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Local VFW post to ship 15,000th package to the front lines
On Thursday, the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2995 for the greater Lake Washington area will assemble its 15,000th package, and on Friday will ship it overseas as part of its troop support program. The Lake Washington post serves Redmond and Kirkland.
Started nearly 10 years ago, the program helps deliver ordinary items, ranging from socks to razors, to troops through Joint Base Lewis-McChord, particularly those stationed in remote or isolated areas where supplies are limited. Although they delivered to Marines in Iraq, currently their packages are sent to Army Rangers in Afghanistan.
Veteran John Kenny started the program in 2004 when he felt frontline troops weren't getting practical items. Having fought during World War II in the Pacific, he said he learned to appreciate what few amenities they could find. Among his companions, for example, only one had nail clippers. While Kenny joked that he wanted more than anything else "to get the hell out of there," the program provides troops with ordinary items they are not issued.
"It's such a convenient way to support the troops," he said. "There's a lot of support in the community. It's really encouraging to see that."
Kenny said he eventually formed a partnership with Fred Meyer where they go three days a month for supplies. He also established contacts within the various troops they delivered to in order to find out what to purchase. Some of them, such as beef jerky, were obvious. Others, like beanie babies, came as a surprise until they learned that troops gave them out to Iraqi children, who would then reveal to them where bombs had been planted.
One Marine unit they delivered packages to was stationed in an isolated area, supplied only by helicopter. Their military supplies consisted mainly of water and ammunition. Now that U.S. military presence is winding down in Afghanistan, Kenny said they plan to look for other opportunities and recruit more volunteers to work with them.
"We have a motto," he said. "'We honor the dead by helping the living.' Our people do a great job doing it."
Post 2995 is located in Redmond on 148th Avenue Northeast.