Valley women work to thank those serving overseas

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NORTH BEND - When Sgt. Lawrence Chartier of the Army's 101st Airborne heard he was being deployed to the Middle East earlier this year, he called his sister-in-law in North Bend and asked for one thing. Cookies.

That sister-in-law, Christine Chartier, is hoping to send a lot more than cookies with the help of two other Valley women who believe the best way to support a soldier is to give them some of the things we take for granted here at home.

"I knew I could do this," she said. "But I couldn't do it without help."

The idea came to Chartier after she agreed to send along her culinary kindness to her brother-in-law. As the war in Iraq began and Chartier learned how the soldiers were living, she knew they could use a lot more than her cookies. Husband Christopher had served in the Gulf War in 1990-1991 in the Army's Third Armored Division and told her stories of the heat and sand storms.

The death of Bob Hope in July and the lack of USO (United Service Organizations) entertainment for troops also affected Chartier's sense that there was not enough support for the soldiers stemming from home. What Chartier saw as an initial backing for the soldiers and what they were doing at the beginning of the war started to wane.

"I was thinking of how dangerous it was over there and them sleeping in the desert," she said. "It just really bothered me."

While shopping at the QFC in North Bend, Chartier's frustration got the best of her. She walked up to QFC employee Theresa Griboski and asked if there was anything she could get at the store and send easily overseas.

"She was almost in tears," Griboski said. "When she started telling me more, we were almost in tears."

Griboski liked the idea of sending something to the troops and offered to help. Chartier's friend, Jennifer Parkins, also was intrigued and the trio sat down to work out a plan - which they dubbed Operation: Thank-A-GI - of how they could get more people involved in putting together care packages made up of the simple things that mean a lot in the desert. Small, non-essential items can go a long way with troops whose every possession is based on absolute need.

"They get rations, but that's the thing, everything is 'rationed,'" Parkins said. "They can't just go to the store and get some hot cocoa. They get one packet."

Because it takes such a small effort to support a soldier, the group believes everyone in the Valley can help. They are asking for little things like candy, nuts, instant drink mix, toiletry items, travel games and reading materials. More expensive items like batteries, music cassettes and compact discs are also in demand. Anything and everything is needed for what the women believe is a very deserving group.

For the complete story, pick up a copy of this week's Valley Record

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