By Margie Wuebker
Helen "Butch" Jacobs looks through a thick packet of letters from Iraq, Kosovo and Kuwait. The messages -- some written in ink and others printed in pencil -- share a common theme.
"Knowing we have support from back home makes everything we do here easier" is the message shared by an area soldier stationed with the Multi-National Corps in Baghdad.
In neat printing, a sergeant proclaims "We all love to hear that people in the USA are supporting us. We are doing great things over here."
"Mail is one of the only things we have to look forward to. That and coming home. ... We do what we have to do, hoping younger generations don't have to."
Jacobs and nine area residents have started a support group to ensure military personnel and their families here in Mercer County know people still care. Other committee members include Nick and Carol Kahlig, Don and Betsy Eischen, Dan and Nancy Hart, Jerry Buschor, Larry Reichley and Mike Bettinger.
"The support group meets every other month at the Spiritual Center in Maria Stein," the Coldwater woman says. "One of these days we need to come up with a name."
The first meeting took place April 6 and the second on June 12 drew 40 people. U.S. Navy Petty Officer Don Livingston talked about the challenges men and women in the Armed Forces face.
"They all face difficulties of some kind, but those serving in Iraq have camel spiders as large as the palm of their hand, desert rats, temperatures soaring above 140 degrees in the summer and sand as far as the eye can see."
One serviceman, who grew tired of living in the giant sand box, begged his wife to send honest-to-goodness U.S. dirt and grass seed. He spread the dirt and planted seeds near his living quarters so he could smell the sweet aroma and feel grass grow beneath his feet. Photographs confirm the success of the project as he manicures the small patch with a scissors.
A guest speaker from Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton will be on hand for the next support group meeting to be held Aug. 21 from 7-9 p.m. at the Spiritual Center. Organizers hope for a large turnout and those coming for support are asked to bring a picture and information about their loved one.
"The evening is open to all," Jacobs says. "If you do not have a family member in the military, come and support those who do."
Committee members are actively charting a course of future programs and projects. Many already correspond with military personnel using lists that have seen numerous additions in past months. Being able to cross off the name of a soldier who has returned home safely is always a cause for jubilation.
"I hate the war just as much as the next person, but our people are there now and Lord knows they need out support," Jacobs says. "Writing a letter, sending a card, saying a prayer or putting together a care package is the least we can do for our brave heroes."
Anyone needing additional information about the support group should call her at (419) 678-4942.