“Once you’re over there, receiving that care package gives you a little piece of home,” said U.S. Army Sgt. David Facundo during the Operation Interdependence (OI) campaign kick-off event last week in McAllen.
The goal of this year’s OI campaign is to ship over 40,000 care packages to soldiers serving overseas. The official campaign period – a drive for donations of goodies for the soldiers – started last Thursday and continues until July.
Speakers at the kick-off event included IBC Bank President David Guerra, McAllen Mayor Jim Darling, State Representatives Sergio Munoz Jr. and Terry Canales, Col. (Ret.) Frank Plummer, U.S. Army Sgt. David Facundo (two time Afghanistan veteran), and Sergio Sanchez, of KURV. Channel 5’s Letty Garza served as emcee.
Guerra, whose bank spearheads the Valley’s OI campaign, took the opportunity to decry the problems with the Veterans Adminstration hospital system that have been in the news recently.
“There’s absolutely no excuse for it. We’ve known we’ve had issues with that agency for many, many years. Yet, our elected officials, cabinet members, the deputy secretary, have failed to fulfill their obligation…to fix this horrible problem,” he said.
“It is absolutely wrong what is happening in all these different hospitals. Guerra added. “Heads have to roll. Senior officials have to take personal responsibility – starting with our President, starting with the VA Secretary, starting with the Department of Defense – and they have to do the right thing. I say this because it angers me that our current government is so ineffective in so many areas.”
Sgt. Facundo, Col. (Ret.) Plummer and Mayor Darling all shared stories of their experiences of receiving care packages while serving in the military.
“I remember the first time I got a care package; it took five weeks for it to get to Afghanistan,” said Sgt. Facundo. “I opened it up and my sister had sent me all these Mexican candies.
“To get a care package when you are in a combat zone, it’s such a great experience,” he said. “For that brief moment, we’re not in a combat zone.”
The RGV campaign shipped 40,000 care packages last year and over 150,000 packages since the Valley campaign first began seven years ago, said Sergio Sanchez of KURV radio. Between now and July, OI is accepting donations of general care items and letters of support for the annual send-off to soldiers.
OI asks for the community’s support to drop off donations of supplies for the troops. Monetary donations are also accepted. Small travel size items such as toiletries (body lotion, hand sanitizer, baby wipes, chapstick, disposable razors, shampoo, soap, toothpaste, foot powder) and individually packaged/sealed food items (beef jerky, granola bars, gum, candy, cookies, nuts, seeds, trail mix, oatmeal-flat packs, snack crackers, fruit snacks, drink mixes) are the ideal items. Teachers can encourage their students to get involved by writing a letter of support to a soldier overseas. These letters will also be placed in each of the care packages.
A series of fundraising mixers will also be held where supplies and/or monetary donations can be made to help make this campaign possible. Operation Interdependence fundraising mixers are scheduled from 6-9 p.m. on Thursdays at the following locations: June 5, Santa Fe Steakhouse; June 12, Koko’s Café Uptown; June 19, Remington’s at Embassy Suites, and the Packing Party will be on Thursday, July 10 at the Salvation Army in McAllen.
Donation drop off locations include all IBC Bank branches across the Valley, including their in-store branch offices. Supporting the campaign by serving as donation drop off location is the Progress Times/Winter Texan Times, located at 1217 N. Conway, Mission. Other drop off locations include the Boys & Girls Club of McAllen, KURV News Talk Radio, KRGV Channel 5, McAllen Chamber of Commerce, H-E-B, Rio Grande Guardian, Texas Border Business, Santa Fe Steakhouse, Texas Regional Bank, Rio Grande Valley Partnership, Gym at Uptown and Tierra Dulce.
Operation Interdependence is a nationwide 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that provides a means for community members to support troops serving on the frontlines, military families and veterans.
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The Progress Times is the hometown newspaper for the local communities of Mission, Sharyland, Alton, Palmview, La Joya and surrounding areas in Western Hidalgo County. We have a staff of veteran reporters who work diligently every week to bring our readers the latest news as it affects their hometown area and people.