The USA Honor Squad, a military drill unit of third, fourth, fifth and sixth grade students in the Upsala and Swanville Elementary Schools have commenced their eighth annual project to assist U.S. military personnel deployed in combat areas.
This year, the focus of the project has shifted from providing basic school supplies to deployed units for distribution in their area of operations to aiding U.S. military personnel who have been wounded and are recovering in U.S. military hospitals in Afghanistan.
The project has two parts — “Operation Bear a Hand for Wounded Warriors” and “Operation Sneaker.”
Operation Bear a Hand will collect black, wrap-around sunglasses as it is so dusty in Afghanistan that it is not wise to step outside the hospital without some sort of eye protection.
Also being collected are things the wounded would like to help pass the time while they recover.
One item on the list is Xbox games, but not first-person shooter/violent versions as they get enough of that in real life in a war zone.
Snack items are also popular, including candy such as M&Ms, Tootsie Rolls (both the chocolate and fruit flavored), Jolly Rancher and Life Saver hard candies and, as the holidays get closer, Christmas candies.
Beef jerky, beef sticks or snacks such as chips in cans, salsa, cheese in cans, dried fruit such as apricots and apples, pudding cups, fruit cups, crackers, nuts of all kinds, cheese and cracker or peanut butter and cracker snack packs and cookies are also appreciated.
Shaving cream and Mach 3 razors (or any razor that will not shred a person’s face) are also needed.
“Operation Sneaker” is a repeat of a project which provides footwear for the wounded who frequently arrive at the medical facilities with all of their clothing and boots removed and all of their gear left behind at their forward operating base.
As soldiers recover from their wounds and become ambulatory, they are not permitted outside the hospital without having something more on their feet than the flip-flops issued in the hospital, because of the dangerous critters on the ground in Afghanistan.
Sneakers allow wounded warriors to walk to the satellite telephone area and call their loved ones at home. It also gives them the opportunity to go to the mess hall for their meals.
Sneakers needed for this project must be new or “very gently” used — those that have been used for a single basketball/volleyball season and have never been worn anywhere but the gym. Dirty, worn or grubby sneakers are not suitable for this project.
Men’s sizes are mainly needed because the majority of the wounded are men, but a few women’s sizes are also needed because the improvised explosive devices employed by the Taliban are not selective. They kill and wound male and female military personnel and civilians alike.
Collection boxes are available in the main offices of Upsala and Swanville schools, the Bible Church, St. John’s Catholic Church and St. Peter’s Lutheran Church in Swanville, the Community Covenant Church, St. Mary’s Catholic Church, Gethsemane Lutheran Church and the Senior Center in Upsala, First Baptist Church and Zion Lutheran Church in Little Falls and St. Stanislaus Catholic Church in Bowlus.