Volunteer effort brings holiday cheer to troops
Volunteers from Operation Homefront are celebrating Veterans Day by packing nearly a ton of cookies, Spam, slippers and other items for Hawaii-based troops serving overseas.
"We would not be where we are today without those very heroic people," said Vickie Cariello of current troops and veterans who served before them.
The goodies should reach the troops before Christmas.
"We want to remind them of home at that time of year when it's very hard to be away," Cariello, the founder of the local chapter of Operation Homefront said.
She said they will mail about 50 boxes. The donated gifts will be enough for about 500 troops, said volunteer coordinator Sue Deuning.
Operation Homefront has 31 chapters across the country that help troops and their families.
Since Oct. 15, the group has been collecting Hawaii-themed donations at five Lex Brodie's stores on Oahu.
"We've got everything from coffee to Hawaiian candies to chips, dried mango, and won ton chips," Cariello said. A local artist gave 1,300 Hawaiian music CDs, while others gave Hawaiian shortbread cookies, macadamia nuts and aloha shirts. There are even Hawaii calendars to scratch off the days until they return, Cariello said.
Cariello, whose husband has been in the Navy for 21 years, moved to Hawaii from New Jersey last year. She said she feels the community wants to show support to the troops.
"We just make it easy," she said. "You can give your $5, and every penny is going to go to the care packages. Even on a limited budget you can feel like you are contributing to the troops."
How to help
Volunteers will meet at Holy Family Catholic Academy, 380 Main St., to box up the aloha care packages and add handwritten letters. Anyone wanting to donate last-minute goods or help with preparations can show up at the school.
"As long as the boxes are open we can stuff things inside of them," said volunteer coordinator Sue Deuning. The group also needs monetary donations to mail the packages, she said.
Here are some of the Veterans Day events today and tomorrow:
» At 10 a.m., the Oahu Veteran's Council will host the Veterans Day ceremony at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl. The keynote speaker is Lt. Gen. John M. Brown III, the commanding general of the U.S. Army Pacific.
» At 1:15 p.m., the Governor's Veterans Day ceremony will be held at Memorial Plaza, Hawaii State Veterans Ceremony in Kaneohe.
» At 4:45 p.m., the USS Missouri Memorial Association will hold its annual Veterans Day ceremony at the Battleship Missouri Memorial on Ford Island, Pearl Harbor.
» The 62nd annual Wahiawa Veterans Day Parade runs from 10 to 11 a.m. Sponsored by the Wahiawa Lions Club, the parade starts at Kaala Elementary on California Avenue, crosses Kameha- meha Highway and ends at Wahiawa Regional Park.