The U.S. causalities of Iraq and Afghanistan war has reached landmark of 5,228 death (4,287 in Iraq, 941 in Afghan) and 30,182 wounded since its beginning in 2003, as of 12/20/2009. The tragic death of two U.S. soldiers kidnapped by the insurgents during May of 2006 reveals the brutal facts in which enemy combatants our soldiers encounter. Besides the aliening desert environment with pockets of swampy land, our soldiers wear full battle gears. They all carry motional baggies – they miss their children, they carry fear, grieve, love, and longing. When husband is deployed, the entire family – wife, children, parents, are all in deployment too.
Caring_for_Soldeirs is initiated by Vandy Chang of Kansas during 2005. She acquired names of deployed soldiers, wrote to them, answered their letters, and sent care packages to them. NATWA consolidated her project into the association during the following year coupling with allocating annual budget for it. Besides care packages, the Kansas sisters visiting Fort Riley wounded soldiers and sent out Holiday Gift packages to troops on every Holiday Seasons since then.
The project co-chair Vandy Chang provides initial information of soldiers to all volunteers. The information are brief - title, name, APO/FPO, the Army Postal Office or Fleet Postal Office address, number of soldiers in the unit, and nothing else.
We abide to the military protocol. We never reveal soldier’s identity. This is a low key operation without publicity. We keep our computer safely guarded with advanced security. We follow the general instruction at the beginning, then we gradually tailored into soldiers’ need as we know them better.
You might ask, do we decide who to send to? The answer is “We don’t.” We take it on as soldiers’ names are given. For persons who put their life on the line to protect our freedom, we greet our soldiers with their title. We introduce ourselves, NATWA, and let them know that we are grateful for their service to our country. You may ask, where are the names come from? Soldiers put their name on a special website, and Vandy fetches from it. We initiate communication, if their consent, than we start the support. The soldiers could be a private, a specialist, a squad leader, a sergeants, a captain, a lieutenant,… for a unit commander, we try our best to accommodate the number of soldiers he has.
How many soldiers can we reach?
As of end of 2009, we have 10 unites and 11 families of wounded soldier/veteran. We are thankful to DC, New Jersey, and Hawaii chapter for joining in. Kansas sisters and Jin in California have been deeply involved for the last 4 years. The Hawaii Chapter supports their own unit and soldiers; their work has brought attention to the local media. We’d like to expand this project with your help.
What should a volunteer do?
First, you initiate communication upon a soldier is given to you - introducing yourself and NATWA, and why you are participating in this project. The purpose is to make soldier feel comfortable about you since you are the stranger to the soldier; this is the same uneasy feeling when you first in contact with a stranger. Both Vandy and Jin will provide you the introduction letter if you need one.
You may start out with one or two soldiers until you feel confident enough, then increase the number as you go. If you feel this part is too challenging for you, then you may foot the expenses and we do the work, whichever is comfortable for you.
All APO/FPO packages (to military) needs to itemize package contents on a Custom Declaration Form specified by the United States Postal Services. This is a 6-copy official document. A typewriter will make this task easier.
What is inside the package?
Life in the desert inside the gun track creates tremendous adversaries to soldiers’ health. During the scorching heat of summer months, it is 120 degree in the open, where the hot sun beating down the metal enclave of the vehicles, it is way above 120s inside. Our troops travel with AC low to conserve energy, their dedication is second to none. At night, the temperature drops 80 degrees and it is freezing. When the wind howling and the sand storm starts, it blocks your sight; the flying sands get into your eyes, hurt your face; and stop your watches. Amid of such nature environment, looming the cruelest enemy; our troops always in constant guarded condition.
You’ll see why we send what we sent in a minute. Following is the norm:
A pre-paid international phone care for them to call home;
Sock, lip balm, eye care, chocolate candy for winter;
Under-armor T-shirt, Kool-Aid powder, chewing gum, fruit candy, fruit powder, raisin, nuts, banana chip, dates, dry fruits and other Vitamin-C enrich supplement for summer;
We add sun block cream, insect repellent upon request during the hot summer days;
Toothbrush, toothpaste, dental floss, soap, razor, shaving cream, deodorants, body-wipe are all-season items. If the unit has female soldiers, then we add feminine items.
All food items probably is the most economical package, it can be done at $40. But do not neglect critical personal hygiene items for the battlefield environment. Such items run higher. We make sure we do it right.
If you are an employer, a business owner, or an independent associate –
We urge you to send care package if your employee has a child serve in Iraq or Afghanistan. This is the best you can do for an American’s son or daughter. You’d surprised how much it means to a mother!
NATWA needs you!
NATWA is one of the civilian support groups, but we can’t expand it without you. If you are financially able, please help; if you have time, and your computer is securely installed, then we want you to help us. The more people and money we have, the more soldiers we can reach. It is great satisfaction when you go to the post office and people give you approving smiles when they see package after package to be sent to the troops!
我 們 的 勇 士
“Tell my wife…..”
「責任 榮譽 國家」
壹元不嫌少 千元不嫌多 請君高抬 貴 人手
捐善款請寄：張淑嫻 (Shuhsien Chang) 9101 W. 127th Terr., Overland Park, KS 66213
Pay to the order of: NATWA, (at bottom) specify: for Soldiers Project;
資詢: 高文莉 (913-897-7493) firstname.lastname@example.org; 王金碧 (951-926-8788) email@example.com
How do we ship the package?
We get the flat rate boxes from local post office or order from USPS website. There is no weight limit on flat rate box. It costs $11.95 for a 12” * 12” * 5.5” box, a rate of 45% increase since 2005. Nevertheless, it is still cheaper than the domestic packages. For all letter mailing, we pay $0.44 for postage, same as domestic rate.
It takes 7-10 days to reach Iraq, Kuwait, or Afghanistan.