Calaveras military support at full force

March 31, 2003 12:00 am

By SCOTT PESZNECKER

As United States troops overseas continue to battle Iraqi forces, a handful of Calaveras County residents are pressing on with their own wartime effort.

Early in February, Glencoe resident June Downum and longtime friend Suzette Glanville launched Operation Military Support — a home-based effort to send supplies and letters to U.S. troops overseas.

Since the war started, the Calaveras operation has become "very emotional," Downum said.

The group has corresponded with thousands of people around the world who want to help United States soldiers.

Also, they have received e-mails from commanding officers in Iraq.

"When I hear from somebody, it's very short," Downum said. "It's not requesting anything. It's that ‘we're OK, we're doing the best we can, our spirits are high, and keep us in your prayers.' "

Operation Military Support has topped out with more than 2,000 names on its roster. Because of the war, Downum has stopped adding new troops to her organization's recipient list.

Still, Downum said the operation keeps busy for eight hours a day.

"We assign about four people to each person because it takes so long to get letters," Downum said, adding that it can take up to a month for a soldier to be handed mail.

Downum's inbox was flooded with thousands of e-mails earlier last week when the Department of Defense instructed Americans to not send "unsolicited" mail and packages to troops overseas.

Operation Military Support heard from a commanding officer overseas that the organization can continue to send mail because it has established contact with troops, and people are matched up with specific soldiers. Also, all the group's mail is marked with return addresses.

Nevertheless, the group's volunteers had to reply to each e-mail received.

"These are not unsolicited letters and packages," Downum said. "These have been requested."

Downum said her organization continues to send supplies such as eye drops, lip balms and toiletries to the troops.