Care packages

Last week Grace Faczak, along with her good friend Fran Harrill, dropped 21 priority packages into the mail en route to the Persian Gulf as part of Operation Shoebox, a grassroots campaign to send America’s soldiers care packages.

Filled with everything from sundries to snacks, board games to bandannas and even battery-powered minifans, the packages are Faczak’s way of letting the troops know she is behind them.

“We are very proud of them and behind them 100 percent,” said the Dallas Plantation woman. “May God watch over them. When we sealed up that first package, I felt like we were really doing something wonderful.”

Among those in the armed services are her three grandchildren and her son-in-law Mike. She got an e-mail from him Wednesday, complete with a digital photo of the blue, rippling water. “This is where I am,” he said.

To cope with the worry, she watches television “almost constantly.”

“The whole thing is quite nerve-racking,” she said.

The gifts in the packages have been bought with more than $200 that Faczak raised, thanks to her friends and community members. Shopping, soliciting donations and shipping have become a full-time job, one she plans to keep until the war is over.

She picks up the tab for mailing of the heavy packages on her charge card to accumulate points toward airline miles. “When this war is over, I am going to have so many miles I am going to fly to California and visit Mike, if the Lord brings him back, which I hope he will.”

To help or to give Faczak an address of a troop member who deserves a package, phone 864-3798.

– Samantha C. DePoy
Beyond the Walkman

The last time the family heard from Army Pvt. Corey Dan, 19, who enlisted fresh out of high school, was March 26. He called from Kuwait to wish his 7-year-old brother, Tristan, a happy birthday.

Since then the family figures he’s seen action at least in Najaf, where Dan’s brigade was engaged in fierce fighting.

“I keep thinking that just a year and a half ago that boy was carrying a backpack and a Walkman. Now he’s carrying a rucksack and a gun.”

Sharon Bouchard of Paris doesn’t take much solace from those who say the war with Iraq is winding down.

Her grandson, Dan, still faces plenty of danger ahead, she said.

“Until Saddam Hussein and all those under his command are gone, I’m still waiting for the other shoe to drop,” she said.

Even if the top leadership is dead or captured, Dan’s unit – the 101st Airborne Division – still faces many months of work ahead, restoring order to the war-torn country.

“These kids are going to try to maintain law and order, get people back into their homes,” said Bouchard. They were told to expect six months to a year of war-related service.

“Their job has barely started,” said Bouchard.

Bouchard said that although she is very concerned about her grandson’s physical safety, “Right now I’m more concerned with his mental health. What nightmares will he be bringing home?”

– Gail Geraghty
Airborne Angel

When Angel Colon Jr. was a boy, he’d play with toy soldiers. Sometimes, his mom, Rachel, remembers, he’d play war with friends, armed with toy guns.

Never, though, she says, did she imagine he’d grow up to become a soldier.

Now 30, he’s known as S/Sgt. Angel Colon, and he wears the maroon beret of a paratrooper serving with the 82nd Airborne Division.

Rachel Colon says her son is somewhere in Iraq these days. The most recent word she’s heard about the 82nd came from an MSNBC report. It showed some 82nd troopers passing out food and offering humanitarian aid to people along Route 8, somewhere between Nasiriya and Baghdad.

“I’m very proud of him,” Colon says of her son, a one-time Lewiston High School football player.

But she also worries, given that harm’s way is nearer to him than she’d like.

“I try not to think about that,” she says.

Rachel Colon is an assistant court officer who works at the Lewiston Police Department. She keeps a photo of her son on her desk there. The frame is adorned with a small cloth American flag with a yellow ribbon pinned to it.

On the ribbon she has written her son’s name: “Angel.”

– Doug Fletcher

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