By Samantha L. Quigley
WASHINGTON, July 25, 2006 – "Operation: S.A.M.," or Saluting All Military, is working to ease servicemembers minds about how much support they have back home. Almost in all the communication we have with the troops, there seems to be an unspoken desire to know if their efforts are appreciated and supported by Americans," Penny Redmon, S.A.M.'s past president and cofounder, said.
Operation: S.A.M., a Livermore, Calif.-based nonprofit organization, is out to make sure troops know Americans do support them. S.A.M. sends packages to troops deployed all over the world, focusing on those deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, according to the group's Web site. The group is a member of the Defense Department's America Supports You program, which highlights grassroots and corporate support for America's troops.
Since its creation in January 2004, S.A.M. has shipped nearly 8,500 packages. Every other Saturday, volunteers pack boxes with hygiene, snack, comfort and entertainment items. They also make sure at least two notes of thanks and encouragement are included in each bundle. A letter from S.A.M. providing contact information so the recipient can make specific requests completes the package.
"Most items are generously donated to the troops by individuals, community organizations ... or by manufacturers of products," Redmon said. She added that donation information is available on the group's Web site, at www.operationsam.org. Cash donations primarily are used to pay for shipping costs.
Redmon said reactions the packages elicit are priceless. "The feedback is often that of a child on Christmas morning - a few words out of a busy existence that say, 'Wow! Boy was I surprised to get a package from home and to hear from someone I don't even know,'" she said. "That is our motivation."
S.A.M. members need look no further than their own ranks to find inspiration, however. S.A.M. President Marine Reserve Gunnery Sgt. Eric Froboese was a recipient of S.A.M. packages during his two tours in Iraq. He now is now a visible reminder of why the volunteers do what they do. "(He) reconfirms the need of organizations such as S.A.M. every day," Redmon said.