By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service
Jan. 23, 2008 - Folks in the Lone Star State are doing their part to help troops in Iraq and Afghanistan win hearts and minds with "Victory Boxes." "Our mission is to actively engage the American people to assist our military by having them send a servicemember a Victory Box containing goods needed by the Iraqi (and) Afghan people, primarily the children," said Mary Margaret Halleck, president of the Texas-based group called Victory Boxes.
The boxes contain a variety of items aimed at providing local citizens with practical, but not always attainable, goods. Those goods include hygiene, comfort and food items, and most importantly, they contain toys and school supplies for the children.
The Garden Council of Fort Worth and the Tarrant County Gardeners worked together to send 200 "Victory Gardening Totes" that contained some special items in addition to the expected ones.
"(They) contained seeds, gardening tools and gloves," Halleck said. "The fabric totes were ... sent to the commander of the Marine civil affairs (unit) in Ramadi, Iraq, in November 2007."
Another 200 garden-themed totes are being assembled for shipment to Kabul, Afghanistan, next month.
When Victory Boxes have been packed and shipped, selected servicemembers willing to participate in the Victory Box program distribute them to orphanages, schools and hospitals in areas hardest hit by conflict, Halleck said. Those efforts have proved rewarding on several fronts.
In an effort to reach out to the local population, a colonel and his team in Kabul have adopted three orphanages. "They have purchased hand-crank sewing machines to help the children learn to sew," Halleck said. "We send him lots of fabric and sewing supplies."
While the Victory Boxes are helping servicemembers relate to local citizens, they also show troops how much support they have back home.
"(Army) Sgt. David Padron, just home from Baghdad, wrote and thanked me for sending him the Victory Boxes," Halleck said. "He said it helped him and his men keep a humanitarian look at things and, in the end, it helped them not only get information they needed from the people, but it really put smiles on the faces of the people for them to know these things came from the American people."
Victory Boxes is a new supporter of America Supports You, a Defense Department program connecting citizens and corporations with military personnel and their families serving at home and abroad.
"I am hoping with Victory Boxes as a (supporter) of America Supports You, the Victory Box will be introduced to many more people," Halleck said.