Operation Care Package
It started with sending a letter to a West Point grad from my hometown, then a care package. He wrote back! It was my first "Free Mail." Troops didn't have to pay postage, they just write "FREE MAIL" where the stamp normally goes. He filled the entire card and had to include an index card. My favorite part was him saying I could name a character after him, but "make sure he has a nice southern accent - I can't have no Yankee personifying me!!" I'm a sucker for a man with a sense of humor.
I sent more packages and when his deployment ended, his family threw a big Welcome Home Party in Charlotte and invited me. Even though I'd never met anyone who'd be there, of course I went. I introduced myself to Kyle and got a huge hug, then he introduced me to his family. It was such a great experience supporting him, that I joined the Books for Soldiers website and started supporting more troops. Lots more!
That was only the beginning
The week before I met Kyle in person, I learned about the Books for Soldiers website. I'm a reader and writer - how perfect. I joined the site and the first request I picked to fill was for a soldier requesting a Calvin and Hobbs book. Also perfect since my son and I loved that comic and he was willing to part with one of his books. The thank you note from that soldier never made it to me, but Juan later emailed and sent me a picture. I had no idea then that he was based in Hawaii and that I would get to meet him a few months later. What was super cool was that lunch with my family was the first time he'd ever gotten to meet a stranger who'd supported him on any of his many deployments.
Then I saw a post titled "Adopt a Platoon." I had no idea how many were in a platoon, however, it sounded like something Katrina, the heroine in the first screenplay I wrote would do. I clicked the post and was instantly smitten seeing a cute Kiowa Warrior helicopter flying with an American flag attached to the side. There was also this picture of these handsome pilots. I can't remember what I send in that care package, but the contact person emailed me after receiving it and said he was sending me something. He had no idea that a CD with over one hundred pictures of the unit on their deployment would be the perfect gift for this former scrapbooker turned writer.
I sent them more care packages and exchanged emails and chatted with Chris, then others in the unit. I got to know quite a few of the Renegades and every pilot mentioned in Deadly Aim is based on the guys I supported. Though I changed names slightly for their privacy, since they are cute and married.