New Orleans Workers Reach Out to Troops

The Associated Press
Sunday, December 2, 2007; 12:25 AM

NEW ORLEANS -- Michael McDow's been on the receiving end: As part of a combat team in Iraq, he received care packages and treasured them in a way many people couldn't imagine, simply because they were from home.

He said he's since retired from the Army, but he remembers how the calls and mail from home help "preserve your sanity," as he put it.

"It's pretty indescribable, the feeling you get when you get contact from home, regardless of what it is or who it's from, because it helps bring you back home," he said Saturday as he joined other Lockheed Martin employees preparing 10,000 bundles as part of Operation USO Care Package.

Filled with toilet paper, lip balm, snacks, gum, drink mix, phone cards and other items, the packages are headed for troops deploying to or already in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Ron Wise, director of the USO program, said its goal is to send about 50,000 packages to troops in time for the holidays. Another packaging party, similar to the music-filled one held at NASA's Michoud Assembly Facility on the east side of New Orleans, was planned early next week in St. Louis.

About 60 percent of the packages will go directly overseas, he said. The rest will be distributed by USO affiliates in the United States to troops at deployment.

Wise said he was "absolutely blown away" by the support shown in New Orleans, given that some on the care-package assembly line are still recovering from Hurricane Katrina. McDow, for example, returned from Iraq in September 2005 to find his family's home in St. Bernard Parish gone.

"They've forgotten about themselves and taken time to support the troops," Wise said.

Katherine Boyea said she was glad to donate her time. Her niece, Shannon Innerarity, was recently deployed to Iraq, and after the outpouring of support shown to this region after Katrina, "now, we can give back a little," she said.

© 2007 The Associated Press