Meadville Tribune

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August 15, 2011

Our vets are worth your attention

MEADVILLE — I may have written about this before, but it bears repeating.

I co-chair Project Support Our Troops. Our mission? To support our military, wherever they may be stationed, with letters of support and boxes filled with goodies to brighten their day. We have been on this “mission” for 13 years now, each and every month, packing and sending boxes to our troops.

What many folks may not realize: That is only part of our mission. Sure, we collect donations each month, we put miles on our vehicles to pick up those donations, we sort the items, we build boxes and fill them with the things donated that month, we write letters to include in the boxes, we receive hundreds of letters from school kids, veterans and individuals from all over Erie, Crawford and other counties to include in the boxes as well. We go through miles of packing tape and thousands of dollars to pay for postage.

But a very large part of what we do is simply to open our hearts and arms to all of those who volunteer their time to help us with this mission.

We have family members with loved ones currently serving our country or deployed around the globe who come to help pack boxes. We listen to their fears; we help them where we can. We laugh with them and, at times, we cry with them.

We listen to the stories of the older veterans and do our best to learn from them and feel honored that they were willing to share their story.

We welcome into our Veteran Family those who may come to a packing whom we have not met before. They may be a veteran who has struggled for years and has found their way to us. They may be a family member whose loved one has recently deployed, and they have found their way to us. They may be someone who has recently lost a loved one, and they find their way to us. It very well could be someone who just wants to help in some way. Our door and our arms are always open.

Another important aspect of our mission is simply this: Thank the veterans. Whether you see them at a veteran post, the post office, at work, in the grocery store ... thank them and be honored that they have provided to their country that which many may not or could not.

I was recently in a local store, standing in the checkout line, feeling rushed, needing to be somewhere and knowing I was going to be late. I noticed an older gentleman pass by wearing a Korean War Veteran ball cap. It didn’t take me much time to decide to leave the checkout line and walk up to this gentleman to thank him for his service. He was surprised at first, but his eyes lit up and we ended up standing there and talking for about 10 minutes. Was that 10 minutes worth it? Absolutely! Will I end up in that same position again? Yes! And I will be thankful and blessed for the time spent.

So we pack boxes? Sure. But, oh, what all goes into those “boxes”! How incredibly blessed we are as a post to be able to continue this mission, now in it’s 13th year. But more importantly, how incredibly blessed we are to be able to do so, in large part because of our veterans and the sacrifices they and their families have made throughout the decades to make this country of ours a great one. We thank you all.

God bless America and her troops.

Lengling is co-chair of Project Support Our Troops and a lifetime member of Veterans of the Vietnam War, Post 52/Welcome Home Association and can be reached at:

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