirin, toys to give to Iraqi children and the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue).

For sophomore Becca Chait of West Chester, shopping for the soldiers brought the war home.

"At first, it didn't sink in, because this war isn't like what you learn about in history class. You can see it on TV. The reporters are there," she said. "But now that I've done this, it's more real now."

Chait included a disposable camera, deodorant and lip balm in her package, as well as a letter of encouragement and a book of Bible verses concerning battle, victory over enemies, and courage.

Raymond and Barbara Bodley shipped more personal items to their son - things like insoles for his boots, sand goggles, high-SPF sunscreen and a new uniform.

"He had the wrong color camouflage," Mrs. Bodley explained.

The West Chester branch post office, which normally opens at 8:30 a.m., opened its doors early for the students and veterans to unload the multitude of boxes and to fill out endless customs forms.


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