Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

From Cheese Grits to Flea Collars, a Movement to Help US Troops

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

From Cheese Grits to Flea Collars, a Movement to Help US Troops

Article excerpt

After her cousin was deployed to Iraq, Nicole Bargallo wanted to support the war effort. Yet working full time at a New York law firm, she was at a loss for how and when to help. So when her firm, Greenberg Traurig, decided to send care packages to soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, she eagerly lent a hand.

"I collected money from people throughout the office," she recalls, standing amid boxes packed with energy bars, disposable cameras, children's drawings, and flea collars that soldiers wear on their ankles to ward off sand flies.

"The troops always need our support, no matter what the feelings about the war may be back at home," she says.

Ms. Bargallo is part of a national movement by companies and citizens supporting the war effort in any way they can - from prepaid calling cards given by junior high schoolers in Massachusetts to large corporate donations.

Even while the public's ambivalence about the war has steadily grown, the will to help troops has, if anything, steadily risen. Fearful that troops will suffer the same sense of isolation as those who served in Vietnam, and eager to separate the troops' plight from a bitter debate at home about the war, Americans are pitching in. And while victory gardens may be few and far between, while no one is rationing butter or gas, gestures of support are frequent and far- flung.

* In Wisconsin, Cub Scouts collected videotapes, computer games, batteries, and plenty of candy to send to the troops - and tried their best to imagine life in a tent with sand blowing outside.

* In Maryland, Andrews Air Force Base has received hundreds of boxes of donations - toiletries, food, and robes for wounded soldiers who return home with nothing but what they wear on the plane.

* And in Virginia, where Wal-Mart donated money, then hosted a fundraiser, employees shopped for everything from talcum powder to cheese grits.

Often, as with the Virginia effort, individual gestures are bolstered by corporate donations - as with the recent gift of more than $150,000 from Countrywide Financial Corporation to supply care packages.

"Several of us here have family or close friends who are serving in Iraq and we wanted to find a way to reach out to them," says Richard Rosenbaum, managing shareholder with Greenberg Traurig, who helped organize donations in New York and Miami. "What we are doing is not so much about the war itself, not so much about political debates. We are not supporting anything other than people who serve."

While it's hard to measure the support in any definitive way, experts say it's a different kind of gratitude this time around.

"This notion of supporting the troops is not a new one, but it is drastically different compared to the past," said Charles Moskos, a sociologist at Northwestern University. He cites the troops' improved ability to communicate with families and friends and the fact that people at home "aren't forsaking things to support the war, as they did during the first two world wars. …

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