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My friend Jeff Reagan over at Patriot Health Alliance shared two things recently: a premium health bundle with For The Troops for their fundraising gala and an interesting story he said I could share with you. Let me tell you about both of them.   

While serving in the U.S. Army in Iraq in 2005, Staff Sergeant Phillip Schmidt received a large package in the mail.

As anyone who has served overseas knows, receiving a letter from family or friends is exciting. It’s a break from the tedium. And it feels great to know someone who loves you is thinking about you.

Packages are even better. Especially when they contain items you can’t acquire at the local PX.

But when a package arrives in your name from someone you don’t know, well, that’s an even bigger thrill. And that’s exactly what occurred when Phil received the first-ever care package sent to a U.S. military member from For The Troops.

‘Forward’ Thinking Leads to Connection

“While in Iraq, I wrote blogs about my experience there and sent them out as emails to about 80 people,” Phil said.

“Many of those emails were forwarded to a variety of people. One of them was Paula Cornell, who worked in a law office and had not yet founded For The Troops. Paula rounded up donations from her office and put together a care package for me. 

“It was a big box – 24 by 18 by 14 – and it included shortbread in a tin, DVD movies, chocolate and a lot more. Plus a card from Paula, which I still have because I saved everything from when I was there.”

Later that year, Paula and Janie Josephson established the all-volunteer-run, nonprofit organization known as For The Troops.

‘Better Than Christmas as a Kid’

How did it feel to receive a care package from someone you did not know?

“Better than Christmas as a kid,” Phil responded. “Over there, there’s not a lot to look forward to other than going home.

“We had two PXs for about 28,000 people on our Air Force Base. They had plenty of the basics like toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap and stuff like that. But nothing like what I got in that care package. 

“When you get a package from a family member or friend, it’s awesome. But to get a package from an entity you don’t know – one that says ‘Thank you for your service and we’re thinking about you’ – it’s insane. It really lifts your morale.”

Gala Honors Gulf War Vets

Recently Phil was one of more than 500 people attending a For The Troops Military Tribute Gala honoring Gulf War veterans at the Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California. Also in attendance was California Assembly member Jacqui Irwin. 

“It was a great event,” Phil said. “I sat at a table with my date and 10 sponsors. I thanked them for the privilege of being the first one to receive a care package from For The Troops.

“We had a good dinner, sang patriotic songs, and enjoyed the auctions and raffle.”

The Patriot Health Alliance donated a premium health bundle for the live auction. It included Patriot Power Greens, Patriot Power Reds, Patriot Gold, a Patriot Power Blender, a Freedom Fridge and a Therapeutic Sauna Blanket.

Filling a Vital Need

A routine encounter with her husband gave Paula the idea for For The Troops 17 years ago. One morning she noticed that her husband didn’t brush his teeth. When asked about it, he replied, “It’s no big deal. I didn’t brush my teeth for a year in Vietnam.”

He then told her about a number of other items he had lived without during his tour of duty. It bothered Paula that so many Americans laying their lives on the line for their country were living without basic daily necessities we take for granted.

So, she and Janie launched For The Troops, which is dedicated to providing members of the American military with “We Care” packages. These packages contain basic necessities, goodies, games and a show of support to our heroes.

So far, more than 260,000 “We Care” packages have been sent to active-duty U.S. troops. Most are sent to the Middle East, but some go to ships and aircraft carriers in various places around the world.

Items found in these packages include DVDs, CDs, crossword puzzles and puzzle books; magazines, newspapers and comics; pre-sweetened powdered drink mix, coffee and tea, and letters of appreciation to the troops from children and adults.

Phil Lauds For The Troops’ Commitment

Phil, who lives in Cathedral City, California, has been an air traffic controller at the Federal Aviation Administration for the past 10 years.

He often sings the praises of For The Troops. “I go to events there when they hit a milestone, such as the 250,000th care package sent last July. They treat me like a rock star.

“With this organization, every single donated penny, minus the utility bills and shipping costs, goes to the troops. Care packages are still very important to our troops.

“You can’t support a better organization for care packages to U.S. troops than For The Troops,” Phil said.

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