Operation supplies: Military Care Package Project in action for WU student
John Coveyou, a Washington University senior serving in Iraq, keeps his connection with the school while fighting half a world away.
Coveyou has been receiving packages from the Military Care Package Project, an organization set up on campus to give student soldiers a taste of college during their tours of duty.
Since its inception in 2004 by Jill Edwards, project manager in the Department of Diversity and Administration, the Washington University Military Care Package Project has sent more than 6,234 pounds of food and supplies to soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. Now, the program collects donations at 10 different locations around campus and sends packages approximately every eight weeks.
“We’ll keep supporting him until he comes back,” Edwards said of Coveyou.
Coveyou, in turn, has shared his supplies and thus invited his fellow troops at the patrol base into his University community.
“I’m in the 1175th MP Company with John Coveyou,” Sergeant Tommy Jones wrote in an e-mail to Student Life. “The way John speaks of your university, it sounds more like a family than a school. It’s a great honor to serve with John. I believe he embodies all that is good and noble in society. This is a direct reflection of your university and its people. Thank you for your love.”
Each box of donations includes a small paper card, complete with a photo of Brookings Hall, thanking the soldiers for their service. The contents—which are donated from faculty, staff and students—include batteries, hand sanitizer, toiletries, snacks, such as breakfast bars, trail mix, nuts and individual drink mixes, such as Crystal Light and Gatorade powder.
Captain Chris Sundell said that the packages are popular at his base.
“Everyone knows what me getting a lot of boxes means and it does not take long to go through them,” wrote Sundell in an e-mail. “The drink mix was a big hit. I am just about out of everything.”
Since its founding, the program has sent boxes to a coffee bar in Baghdad, which is overseen by the chaplain and serves as a convenient place where soldiers can stop in and grab a snack. Edwards requests food in individual-size servings for the soldiers’ ease.
Collecting food and supply donations on campus is the first part of getting supplies to the soldiers. Next comes the shipping, which, funded by monetary donations from the University community, costs $7,397, Edwards said.
“It’s expensive to send and we don’t get any discounts, but people usually forget about the shipping. A while back there was a radio station that did a collection for soldiers and tried to take it to a local military base. But the only way to get the donations to the soldiers overseas is to send it through the regular mail process,” she said.
Edwards communicates via Listserv and e-mails the soldiers to ask if there is anything specific they would like. Several have said that they appreciate receiving small toys to carry in their pants pockets.
The soldiers do not give toys to children on the street for safety reasons, but they do hand out school supplies, Beanie Babies and small trucks when they are visiting schools.
“We are stationed in the most remote province in Afghanistan, along the Pakistan border. My personnel live in the most austere conditions of any other coalition force in the country. We appreciate your kindness and the little taste of home our gifts provided,” Major Troy Scott wrote in an e-mail.
When soldiers come back to the U.S. and are in the St. Louis area, Edwards invites them to visit campus and have a welcome home lunch. Some soldiers have even given presentations on their experiences.
“This is definitely a group project,” Edwards said. “There are a lot of ways to support.”
In addition to bringing items to the collection centers on campus, students can donate toward shipping costs, write letters, help with packaging and start separate branches to collect supplies and ship to reach more soldiers abroad.