MARYSVILLE — During his time in Afghanistan, U.S. Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Anthony Juarez’s job meant the difference between life and death for any number of his fellow American service members, so it might seem strange that gifts as simple as toiletries or junk food could have meant so much to him.
But as a hospital corpsman serving as part of a multinational medical unit, Juarez absolutely cherished the care packages of creature comforts from home that he received out in the field, so much so that even before his deployment wrapped up last September he was wondering how he could pay it forward for the troops whom he’d be leaving behind.
“I spent three months providing urgent medical care to American soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines in the field,” Juarez told the more than two dozen volunteers who had assembled at the Marysville American Legion Post 178 Hall on the afternoon of Thursday, March 28. “Those wounded were coming to us less than five minutes from the battlefield.”
Just as Juarez had treated their injuries as best he could in person, so too did he decide to partner with members of the Turning Point Church in Marysville to launch “Operation Desert Comfort” last October, barely a month after he’d gotten back home. While its initial goal had been to collect hygiene supplies and snacks to fill no more than five boxes, he wound up amassing enough donations to put together 14 care packages, all of whose shipping costs were covered by donations of funds as well.
On March 28, 25 volunteers of all ages sorted through literal piles of toothbrushes and toothpaste, deodorant sticks, hand- and feet-warmers, phone calling cards, packets of macaroni and cheese, pre-packaged cookies and crackers, popcorn and other goodies that can be scarce for military members serving overseas, and from those donations the volunteers assembled 25 care packages that Juarez pledged would be sent to four different units in Afghanistan, including the medical unit with which he had served.
“Everything inside these boxes shows those troops how much you love and support them,” Juarez said. “Our troops are facing some rough days ahead, where they can’t necessarily expect that they’ll even get cold meals in the field, let alone hot ones.”
Juarez echoed the parents of service members who were sorting out supplies for each box, when they pointed out that the contents of a care package that’s sent to one soldier, sailor, airman or Marine are almost always shared with their comrades-in-arms.
“I know the significance of these boxes and the happiness they can bring, from making you feel like you’re getting special treatment,” Juarez said.
Donors can make their checks payable to Turning Point Church “Operation Desert Comfort,” and Juarez may be reached by phone at 661-246-5846, or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, for more information.