Seven Saturdays throughout the year, the First Command Package Brigade recites a prayer and starts packing 250 to 400 boxes to send to U.S. military personnel deployed overseas.
The Package Brigade started 11 years ago when Vicky Rollins sent six boxes to her little brother stationed in Iraq.
“Not long after I sent those boxes, a lot of the First Command family and friends were re-called to active duty and deployed to Iraq,” she said. “A lot of people from First Command would stop by my desk and donate money to keep the effort going.”
Several thousand boxes later, the Fort Worth-based organization has grown and continued with the help of donors and volunteers. This Easter, more than 300 boxes were sent to soldiers deployed overseas.
The boxes were stuffed with beef jerky, canned goods, hygiene products, and candies along with other non-perishable items.
Funds to purchase items come from donations, and in some cases, companies like Alcon and Mars donate products from their businesses.
First Command Financial Service pays the postage for the packages sent, Rollins said, giving the Package Brigade more money to spend on items to put in the boxes.
Tom Rollins, Vicky’s husband, said many volunteers work hours to accomplish what the Package Brigade does.
“We have so many volunteers who shop, put together hygiene kits and drink mix bags, print letters we enclose in each box, assemble the boxes, and print the labels,” Tom Rollins said.
Vicky Rollins said she never knows how many people will show up to help pack, but there are always enough people there to help.
“God always sends us just who we need to pack the boxes,” she said. “I have seen 350 boxes packed in a little over an hour.”
For Air Force daughter Lisa Sanders, volunteering has everything to do with giving back to the troops.
“I know first-hand the sacrifices that the soldiers and their families make,” she said. “To be able to bring a smile to a soldier’s face and a touch of home is what makes doing this worthwhile.”
Ralph Boeckmann, a First Command financial advisor, received care packages while on deployments to Kosovo, Iraq, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. He said receiving the packages were the highlights of his deployments.
“They mean you’re not out in the austere parts of the world forgotten, and also that people understand and appreciate what you’re doing,” he said.
Marie Alspaugh incorporates hope and faith while volunteering with the Package Brigade.
“I know they need the support of people back home to keep going,” she said. “I pray that every single person who sees and receives these boxes will be safe from harm and fully blessed by God.”
Vicky Rollins said one of the greatest things is receiving a thank you email from one of the soldiers who received a box.
“They are so appreciative and tell us what a blessing the packages are, but we are the ones who receive the blessing by hearing from them,” she said.
For information on how to donate or volunteer for future packings, visit http://www.firstcommand.com/package-brigade.htm.