“One of the Most Inspiring and Important Things to Us Has Been the Incredible Arrival of Care Packages…”

Frequent visitors to this blog know that a long-time associate of The National Center’s, Joe Roche, joined the U.S. Army after 9/11, inspired by those events. He was assigned to the 16th Engineering Battalion of the 1st Armored Division, and has been in Iraq since the war started.

Joe has attracted some attention here in the U.S. because an essay he wrote about his experiences in Iraq was published by many metropolitan newspapers and Stars and Stripes in April, read aloud on-air by several of the most influential talk radio hosts in America, circulated by several organizations and numerous individuals to their own e-mail lists, posted on blogs, and much more.

A few days after Joe’s essay began to be widely circulated, the 1st Armored Division received word that its 12-month deployment in Iraq would be extended at least three more months. As tough as that news was, something made it tougher: Most of the soldiers already had shipped their personal effects home. So a call went out for care packages.

On Sunday, for the first time since April 20, Joe had access to e-mail for about thirty minutes. He was able to write to tell us what we have been wanting to know: Had the American people responded to the call for care packages?

May 2, 2004…Amy, you will be hearing from my commanders soon. What everyone has done to send us care packages has been quite overwhelming. So many items that were critically needed by soldiers arrived just in time. I simply cannot overstate this.

We arrived at our new locations, only to be moved further, and then to face the reality of starting up many things for ourselves. This includes latrines, showers, and of course the mission-essential matters. We’ve been going hard and strong almost non-stop. I cannot elaborate where or what we are doing amongst the 16th Engineers, though I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the news gives you hints. All I will say is that our units are right where it is all happening, and some are in places that are harsh, spartan in the extreme, and extremely challenging just for each soldier to get through the day.

These units are setting up in conditions that would make most people forlorn. They are doing it great, and you would be very proud.

The thing I must impart to you right away, though, is that one of the most inspiring and important things to us has been the incredible arrival of care packages from people all over the country. It is overwhelming. The first day such critically needed items arrived such as socks and baby wipes. Then a massive load of packages w/ treats, leisure items like books and DVDs, and more hygienic essentials. The big bosses lined up the soldiers to walk through and take what they need. It was like everyones’ birthday, as I watched the soldiers hauling things back to their rooms.

…I’m running out of time to be on the net.

Quickly I have to say that there is no time to respond to everyone. My commanders are stressing about this and are trying to find ways to convey the deep thanks we all have. Packages continue to arrive each day. It is beyond incredible!

Lastly, I want to make a personal thanks to all of you for sending prayers and best wishes. I’m aware of the news. On a daily basis, however, many many more things happen than you ever hear about. …In the past 8 days, on convoys and missions myself, we have been attacked by an RPG, 3 IEDs and a mortar attack. It is a miracle, really, that NONE of us have been hurt. The RPG, for example, aimed right at my hummwv (w/ 8 soldiers) missed by hitting a barrier just a few yards away (blowing it to pieces). Two of the IEDs blew next to our vehicles, yet somehow no one was hit. And in that mortar attack, one landed in the middle of a group of our hummwvs, just 20 feet in front of me. Again, we are all amazed that no one has been hit.

This is your prayers. Thank you so much. Please keep strong and keep your heart in our mission. I know you have done more than is imaginable. …My time is up on the computers. I must go…


Joe’s words speak for themselves. If you would like to join the many thoughtful people who sent care packages to the troops, please do so. You can see how much it means to them. We’re not in danger of sending more than the soldiers need.

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