Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

U.S. Troops Will Get Taste of Home from Smoothie King

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

U.S. Troops Will Get Taste of Home from Smoothie King

Article excerpt

Byline: DEBRA W. BUEHN

Thanks to the efforts of an Orange Park business, a contingent of American troops in Afghanistan will soon be treated to a taste of home - literally.

Antoine and Susan Kouchakjy, owners of the Smoothie King franchise on Fleming Island, are planning to send 30 gallons of frozen smoothies to Khost Province in Afghanistan, where a group of American troops is helping the Afghans rebuild.

"We just wanted to do something for the military, to show them people care," said Antoine Kouchakjy.

The Kouchakjys started planning their project about two months ago, after hearing of another franchise owner in the Midwest who had sent smoothies to her husband and his unit in Iraq. They've been able to rely on her for guidance, and know it will take about five days to ship the goodwill gift, which will be packed in several huge coolers filled with dry ice and gel packs.

Ironically, the hardest part of the project was finding a group to receive the frozen drinks, Kouchakjy said. The solution to that dilemma came one day when a Navy chief from Green Cove Springs stopped by the store.

"Antoine told me what they were trying to do. I knew we had a chief who had just left [for Afghanistan], so I said I would contact him," said Melba Watson, who serves with HSL-60 at Mayport Naval Station.

From that contact, the couple was able to get in touch with the leadership of the Joint Provincial Reconstruction Team Khost, and their offer was gladly accepted, Kouchakjy said.

"They were thrilled," he added.

The Joint PRT Khost is located near the Pakistani border, and has been involved in helping the people there reconstruct their towns and their lives by providing aid for everything from construction to medical needs. Members of the group come from all over the U.S. and all walks of life, with the Navy and Army working hand in hand, said Chief Petty Officer Patrick M. …

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