As the Afghanistan War comes to an end, hundreds of volunteers gathered for the last “packing party” Saturday, putting together the last shipment of “comfort kits” for troops serving in Afghanistan.
The Operation Caregiver group got together from 10 a.m. until noon at the USN USMC Reserve Center on Pomerado Road.
For almost a decade, Operation Caregiver has been supporting men and women in uniform stationed at the "tip of the spear” fighting in the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars.
The founder and organizer of Operation Caregiver, Michael G. LaMar, said the program started back in 2003 when he found out marines fighting overseas were running out of basic hygiene products.
”We found out that they were taking showers with baby wipes and they were running out of toothbrushes, toothpaste,” he recalled.
At these packing parties, a group gets together to form an assembly line and pack care kits that contain 15 basic hygiene or comfort items for troops who need them most. Volunteers mail the kits to a command level Sergeants Major who then distributes the supplies to servicemen and women in Afghanistan and Iraq.
At the final "packing party," LaMar elaborated a bit on why he likes to help.
“I get these wonderful notes back from the marines on the little MRE postcards and they tell me: ‘Thank you very much. Here at 10,000 feet into the Hindu Kush it feels like home,’” he said.
This last packing party was a bitter-sweet event for LaMar. He said volunteers have put many hours of hard work into the project, but he's very happy the troops are coming back from Afghanistan.
“I’m glad the guys are coming home. I’d rather be put out of business that way,” he said.
There was a lot of emotion among the hundreds of volunteers who filled the gym Saturday, packing kits for the very last time.
As they finished up with the last shipment, Operation Caregivers went on to celebrate at an after party.