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July 13, 2014
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Publisher's Notebook: Care packages for soldiers really make a difference

Imagine walking around in 100-degree temperatures, lugging 85 to 100 pounds of gear (body armor, ammo, water, rifle, etc.) for maybe 12 hours in a land thousands of miles from home, not knowing if your next step will be your last.

Then imagine finally arriving safely back in your camp, unloading all of that gear and finding a white box on your bunk filled with treats from home.

That would be a pretty cool way to end a day in Afghanistan, wouldn’t it?

Steve Frack thinks so. It’s why he’s been volunteering his time to fill lots of gift boxes to send to the men and women we send to places like Afghanistan to do our dirty work for us.

And if you don’t think war is dirty work, you’ve never been to war.

Frack is one of those “retired” guys who never really retired. He sold his veterinary clinic in Southern California some eight years ago and moved to Roseburg with his wife, Toni.

A longtime member of Rotary, Frack didn’t take long to get involved in his new community. It’s what Rotary is all about and why communities like ours are better off than they would be without Rotary and other service clubs.

It also didn’t take him long to get back to being a veterinarian. Frack generally works four days a week at Douglas County Low Cost Veterinary Services in Roseburg, where he’s already performed more than 6,000 surgeries.

Frack’s support for the military has been a constant since he helped with wounded military dogs during the war in Vietnam.

“I’ve always thought of what it would be like to be in a foxhole in the middle of nowhere and someone hands you a box from home,” he told me.

I’ve gotten a box from home in the middle of nowhere and it was priceless.

With the help of some funds from his North Roseburg Rotary Club (I’m a member and we meet Tuesday evenings at Kowloon’s), Frack has been sending five boxes a month to two different commanders overseas. It’s easier to send the care packages to the commanders than directly to the soldiers because of the constant troop movement. The commanders dole the packages out to the soldiers.

Each box is filled with nonperishable items such as granola bars, candy, nuts, razors, lip balm, Q-tips, toothbrushes, eye drops, oatmeal (Umpqua Oats donated an entire pallet of oatmeal cups) and beef jerky, thanks to a donation of jerky from the Cow Creek Umpqua Tribe.

The postage runs roughly $15 per box, according to Frack.

The need is expected to grow with the deployment of Roseburg’s Charlie Company. That Oregon National Guard Company will head to Afghanistan in September to provide security at Bagram Airfield near Kabul. Charlie Company is part of the 1st Battalion, 186th Infantry Regiment, which includes many Douglas County soldiers.

Frank has been in touch with Charlie Company commanders and will start shipping the care packages to them once they reach Afghanistan.

Bagram Airfield is the largest U.S. military base in Afghanistan. Before the U.S. took control, the base often fell under Taliban control and continues to be a constant enemy target.

So Charlie Company’s task won’t be a walk in the park.

Frack attended a recent Charlie Company barbecue to get a sense for what the troops might want in the care boxes.

“Bubble gum seems to be a big hit,” he said. “It gets super hot there this time of year, so everything we ship has to be sealed so it doesn’t deteriorate.”

Hand wipes and body powder are also popular among the troops, according to Frack.

Magazines such as Smithsonian and National Geographic are in high demand as well. “Many of the soldiers don’t have Internet access, so the magazines provide a good source for entertainment,” he said. “And the soldiers often share them with the Afghan children, who want to learn English.”

And you can never go wrong with candy and sunflower seeds. Frack said the soldiers also share the candy with the local children. Many of the soldiers have children of their own back home and I suspect the connection provides some semblance of reality amid the insanity that surrounds that region today.

Frack could use some help and that’s where I’m hoping you come in. If you could help defray the shipping costs, $15 will send one box. Your donation through the North Roseburg Rotary Club (P.O. Box 22, Roseburg, OR 97470 Attn. Steve Frack) would also be tax-deductible.

If you are willing and able to donate goods, or would just like to volunteer to help pack or ship boxes, contact Frack at 541-672-5219.

This isn’t about supporting a war. It’s about our troops; our sons and daughters, moms and dads, husbands and wives who are serving us far, far from home.

The least we can do is maybe make their time there a little bit better.

Jeff Ackerman is publisher of The News-Review. He can be reached at 541-957-4263 or jackerman@nrtoday.com.

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The News-Review Updated Jul 13, 2014 12:06AM Published Jul 13, 2014 12:06AM Copyright 2014 The News-Review. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.