January 10th, 2007 07:30 EST
Susan Warren Supports Our Troops
Susan Warren of Rockville, MD has been sending care packages to our troops for the last 4 years. She sends between 15-25 lb boxes each week.
“My heart is with our Marines,” said Warren.
“I have Google alerts set up for all the units I send care packages to and love getting the latest news, much of it from NewsBlaze.”
”I am constantly forwarding many of the articles to the appropriate officers in Iraq so that they are sure to see the news about their Marines and they always email a big 'thanks' for the updates.”
Hi Susan, it’s a pleasure to have you on the show.
Thanks so much for having me, Judy.
Well, you’ve been working on a very exciting project. Tell us a little bit about it.
Well, to begin with, it started about, almost four years ago when my nephew enlisted in the Marine Corp; he was actually the catalyst who got this going. I went to his boot camp graduation and found that, we were told that half of the guys that were in the military do not come from supportive families; and, therefore they’re not getting support from home – they didn’t get letters – there was actually no one there to congratulate them when they completed their three months of Hell in Boot Camp.
And, I realized that, upon his first deployment – which was several months later – that those same Marines who had no one there to welcome them after their Boot Camp graduation had nobody sending them mail.
So, I asked my nephew if he would mind if I directed the packages to him and if he wouldn’t mind donating them or distributing them to his fellow Marines. And that was pretty much how it got started.
I had never intended for it to become anything other than a few weeks of support throughout his first deployment. But, I started raising money at that point and it just started growing and growing and growing and it just never ended.
Tell us about the name of your project.
Actually, I don’t even have a name. I don’t even have non-profit status. I’m just me with a friend who has a larger vehicle who helps me when I need to do the larger shopping like going to Costco or to the Post Office. But, I never gave it a name. It was just an effort that I have carried out in my apartment every week for nearly four years.
And what are some of the products that you send the Marine?
Well, it started out with some basics and then I’ve gotten requests; but, oddly enough, over the years of experience that I’ve been doing it, I’ve gotten letters and I can tell you that a lot of the guys that have opened the packages have said that they’re the most incredible Care Packages that they’ve ever seen – they’ve seen other guys get packages and they said, “Nobody’s packages are as good as mine.” (laughing)
So, I’ll tell you what I do. My apartment looks like a warehouse. I shop in bulk for all kinds of things – mainly non-perishable foods, you know, some of the typical toiletries – and magazines. I collect magazines at the barbershop, you know, any place where they have great guy stuff, you know, all the magazines that men love. So, I collect those everywhere.
And, then, I just walk around my apartment and fill each box with – it’s like going shopping and filling a shopping cart – and it’s boxes and boxes of different kinds of crackers and snacks and, like I said, toiletries, Little Debbie’s, they love Little Debbie’s and Trail Mix – I send stuff that I know isn’t going to get smashed by the time it gets there.
But there are things like non-refrigerated chocolate pudding and Chef Boyardee – the little containers for microwave – and Trail Mix and different types of hard candy and beef jerky, all kinds of stuff.
Then I get all kinds of men’s magazines – you know, they like things like Maxim and Spin and car magazines, sports magazines and toiletries and socks, they like socks.
(Laughing) Well, I want one. They sound like great packages.
They’re big boxes. I mean usually they weigh between 15 and 25 pounds a box. And what I do, is I usually, ahead of time I set up contact through Camp Lejeune with the different units that I’m shipping to and I usually speak to somebody like the Officer of the Day or the Staff Sergeant that’s stationed at the base after they’re deployed. And, I get the names of the First Sergeant and the Gunnery Sergeant for each Company of each Battalion and I get everything set up before they go.
And then, usually it’s repeat – you know, I’ll ship to the same units – you know, they’ll deploy, they’ll come home, they’ll deploy, they’ll come home and I keep shipping to the same units over again and adding new ones all the time. So, I’m constantly rotating each week – I’d say between 10 and 15 boxes go out – and I rotate the different units that I ship to.
Most of them are in Iraq. I am shipping to some soldiers, too, as well as the Marines. But it’s just something that I’m really committed to getting it out every single week. There isn’t a week that I miss unless I’m out of town.
You must get tons of letters in the mail.
I do. I have a scrapbook that makes me cry every time I read it. (laughing)
What has been the most rewarding aspect of this project for you personally?
Actually, there’s been a couple of them; but, one particular instance, there was a woman in Massachusetts who sent me – she’s in the paper business – and she sent me reams and reams of all kinds of paper that I figured they could use for stationery or whatever, you know. And there was a huge stack of graph paper and I really just somewhat intermittently, you know, through stacks of paper in each box that I sent.
But, what happened was, I got a letter a couple of months later – and this was my nephews Battalion, actually, and they were in Afghanistan and they had been sent over there with maps that were, probably, 30 years old, 40 years old could be 50 years old but they were maps that were useless.
And these guys were over there trying to run missions with a GPS and no maps. So they had no way of really recording and making maps so they could avoid the enemy by not retracing their steps all the time.
So this letter that I got from one of the Marines -- that was in a different company than my nephew – wrote me and said we got your Care Package and he said the stuff that was in it was amazing – everybody’s hands were in there at one time -- grabbing, grabbing.
And he said it wasn’t until we got to the bottom of the box that we found this graph paper and little did anybody know that we were trying to make our own graph paper and it wasn’t working so the maps that we were making were horrendous.
He said we opened up that paper and we realized that we could use that paper to make really good maps based on the GPS-stored information. He said, and what it boils down to is that graph paper saved the lives of Marines because we were able to make maps in order to calculate where we were going and not do the same route twice.
Yeah, well actually, it’s Divine intervention. That’s another thing that’s come out of this whole project. In the last several months, I’ve actually opened up a relationship with God, which has completely blown me away, too, so.
I cannot tell you – the people that I’ve met – the families that are all over the country – I spent several months visiting at the Naval Hospital, which is just down the street from where I live – and I’ve met some truly, truly real heroes and their families. Every single day I experience something that is just very, very deep and very spiritual.
I just returned from the wedding of one of the wounded Marines I met at the hospital nearly two years ago. He recovered, returned to his unit, deployed again. He was married in Atlanta on Dec 30th, and I was honored to be there for the wedding
And the troops that are over there – the men and the women – are the most incredible Americans. I mean they are doing a 100, they are doing 1,000 percent job of what they do. They’re doing an incredible job. They volunteered and they deserve all of the support they can possibly get. They’re just phenomenal human beings, every one of them.
Well, I know it takes a lot of time and dedication – and a great big heart – to support our troops. What key quality do you believe that all successful people share?
I’d say – I think as far as my keeping this thing going as long as I have – is perseverance and faith. I literally – there were several times I thought this project was going to come to an end because I was going to run out of money – and I certainly don’t have that much money to contribute myself.
But, I mean, I’ve raised close to $65,000 and it’s really by the grace of God and the generosity of Americans who want to support the troops. So many people have said to me, “We’ve been looking for an outlet, you know – we wanted to do something -- we never really knew how to do it.” And they said, “Being able to give you money or else the product itself, whatever, has given us a way to focus on helping the troops.
And there’re a lot of people out there who would love to do it and they really don’t know how to do it. There are thousands. I mean there are so many numerous organizations that are non-profits – you know, there are a lot of people like myself who are just sort of a home-grown operation – but there are so many no-profits that you can find on the Internet that are just phenomenal and everyone of them is a worthy cause.
There’s also causes like Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund that gives money to families who are dealing with severely injured Marines – or, you know, there are several of them for the Army, too. There’s just so many organizations – they can all be found on the Internet but they’re out there and there’s always a way to help.
And then the other thing that’s important is when these guys come home that they not be forgotten. You know, they’re doing such an incredible job and every one of them, to me, is a hero – even though they hate being called heroes, they are, all of them.
If someone would like to get involved and help you support the troops, how would they do that?
Well, that’s very simple. I have an Email address and its firstname.lastname@example.org. I used to be a competitive body builder; therefore, more muscle. (laughing) So, I’m going to live with that, I guess, forever -- and it’s just email@example.com.
Susan, it’s been a pleasure to have you on the show and I commend you on what you’re doing.
Thank you, Judy, it’s been my honor and my blessing to be able do it and hopefully I’ll be able to continue to do it as long as the need is there.
To Listen to the audio interview click here: http://www.thesop.org/article.php?id=3812