North East American Legion Post 105 recently honored a local woman who carries on a family tradition twice each year to help others.
Jane Speicher has helped her family pack and send boxes to troops overseas for as long as she can remember. Her grandfather served in World War I, her father served in WWII and nephews served in the Persian Gulf War. Her uncles fought in Vietnam and her son served in Iraq when the War on Terror began.
“My family has always sent boxes to people we knew,” Speicher said. “I remember packing boxes for Vietnam. My sister would make 45s for her boyfriend.”
Speicher said the North East Military Drive, which she spearheads with help from a committee including Marilyn Tyson, Jan Bucheral, Sam Rizzo and Janelle Thies, started around Christmas 2004. She said she has always sent boxes to troops she knows, and when more and more people showed interest in her expanding the effort the Military Drive began.
Now and for the past six years, flyers appear throughout North East requesting donations from the community for July 4th and Christmas care package boxes. Specific items are requested, as well as monetary donations to pay shipping fees.
The American Legion Ladies Auxiliary agreed to help sponsor the drive so community members donating items or money know the project is trustworthy.
Speicher said she shipped 38 boxes in 2004, and Christmas of 2009 saw 72 boxes shipped to local troops serving overseas.
Behind the scenes, Speicher maintains an inventory of items during the drive so at all times she knows what supplies are still needed. Everyone receives the same items, however Speicher makes sure certain troops receive special supplies depending on where in the world they are stationed.
Letters Speicher receives reinforces the importance of her mission. “Some of the personal letters I have gotten from these boys….” Speicher said. “The first thing that runs through some of their minds is ‘am I going to die today.’ They’ll think about that box, or an item in it; it makes them feel good. They open that box and think, ‘Wow, they’re actually thinking about me.’”
Collection will begin in April for the July 4 boxes. Watch for collection bins at several North East businesses. Monetary donations can be sent to the American Legion Ladies Auxiliary.
“This is our thank you to them for putting their lives on the line,” said Speicher. “The least we can do is send them something they need.”