Muskego - High school senior Megan Curley tucked bundles of beef jerky and Christmas sweets into care packages, as if her own father were to receive them. Her dad, Patrick Curley, was serving at the American airbase in Bahrain this time last year.
These care packages will be in the hands of other military fathers and mothers in Afghanistan and Bahrain in time for Christmas.
Megan and a brigade of fellow National Business Honor Society students at Muskego High packed up 31 care packages, acting as living examples of how Christmas is not only a time for joy but a time for looking after one another.
Megan said, "Hopefully, they will know that everyone back home is thinking about them and caring about them."
What it's like
Her dad knows what it's like to get packages from home. He got a lot of them in his year at the American airbase in Bahrain.
In a dangerous place a world away from home, he said, "It's very heartwarming to get packages."
Sending packages to soldiers to tell them we appreciate them is a little like send Christmas cards to friends and family. But even a big Christmas card list doesn't have a tab of nearly $500. That's about what it cost to ship the Christmas care packages to the Middle East. Each package cost a bit more than $16, by way of UPS.
To raise cash for shipping, the Muskego brigade had to show some moxey. They fanned out, knocking on the doors of local businesses to ask the owners and bosses for money.
Megan remembers that was hard for her the first time she did it as a freshman raising money for another school-related cause.
"You have to talk to somebody you don't know and ask for money," she said. And the fact that they were authority figures was intimating, she said.
However, she and the others found generosity behind those scary office doors.
Whether the student body would rise up and support care package for troops was another matter. It didn't look good, at first.
Despite the students' advertising and sounding the charge for the project, "People weren't talking about it," Megan said. "I was kind of scared."
Was their offensive going to fizzle?
Relief and joy came at the end of the collection week when donation boxes gathered in from participating classrooms and student activities and services offices were brimming with gifts for the troops. They were over the top of the 30-boxes they had hoped for.
Inside the donation boxes were mountains of sunflower seeds, chocolate, licorice, peanuts, Tootsie Roll Pops and beef jerky. The kids and staff donated off a list of suggested items.
"Beef jerky and chocolate are very, very popular over there, and sunflower seeds," Curley remembered.
There was shaving cream and a lot of deodorant, too.
These are all things that the servicemen and women can purchase on base, "But there is something about care packages from home. It has a different meaning to it," Curley said. "You can buy things for yourself, but to to get something out of the blue, they appreciate that much more."
In his last tour, his second to the Middle East, Curley received no fewer than a dozen care packages from a church in Madison and from a Vietnam veterans post.
"I had no idea they were coming," and he had never heard of the church or the veterans post, he said. But he will never forget the goodness of receiving their kind remembrances, the 21-year naval veteran said.
Many of those care packages contained letters from children. Those were his favorites.
"It was precious to read what the kids said," the father of two remembered. The tough naval officer admits to even getting a little choked up when he read messages from youngsters like "be safe" and "thanks for doing what you are doing to serve our country."
Letters from heart
There will be letters in Muskego's care packages, too. Some of the kids just wrote on their own, others wrote as a class assignment.
"I read some of them and they're really nice," Megan said. She remembers one in particular that recognized that sacrifices involve not only being in a dangerous place but of being away from loved ones, she said.
In his year at the American airfield in Bahrain, Curley also received care packages from friends, family fellow volunteers at the Tess Corners Volunteer Fire Department and neighbors.
Friends at work shot him over a grab bag of things as a joke.
"They were odd things and I was laughing so hard, tears were running down my face," Curley said.
The neighbors' package was near Christmas and it included a "dancing Christmas tree." Megan said her dad put it up in his small room, making him one of very few to have a Christmas tree in Bahrain.
The meticulous job of organizing and packing each box so each soldier, sailor, Marine or airman has about the same goodies was a challenge. But Megan worked her way through, as the daughter of the naval officer who ran the supply depot at the Bahrain airbase, commanding a crew of 15 sailors who made sure naval operations had everything they needed.
"I've been on three deployments and have not been on a ship once," Curley joked.
Packing over, the brigade had money left over. They debated whether to buy more things to fill as many as 10 more boxes, but opted instead to include iTune cards, so the troopers can download music.
"Then they can have music with them," she said.
The care packages were mailed last Thursday, Dec. 8. They should arrive in seven to nine days, Curley said. They are destined for servicemen Curley knows who will distribute them to others in their units.
The care packages will be a little like Christmas presents, Megan said, offering some of the sweetness of Christmas and home.