A simple show of heart in a harsh military life

dlauderdale@islandpacket.com

February 13, 2014 

Old and young hands will work together Friday to show some Valentine's Day love for troops overseas.

University of Michigan Club members on Hilton Head Island will sponsor a "Packing Party" at the island's Boys & Girls Club to ship homemade cookies abroad through the Treat the Troops program.

Alumni from Duke, Notre Dame, Indiana, Penn State, Michigan State, Ohio State and the University of South Carolina also will help bake and box the cookies. Boys & Girls Club members will write a personal letter for each box.

With helpers like these, the Treat the Troops program founded by Jeanette Cram of Hilton Head has shipped 3.7 million cookies to troops since 1990.

"On a day marked by love and caring for others, it is appropriate that young and old alike join hands to salute our military for all that they are doing for us and others," said Bill Raisch, a retired high school principal, president of the island University of Michigan Club, and one of Cram's regular volunteers, called "Crumbs."

The packing party comes at the same time the national Blue Star Families organization sends out its annual survey of troops and family members to see what's on their minds, and what more America can do to help them.

Last year's "Military Family Lifestyle Survey" showed that the top three military family issues center on financial well-being. Military pay and benefits are the top concern, followed by changes in retirement benefits and spouse employment opportunities.

They worry about sequestration, and the high number of service members who will be tossed back into civilian life over the next five years.

Troops worry about making a living when they leave the service. A key to that is their spouse's job. But 68 percent of spouses reported last year that being a military spouse makes a career almost impossible. By moving around so much, they have trouble getting the education and experience they need.

The other top concerns in military families focus on children, specifically educational opportunities, and the impact of serial deployments.

Add to that the scary and more personal side effects of their jobs: suicide and post-traumatic stress disorder.

The all-volunteer service makes them feel lonely on the front. Eighty-seven percent believed in some type of national service for every American.

Add it all together, and 92 percent disagreed with the statement: "The general public truly understands the sacrifices made by service members and their families."

This from a patriotic group whose members are almost all registered to vote, almost all cast ballots, and volunteer in the community at a gung-ho rate that can equal one full workday per week.

This is why old hands and young hands will wrap up sweets on Valentine's Day and put them in the mail for Afghanistan.

Follow columnist David Lauderdale at twitter.com/ThatsLauderdale.

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