A little bit of home sent to troops in Iraq | RecordCourier.com

A little bit of home sent to troops in Iraq

by Jo Rafferty

On Monday, 119 boxes of gifts collected by employees of Northwest Martial Arts and The Record-Courier were shipped, heading for troops in the far reaches of Iraq.

1st Sgt. Dana Boucher, who served in Desert Storm, trained the new soldiers before they headed into what would have otherwise been the unknown. He and other reservists in the 1st Squadron 220 1st Cavalry of the Nevada National Guard, spent 23 months at Fort Irwin, Calif., preparing soldiers for situations they may encounter. The gifts, he said, make a world of difference.

“It makes a huge difference,” said Boucher. “It’s huge for morale. It allows them to stay in touch with their families. They know that people back home care about them.

“Nerf balls, Frisbees, the down time they have is really down. It’s complete boredom. (Getting gifts) allows you a touch of a sense of normalcy.”

After the two-year training period, the reservists were given the option of serving in the war in Iraq. Several joined up and are now in a convoy security group that drives to remote locations to deliver to soldiers and Marines who are living in the most extreme conditions. These are the troops who will receive a majority of the packages, according to Boucher.

“They deliver supplies to soldiers and Marines who are in the middle of nowhere, who will not have the opportunity to go to the PX (on base store) for two or three weeks,” said Boucher. “They really, really need it.”

While in Fort Irwin, Boucher and his comrades played the parts of terrorists and insurgents in order to prepare the soldiers for Iraq.

“We were the opposing force,” said Boucher. “We would dress in local garb, wear the traditional Arab clothing. We had full beards and a lot of us learned how to speak Arabic. Each unit had a script.”

The whole time they spent training the soldiers, Boucher said, they received constant updates on new war tactics being used overseas.

“This gave everybody a really good perspective of what’s going on over there,” he said. “We haven’t lost any soldiers from our unit since they got there in August.”

Boucher found out about the collection of gifts through Northwest Martial Arts instructor Brandi Gibson, whom his daughter was taking a tai kwan do class with.

Gibson headed a similar effort two years ago while working at The Record-Courier, and said the generosity of the community was just as impressive this year even though she spent half as much time advertising the effort this year.

Many businesses and individuals brought Christmas gifts to the donation sites. Other than NWMA and The R-C, which sponsored the drive, Meneley and Minden elementary schools and Belle’s Boutique also accepted the items. The Carson Valley Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 8583 and Century 21 Clark Properties both helped with the shipping costs.

“Once again, the community is just amazing,” said Gibson.

n Jo Rafferty can be reached at jrafferty@recordcourier.com or 782-5121, ext. 210.