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PUNXSUTAWNEY â€” The reports are grim, as deadly attacks continue on American troops serving in Afghanistan.
Nearly every day, the death toll mounts; more than 2,000 military personnel have already lost their lives, an average of one fatality per day.
Providing support while training the Afghan natives to take over security so that the armies from the United States and other countries can withdraw over the next two years is proving to be a dangerous and costly mission.
Yet, other headlines declare an even more sobering reality: â€śU.S. Numbed to Drumbeat of Death,â€ť (AP, Sept. 9); and â€śPoll: Americans Tune out Afghan Warâ€ť (AP, Aug. 26).
Analysts attribute the widespread apathy to a mistaken belief that the war has basically ended and that the nation has only a handful of troops still on duty in Afghanistan.
Coupled with the flood of election coverage and the ongoing uncertainty about the economy, people back home are paying less attention to developments abroad.
With fewer reminders that Americans care, morale among the troops is low. More than 80,000 soldiers are still stationed there, where they fight and face death every day.
To offset the widespread indifference, the members of the Jefferson County Chapter of the Pennsylvania Association of School Retirees (PASR) will once again conduct a Support the Troops campaign to collect items to be sent to the soldiers in Afghanistan to brighten the holiday season.
The county-wide drive officially kicks off today, and will run through Friday, Oct. 26.
Specially marked containers will be available at Fezellâ€™s County Market and Comet Market in Punxsutawney; Mikeâ€™s BiLo Market in Reynoldsville; the Rebecca M. Arthurs Library in Brookville; and the Brockwayville Depot Social Center in Brockway.
Shoppers are asked to purchase toiletry and hygiene supplies, snack foods, and items for fun (playing cards, stationery, puzzle books,
Travel size and smaller packages are best since the troops often have to carry the supplies in their backpacks.
Detailed shopping lists are available at the drop-off sites to give donors more information about the types of items that are most requested.
All food items must be in their manufacturersâ€™ original packaging.
Last year, with the help of hundreds of county residents and donors from locations as close as Johnstown and as far away as Ohio and California, PASR collected more than 1,200 pounds of merchandise, which members then sorted and transported to the Soldiersâ€™ Angels group at St. Bernard of Clairvaux Church in Indiana.
A loaded pickup truck and four automobiles with fully packed trunks and back seats were needed in order to haul the more than half-ton of cargo to the processing center.
There, Kim Kordell and a group of volunteers used the Christmas bags and stockings they had made to fill and ship to the troops in time for the holidays.
Pointing out that encouragement from those back home is vital, Air Force Chaplain, Robert R. Cannon, who helps to distribute the goody boxes, wrote, â€śYour love and support continue to have a profound impact on those in uniform. It is individuals such as you who allow our troops to serve the mission with great spirit and high morale. Again, thank you for your continued and selfless support.â€ť
Echoing his sentiments, Charlotte Fye said, â€śProbably now, maybe more than ever, those of us who live in our free country should be willing to do our part to ensure that no man or woman serving abroad feels overlooked and unappreciated during the holiday season. By generously giving some of the items we take for granted, we can do our part to salute the troops for their bravery and to show our thanks for their willingness to sacrifice for the good of others. PASR urges county residents to stop at a nearby drop-off site and give generously to the drive.â€ť
In addition to the merchandise, PASR will also seek monetary contributions to offest the cost of shipping (approximately one dollar per pound) and to purchase additional items from those who do not wish to shop.
Anyone needing more details or church or civic organizations wishing to participate are asked to contact the project coordinator, Charlotte S. Fye, by calling (814) 938-6928 or by e-mailing her at email@example.com.