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Packages bring care to overseas troops

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  • Packages bring care to overseas troops

    Posted on Tue, Jan. 16, 2007

    Packages bring care to overseas troops
    YOU'VE GOT MAIL -- Isn't it a rush when the UPS carrier comes to the door? Whether it's something you ordered or a gift from Grandma, there's nothing like receiving a package.

    If we feel like that as civilians living in our own homes, imagine the joy of troops overseas when they receive care packages. To them, it's more than a sentimental gesture -- it's also a delivery of practical items that make their daily lives more livable.

    During the holidays, two formidable groups, Blue Star Moms and Operation S.A.M., ensured that thousands of troops overseas got mail. Blue Star Moms sent 2,494 boxes to deployed troops this season. Operation S.A.M. sent more than 1,700 boxes during the holidays and in all has sent more than 11,230 packages overseas since January 2004.

    Their Web sites include lists of needed supplies, but to find out more about how the soldiers use them, I asked Bob James Hufford, a former helicopter pilot for the Marine Corps who served in Vietnam. His son, Robert, is serving with the 1st Marine Division in Iraq.

    Bob and his wife, Ann, have lived in Pleasanton for 26 years, and their three children, Michael, Catherine and Robert, all graduated from Amador Valley High School. Following in his father's and grandfather's footsteps, Robert joined the Marines and now serves as an E8 master sergeant.

    When on base at Camp Pendleton, Robert serves as the bandmaster for the 1st Marine Division. At the Marine base in Fallujah, Iraq, he is in charge of security.

    "The first thing he always asks for is fabric softener and wet wipes," his father said.

    "They use the fabric softener to soak their dirty clothes in before sending them to laundry, because if they don't, the water is so bad, they come back smelling like hydraulic oil," Bob explained.

    "They need the wet wipes because their body perspiration is the glue that cements dirt to their skin, so any and all kinds of wet wipes are very necessary and they're delighted to get those. I duct-tape them around the neck of jars so there's no leakage and they stay moist."

    Speaking of duct tape, it and other handy household items and garage items are in short supply. Bob says the troops always need disposable gloves, basic hand tools such as screw drivers, pliers and wrenches, electrical tape, bungee cords and boxes of screws, nuts and bolts.

    Ziploc bags come in handy for storing nuts, bolts and bullets.

    "I also send a lot of trail mix -- heat won't hurt it, (they) can eat it any time, and it comes sealed in bags. And white athletic socks -- they put a lot of miles on their feet," Bob says.

    When off duty, the troops appreciate phone calling cards, playing cards and balls of any kind -- baseballs, softballs, soccer balls and volleyballs -- with air pumps and needles to inflate them.

    "I send a lot of extra things to him, and he gives them to other Marines who don't have anything or who have a need. He's in charge of a few hundred troops as a master sergeant," Bob said.

    Robert returns home at the end of this month to his wife, Kristin, and their 3-year-old daughter, Ainsley. But thousands of troops are still overseas awaiting care packages.

    Operation S.A.M. packs and ships care packages every other week. In fact, it sent 145 just last week to Afghanistan and Iraq. Contact Penny Redmon to find out more at 925-443-7620, or log onto

    Blue Star Moms have an upcoming "Care Package Packing Day" scheduled for Feb. 3 and welcome your help. A list of drop-off locations can be found at, or contact the group at

    Reach Susan Groshans c/o the Times, PO Box 607, Pleasanton, CA 94566, or e-mail