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How do I begin to thank everyone who made this comfort drive for our troops such a success? I am always humbled by the generosity and giving nature of the people of southeastern Wisconsin. We are “small town” America and we know what is important and what is not. When it comes to our country and our fighting men and women, we realize that some of us support the war while others do not. However ALL of us support the troops fighting over there as they are our brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, mothers and fathers.

I would like to start with the totals for the drive and where we stand today. The comfort drive started the second week of March and ended on June 1. Well, it was supposed to end then. We shipped 260 boxes of all sizes over to Afghanistan the second week of June. We received confirmation in July that all of the boxes made it to their destination and were distributed. It was stated by the chaplain over there that the Marines were thrilled with the supplies mailed. Overall, the packages weighed 3,895 pounds and shipping costs were $4,319.12. Our goals were 5,000 pounds and $6,000 to pay for the shipping. Today, we still have just under $3,500 in the account to use for the Marines. With the 2nd Marines, 5th Battalion coming home in early September, we now will use the rest of the money to do a “mini” comfort drive for the 1st Marines, 1st Battalion. This will push our total weight over the 5,000 pound mark we will hit both our goals.

It is impossible to remember to thank everyone but I will try. First I want to thank Wheatland School for donating all of the copying of flyers and articles. Next I want to thank the Sentry stores in Twin Lakes and Burlington as well as the Piggly Wiggly store in Union Grove for their overwhelming support and efforts. We would not have come close without their creative ideas and help. Also, the Tavern League of Kenosha County was a big supporter with Bill Glembocki and Local Folks leading the way. We could not have mailed everything without the help of Packaging Corporation in Burlington and Jon Apelgren. They supplied a lot of the boxes that we used. I want to thank Margaret Frontera for supplying all the bubble wrap. It made it possible to get the coffee makers and other fragile items there successfully. I also want to thank all the teachers and schools that rallied their students to support this drive. Lakewood School, Randall School, Wheatland School, Wilmot-Trevor School and others that I just cannot remember were instrumental in getting all the items donated. Thank you administrators, teachers and support staff for taking the time in your busy day to help. Also want to thank the Marine League of Racine for their support. What a great bunch of guys! St. Joseph’s parish in Lyons and Fr. Baumgartner also were very enthusiastic to help our cause. Thank you for the time at the end of mass. Fox River State Bank took the time to set up our account and get us the materials we needed to make sure we could finance all of this correctly. Thanks to the Waterford FFA for their generous donation of money and space at their craft fair. Thank you Curves for your very generous donations and help in spreading the word. I have to say a special thank you to the Burlington Standard Press, Kenosha News and the Racine Journal Times for their support in helping us spread the word.

Lastly, I want to say a most special thank you to the thousands, yes literally thousands, of individuals that saw us in the stores, at the craft fairs, spaghetti dinners and everywhere else you saw volunteers with donation jugs. You filled them time after time with everything from pocket change to a hundred dollar bill. I was so moved by some of the stories of your sons and daughters who either just enlisted or were injured in battle and how you were so proud of them. My son-in-law was injured and I can relate to your stories. They inspired my and the students that helped me to continue on week after week, month after month. I remember sitting at the spaghetti dinner at Wheatland School with my display and a helmet turned upside down on the table. The goal was to try and fill the helmet with money to support the troops. A little girl, maybe in 3rd or 4th grade came up and looked at the display. She reached into her back pocket and pulled out two wrinkled one dollar bills. She looked at the pictures on the display and placed both dollars in the helmet. I asked her if she really wanted to do that and she responded, “they need it more than I do” and then she walked away. Hard to forget something like that.

Then came packing day. The first weekend in June we packed everything in boxes, filled out hundreds of customs labels and taped all the boxes up. We had a dozen volunteers in my garage for 12 hours. We still had more to do the next day and some were able to return. I cannot thank you enough for your gift of time and effort. Lastly, I have to thank the Burlington Post Office as they processed all these boxes in record time and were so very friendly in doing so. They have a great sense of humor and a word of warning to you, I am coming back with the last shipment!

There were several motivating factors why I did this. First, my son-in-law is a Marine and I support him and his fellow Marines as well as members of all the branches of the Armed Forces. Second, Westosha Central H.S. and Union Grove H.S. each lost a teacher just under one year ago. Captain David Novaez and his wife Kristin were killed on Hy. P about a mile from my house. It was a tragic accident and a memorial stands there to this day. The students of each high school had tributes for their teacher but also wanted to help in this effort in their memory. The students of these schools did an outstanding job in making this happen and the administration and cooperating teachers should be recognized for their efforts.

In closing, I would like to say that it has been both a rewarding and humbling effort. My company, Defensive Driving Specialists LLC, spearheaded the effort but it was all of you that made it possible. God bless all the people in southeastern Wisconsin and God bless America.