Laura Dietrich is so far the only member of the local chapter of the non-profit organization that is called the American Troop Support Team, but said she hopes for more members, and added that she needs all the help she can get.
Dietrich said she wanted show those in the military that there are people that “do really care about them, and want to support them … for what they are doing.”
The national group, based out of Havertown, Pa., is headed by Joseph Natale. Dietrich said she receives some requests, packages the items she gets from local businesses, organizations, friends and relatives and ships those items to Natale.
Natale then repackages the items and sends them, in boxes with individual soldiers’ names that he was given, and sends them directly to Iraq or Afghanistan, said Dietrich, who added that he also deals with the customs and other paperwork.
“He is a tremendous leader,” Dietrich said of Natale. “The spirit is unbelievable.”
Dietrich said that so far 937 boxes to 540 troops in Iraq and Afghanistan have been shipped, and has, to date, they have shipped 26,694 pounds of supplies. Soldiers have requested food items such as rice cakes, granola bars, cereal, fruit cups, peanuts, tuna pouches, peanut butter crackers and several others.
The goal is to give the troops some of the items “that they can’t get over there, to help them feel a little bit more closer to home while they’re so proudly serving,” said Dietrich.
Soldiers also request personal items like razors, toothbrushes, deodorant and floss, birthday supplies such as streamers, balloons, silly string and party hats, and other items like markers, playing cards, crossword puzzles and stationary.
In addition to supplies for the troops, Dietrich also sends out supplies to be shipped for the students and teachers in Iraq. She said that when Saddam Hussein was in power, he took school supplies away from the schools, and that it is still hard to find school supplies.
School supplies that are requested include scissors, tape, glue, pens and pencils, notebook paper, crayons, rulers and erasers.
“We’ve gotten many letters from the soldiers saying ‘Thanks for doing this,” Dietrich said. “And they said we would not believe the smiles on the kids as they take their school supplies.”
Dietrich said the organization regularly receives letters from the soldiers, as well as from their military commanders and their families, thanking the group for their efforts. She also makes boxes.
Dietrich was originally born in Florida, and has lived in Chicago, Ill., Indiana, Michigan and Arizona before moving to Trigg County, where she has lived for about 14 years.
Those wanting more information about the team can visit the web site at www.americantroopsupportteam.com or www.americasupportsyou.mil, or can email Dietrich at email@example.com. She can also be reached at 924-9561.
Natale can be reached at 610-853-1289, and his email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.