Sep 9, 2008

Students behind our soldiers

by Kerah Kemmerer

Waiting in line at the post office to receive an eagerly-anticipated package filled with notes and homemade goodies are luxuries that many students take for granted. Most of the items found inside the box are easily accessible at a convenience store, but to know that someone cared enough to send the package is what gives the gift a special meaning. For a solider overseas, a package from the United States may be just what he or she needs to brighten his day.

Students Behind our Soldiers (SBS) is an organization created last October by senior Amanda Forth to help provide these encouraging packages. Inside each box are the basic products that many people may take for granted. The items include calling cards, pain relievers, batteries, basic hygiene products, stationary and snacks like peanuts and jerky.

“I wanted to start a non-profit organization designed especially for college students,” Forth said. “A lot of the military support organizations out there want you to commit to sending a package every month, but I wanted to design something where students could get involved at every level.”

Forth understands that students’ funds are sometimes low. SBS is designed to be student-friendly and allows students to help with the resources they have.

“The cool thing about SBS is that students can even use their meal plan points to help out,” Forth said. “Or they can just take a few minutes to write a thank-you letter.”

Forth, who refers to herself as an “Army Brat,” comes from a family with a strong military background which includes previous military service from her dad, brother, uncle, cousin and grandfather. She said that many students do not realize what military families go through on a daily basis when loved ones are overseas.

“It is one thing to say you are supporting the soldiers, but it is another for soldiers to see that you are supporting them,” Forth said.

“That is why I wanted to get this school involved in as many military events as I can.”

Forth said that the care packages are just part of what the group wants to promote. She sees the group as a way to raise military awareness around campus.

“What I thought was interesting is that we have such a patriotic school, and there was not a single military organization on this campus,” Forth said. “So I started one.”

Forth was required to write a constitution for the group and received approval from The Student Government Association to proceed with SBS. She now has 25 volunteers signed up to fulfill the Christian Service requirement, as well as another 25 individuals who want to help out as much as possible.

Junior Laura Blankenship serves as one of the vice presidents for SBS. She joined the cause because she felt it was a small way for her to give back.

“We are able to do the things we do every day because of the sacrifice that so many men and women make daily,” Blankenship said.

“People have no idea how big of an impact we can have on these guys or girls who are overseas. They also don’t know the joy they can bring to a soldier just by writing a small thank-you card.”

Junior Stacy Bethel, who serves as the secretary of SBS, heard firsthand how the group was affecting soldiers.

“I recently had the honor of meeting one of the soldiers that received a care package that we sent last year,” Bethel said. “It really brought to life what we were doing. To hear a soldier actually stand there and say how much he appreciated what we sent out was so awesome.”

SBS has also provided Forth with opportunities to create even greater military awareness around campus. She has pushed for and received approval to extend Military Appreciation Day to a full week.

“I am pretty much scheduling the entire week, and I am working with Dr. Will Honeycutt,” Forth said.

The week will include a prayer service, military panel, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Awareness meeting and a Black Hawk helicopter landing on campus among other events. Military Appreciation Week will begin on Monday, Nov. 10.

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