Web of support

Army Reserve Sgt. Chris Missick wants to meet the kind people who sent him Starbucks coffee, peanut butter and jelly, suntan lotion and books.

Strangers who made life a little more comfortable for him and the 319th Signal Battalion with their words of support and their care packages while they served America in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

People who he met in cyberspace while writing on his blog www.missick.com.

People like P.J. Degross of Carson City, who wanted to support the troops in a way she could feel.

After more than a year of writing to each other, the two will meet for the first time Sunday as Sgt. Missick begins a 21-stop, cross-country tour starting in Carson City to meet face-to-face with the people who supported him while he was on the battlefield.

"I want to personally thank them," he said. "The kindness of all those people almost blows my mind."

For Sgt. Missick, what started as a simple blog turned into something bigger than he ever imagined.

For Degross, Sgt. Missick has become like a son.

Their story began in 2004, two weeks before Memorial Day.

Degross was frustrated. "I hadn't heard of anything going on in town to support the troops," she says. "So I had to create it."

She had a pair of 3-by-15 feet banners made and had people sign messages for the soldiers at a booth during the Carson City Rendezvous.

"The banners were completely covered with messages of support," says Degross. "There was no room left."

"Children inked their palms and left hand prints for their deployed fathers."

"It was all so touching," she says.

Degross also used the opportunity to raise money to buy supplies and send care packages - the first step to what would soon become a virtual one-woman airlift of goodies for the troops.

But where to send them?

After surfing around the Web, she found Sgt. Missick's blog and read some of his entries.

"He's just a kid, but he's so sweet, nice and intelligent," she says fondly.

Sgt. Missick said he was surprised when he got the two banners from Northern Nevada.

He hung one up at a camp near the Iraqi-Kuwait border.

"It really did help," he said. "Knowing how much people back home are thinking about us. Sometimes the guys would go over to it and reflect and read some of the messages."

After that, Degross pretty much adopted Sgt. Missick and his battalion as her own.

"I'd worry if I hadn't heard from him for a few days," she admits. "It's stressful. War can become just a piece of a newscast until you've got a loved one fighting in it."

Now that Sgt. Missick is back, the Huntington Beach, Calif., native will be traveling around the country with army buddy Spec. Ryan Albaugh and fraternity brother Kyle Rodgers.

The trio plans to document their journey of thanks and has been in touch with NPR about doing a segment for their "Road Diaries" program.

Degross says she's invited state and local dignitaries and encourages the public to come out for the free event to meet Sgt. Missick and do their part for the war.

It's also a fund-raiser for more care packages.

"I've just adopted a new battalion," says Degross.

The 150th Combat Engineers.

"All 500 of them," she says, already planning her next trip to the post office.

n Contact reporter Peter Thompson at pthompson@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1215.

If you go

What: Sgt. Chris Missick's cross-country "Web of Support" tour

Where: Casino Fandango banquet hall

When: 6 p.m.-8 p.m. Sunday

Cost: Free


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