Winter clothing from drive sent to security escorts in Afghanistan

Tuesday, November 25, 2008 | 3:55 p.m. CST; updated 10:10 p.m. CST, Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Sara Reichert collects donated winter clothing from Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church. Her husband, Matt, who has been deployed to Afghanistan, saw that many of the low-wage military security escorts at his base were without winter clothing. Sara has since collected clothing from neighbors and from the church to send to the military escorts.

COLUMBIA — In a few weeks, Columbia resident and Air Force Capt. Matt Reichert will receive a larger-than-usual care package where he is stationed in Afghanistan. It will come in seven boxes made in several shipments. But the contents won’t be for him.

The packages, shipped between Nov. 13 and 20, contain winter clothing supplies for the men who serve as security escorts on his base in Salerno, Afghanistan. Matt’s wife, Sara, collected the items from neighbors and people at her church, Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church.

Like most people with loved ones serving oversees, Sara sends Matt care packages about every three weeks, and other family and friends also regularly send packages. But based on conversations with her husband, she knows that all of his needs are met, while the escorts’ are not.

The escorts work for Amina Enterprise Group, a company that provides security escorts for the military’s local Afghan contractors who work construction projects on the Salerno base. They come from several countries, including Nepal, the Philippines, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Russia, Pakistan and India.

“The Amina Group has been a blessing for helping the soldiers by being able to escort local (Afghan) workers around the bases," Matt said in an e-mail interview. "We, as soldiers, are able to concentrate on other areas to help out the local population of Afghanistan.”

The escorts are provided shelter and allowed to eat in a military dining facility, but they are in need of supplies because they send most of their pay back home to their families.

“The escorts come from poor countries and backgrounds and do not have much, especially compared to the coalition forces,” Matt said.

With temperatures in the area dipping into the 30s and 40s at night, a military chaplain asked Matt about helping the escorts with winter supplies. He then discussed with Sara the possibility of collecting donations in Columbia to send to Afghanistan.

Sara took up the idea and talked about the collection with neighbors and her church, which ran a message about the drive in its weekly bulletin.

“I was completely overwhelmed by the generosity I saw from just making a couple of phone calls,” she said. Some people donated new clothing items. Church members also donated 60 strings of Rosary prayer beads to send with the supplies. 

“I am thankful that people have helped my wife and I out by donating warm clothes and items to help out the less fortunate while they help the Coalition Forces during this time of need,” Matt said.

After about three weeks of collecting supplies and packaging them into boxes, Sara shipped some of the packages herself, and friends shipped the remainder of the seven boxes to help divide up the cost. She estimates the total shipping costs to Afghanistan are around $400. The packages should arrive in Afghanistan about three weeks from the date they were sent, depending on how backed up the postal service is.

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