GI Joe. This phrase speaks to our men and women serving in our US military. It traditionally referred to the men serving in combat during World War II. And yet, today, the US finds itself engaged in combat overseas with the big difference from that war being women in uniform, too, are in combat whether it be in the air, on land or at sea. Regardless of gender, what Bill Mauldin in his noteworthy book, “Willie and Joe” proclaimed holds true in today’s military, deployed in harm’s way as it did for GI Joe in his war. He said “A soldier’s life revolves around his mail”. Bill knew of what he spoke for he was a correspondent who lived with those in combat, being in the thick of it with them under fire, in sloppy weather and sharing the grief for their losses and feeling their loneliness from being so far from home. GI Joe and GI Jane are the same today as GI Joe was then: they will read anything to have something to read.

We all like to get packages from someone we know and more so when the package is something we need. Better yet is the surprise of getting this package from someone you do not know and who says you are special for doing your duty and that you are not forgotten.

A nonprofit organization called Patriot Packages has been formed to send packages to those deployed letting them know that they are appreciated and not forgotten. There is plenty to do as the US Military is deployed in 135 countries around the world. Patriot Packages wants every Active Duty and National Guard member deployed from Missouri and Southern Illinois to receive a care package in appreciation for his/her commitment to duty and assurance he/she is not forgotten. Missourians and those from Illinois with relatives living in other States but who have been deployed in harm’s way need only provide Patriot Packages that person’s APO/FPO/DOD address for receiving a care package.

Patriot Packages. First,personal items are packaged in homemade drawstring fabric bags which are used in creative ways by their recipients long after its contents are used up. Secondly, no package is sent without a handwritten note of thanks in it. And, thirdly, enclosed in each package is a star from a flag that has flown in Missouri. That little star is received with great personal attachment and reverence.

Patriot Packages speaks about the star often quoting some of the wonderful emails and letters from our military. They often remark how meaningful the star is to them They say they will have the star forever. Some put it in their wallets, some carry it in their body armor, or in a pocket which holds pictures of their loved ones. The star is placed in vehicles going on patrol.

Patriot Packages pledges to send these stars only to members of our military deployed in harm’s way. Included in each bag is this enclosure which reads:
” I am part of our American Flag. I have flown over a home in Missouri. I can no longer fly. The wear and tear of Mother Nature has caused me to become tattered and torn. Please carry me with you in battle as a remembrance of the America that is supporting you and remembering the cost of freedom.” Respect is paid to these flags in that their remaining parts are disposed of properly with an approved ceremony by a Boy Scout troop or the American Legion and or the VFW.

GI Joe and GI Jane respond:
On behalf of our Soldiers, I thank you all for the time and care put into recently sending care packages. We particularly found the stars to be touching and inspiring. I will ensure that the individual bags are distributed among our troops. We want you all to know that you have made a difference and we thank you for your “grateful citizenry!” God Bless.
I wanted to let you know I received your care packages today. The knowledge that people from your organization took the time and effort to sew the individual bags and then fill them with items we so vitally need is truly humbling!
Please pass along my personal thanks to every person involved.
To all the Volunteers from Patriot Packages, I am a member of the Missouri Army National Guard deployed to Kuwait in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. I have had the great honor of serving my country on duty for almost 30 years. I am currently on my 3rd tour, two of which were in combat zones. Today I received one of your packages and I was humbled when I opened that package. It contained a part of something that I have given the greater part of my life to serve and protect, a piece of an American Flag. It is difficult to express one’s feelings about such a small item, especially a faded piece of cloth. Many have no idea what the American Flag means to me or my brothers and sisters in arms. I have seen lives, limbs and years away from home given for Old Glory and the idea of freedom. You would be so proud of the heroes I have known, of their gift of sacrifice. Knowing that it was all given freely and not forced, makes it even more precious a gift. In those faded threads on the star, I see the lives of so many from so far, intertwined to make the very fabric of America. Though her colors have faded and she cannot fly above our great land, this star from our American Flag encourages me to do my best for my country. I will proudly carry this star with me through the rest of my tour.

Thank you so much for your kindness and support for me and my fellow Service members, both active and retired.

I wanted to thank all of you for not only sending my troops and I a care package but for thinking of us in the first place. It is my understanding based off what I’ve been reading in the news that a perception exists that what we are doing in Afghanistan is no longer on the minds of most Americans back home. I’m glad to see there are people like yourselves that continue to show support despite that which makes what my troops and I endure on a daily basis a lot easier to deal with.
Thanks again.

To the volunteers at Patriot Packages,
I just wanted to say thank you so much for all of the amazing support your volunteers have given my unit. I am just returning back to duty after getting shot on a mission and it was overwhelming to get back to my FOB and see so many packages waiting for us. It truly is an honor and a privilege to serve this great country because of people like you! Thank you again I wish had had words to better express my gratitude.

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Patriot Packages sends home overseas so that ‘Hey Joe You Got Mail” carries on.