Christmas coping

Hometown gifts ease holiday homesickness for overseas veterans

— Craig resident Deb Dunaway's favorite Christmas present didn't come in wrapping paper and wasn't found under the tree. Instead, it was an e-mail - sent from a far away land - found on her computer after that morning's festivities died down.

The e-mail was from her son, 23-year-old Jordan Ferrell, a 2002 Moffat County High School graduate and Army communications specialist serving in Jalalabad, Afghanistan.

"Hello, everyone," Jordan wrote. "Let me start by saying thank you all so much for all the gifts. You have no idea how much of an impact you have made in our lives.

"There were some people that were having a lot of trouble coping with the holidays, including myself. : When you have nothing but time, it is hard not to think about things like that. : Thanks to all of your efforts I am sure that for the most part we are all going to pull ourselves out of this rut."

Dunaway, her family and the Independent Life Center joined in a project to send care packages to Ferrell and the 19 other veterans serving in his 2nd Platoon 173rd STB. The combined effort to send packages to the platoon, which is in Afghanistan on a 15-month tour, began in September.

All told, 22 Christmas stockings plus gifts were sent to Afghanistan.

"Christmas morning was the first time I'd heard from him since Thanksgiving," said Dunaway, an ILC coordinator for 2.5 years who works with low-vision seniors. "He can't say much because it's mostly classified."

Dunaway said she and her family have been sending care packages overseas for a while now. The ILC, a nonprofit group that assists people with disabilities, joined the effort this year as a way to continue its ongoing mission, she said.

"We wanted to get a little bit more of a global interest and expand our horizons," Dunaway said. "What we do is help people."

Ferrell joined the Army as a 17-year-old, shortly after graduation.

"He joined to save me having to pay tuition," his mother said. "Sweet of him, wasn't it?"

He has also served tours in Iraq.

Dunaway said her son and his platoon mates believe in U.S. operations in the Middle East.

"They all tell me the people are really wonderful and love them and there is no way those people would have a chance at a normal life without (the soldiers)," she said.

Ferrell, whom his mother calls "an extreme sports kind of guy," said time goes by slowly in Afghanistan.

"He says it's boring most of the time," Dunaway said. "I tell him that's just too bad."

Dunaway said her family and the ILC would continue the care package project as long as they have to. When asked how long that could be, she said, simply, "until they come home."

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