Sunday, August 15, 2004
Shoppers pick up gifts for guardsmen
Supporters of Charlie Company also sold items to raise money for gifts for the soldiers.
After all, little will keep some people away from a Wal-Mart on a weekend afternoon. So they set up shop Saturday morning at the store on U.S. 460 and sold T-shirts, magnets and pins to raise money for Charlie Company and other members of the Virginia Army National Guard's 3rd Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, 29th Division.
Shoppers also filled the coffers with goods - snacks, candy, mystery and romance novels - that the women plan to pack and send Saturday.
Wait a minute. What's up with infantrymen and romance novels?
"They're all men. We can't send them porno," said Christy Black of Natural Bridge. "Why not romance novels?"
Black, whose husband, Staff Sgt. James Black, remains stateside with the company, said that almost everyone who walked in the rain to their tarp-covered station Saturday was nice and supportive.
Sam Boone walked up and asked what the soldiers needed, then told the women he would go inside to buy snacks for them.
"If I were over there, I'd want some nuts," said Boone, of Bedford.
The women had some cards and pens available so people could send notes to the troops.
Boone grabbed some to give his children, who were already inside, so they could write to the soldiers in Charlie Company, also known as Company C.
Sue Head of Bedford dropped off some treats and books.
"These nice people are over there doing what they're doing so I can watch NASCAR," she said. "My heart goes out to them and their families."
Steve Maddy of Rocky Mount had a pickup truck load of boxes for the women to send. Maddy said he was a member of the company from 1988 to 1994.
When he learned the group was taking donations, he contacted his fellow Rocky Mount police officers and the town's Wal-Mart and collected such items as razors, baby wipes, hand sanitizer, Q-Tips, candy, horseshoes, footballs and a checkerboard.
Not everyone was so helpful. The women said one man walked up and handed them a fake dollar - with a photo of George Bush where George Washington would be, and "9-11" where the "one" would be. The dollar also listed several Web sites that claim the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks were a hoax. In a finger-pointing harangue, he told the women that both Bush and presidential contender John Kerry worship the devil.
They were glad to see him go inside the store and relieved when he left through the door farthest from them. But they notified a manager after he began talking to some women raising money for a nursing home.
"You can say what you want," Black said as the man talked to the women by the other door. "Just don't be so rude about it."
Black and the rest of the group will be at the store again today.
Janine Fowler, who helps lead the support group, said the soldiers still need a lot of things - beef jerky, sunflower seeds, crackers, cookies, toothpaste, soap, deodorant, lip balm, sunscreen, books, magazines, compact discs, DVDs, cigarettes.
They don't need razors or shampoo, said Fowler, whose husband, Dan, is a sergeant.
By early afternoon, Fowler said, her group packed up once the rain became too intense.
In Covington, Stephanie Nelson and another support group were hoping the rain would stay away while they collected money at Covington's Street Scene event.
Nelson, whose husband, C.B. Nelson, is a staff sergeant, said the Clifton Forge Guard Support Group had raised about $800 by 2 p.m. to help put together care packages.
Nelson and Fowler said their groups appreciated the generosity they saw Saturday.
"They are very giving and very supporting" Nelson said, "and are just wanting to reach out and do whatever they can for these guys."