Operation honors families of troops

May 19, 2003 12:00 am

By ERIN MAYES

Dave Schummer said his daughter may look like a delicate flower, but she comes through when the going gets tough.

Lisa Miller-Schummer is stationed somewhere in Iraq — she can't say where. This is her fourth year in the Navy and her second month in Iraq.

"She's still alive, and it's out of my hands," said her father, a Glencoe resident. "You've just got to keep the faith. Other people have paid the price. I haven't had to do that yet."

Schummer was one of about 80 people who attended Saturday night's dinner at the San Andreas Senior Center to honor families of men and women serving in the military. The event was put on by Operation Military Support, which for the past few months, has kept volunteers busy compiling and sending out care packages to troops overseas and getting names and addresses so people all over the country can send letters and other items.

June Downum headed up the task of contacting commanders in Afghanistan, Iraq, Korea, Germany and Kuwait. Her volunteers set up a Web site — www.operationmilitarysupport.com — that lists the names and addresses of servicemen and woman. The site also lists items the troops need, like flea collars to wear around their boots to ward off sand fleas, paper, pens, toilet paper, sanitary wipes, feminine hygiene products, Q-Tips, mints, insect repellent, shampoo, sunscreen, vitamins and phone cards.

Often, people send boxes of goods to Operation Military Support. Those items are stored at the Calaveras Senior Center before being shipped off. Money donated is used for shipping costs. Last week, 42 boxes were sent, at a cost of $742.

State Sen. Thomas "Rico" Oller, R-San Andreas, attended the dinner and gave out certificates honoring the troops' families. He and state Assemblyman Dave Cogdill, R-Modesto, and Rep. Doug Ose, R-Sacramento, all signed the certificates.

The families were also given blue star flags — red banners with a white square and a blue star in the center. Downum said the flags originate from WWI, but were tucked away during the unpopular Vietnam War. They've made a resurgence with the most recent war in Iraq, and families hang them in their windows to show they have relatives fighting overseas. Downum said if the flag has a gold star on it, the family's soldier died.

Later in the evening, Operation Military Support team members read excerpts from letters of thanks sent by volunteers and soldiers.

Kristopher Mott, stationed in Kuwait, wrote that his care package came just in time. He'd been on guard duty for 24 hours, eating dust and sand during a nasty storm.

Another soldier said he's living in one of Saddam Hussein's palaces and that Iraqi people beg the troops for food and water every day. They're not supposed to give them any goods, but they do.

"I will think twice before I throw any food away, because I know somewhere in the world a child is going hungry," the soldier wrote.

Dave Schummer knows firsthand how much receiving care packages from Operation Military Support and its volunteers means. His daughter, Lisa, has remarked on how sad it can be to be left without a letter or package after a mail drop. Groups like Operation Military Support aim to make sure this happens as infrequently as possible.

"You see the bad side of people a lot, but this restores my faith in humanity," Schummer said.