1/16/2013 10:17:00 AM Retired soldier shares impact of local Legion's 'Something from Home'
Retired Sgt. Allan Jellum, left, shown here in Kandahar, Afghanistan, being given the oath of re-enlistment by Lt. Col. Mike Deger, 1st Brigade’s Senior Mentor on April 1, 2008.
By Allan Jellum CSM (RTD)
I was deployed to Afghanistan in June 2006. My assignment here was as an Embedded Training Team instructor for the Afghan National Army.
My duty was to teach my counterpart, an Afghan command sergeant major, the operational procedures of the U.S. Army. Working side by side with the ANA, our teams were located in various locations throughout Regional Command-South, the most dynamic fighting area in Afghanistan. We were in the Kandahar region, the heartland of the Taliban. Due to the dynamics of the region, our soldiers were unable to obtain personal supplies from the PX. This is why we are so grateful to American Legion 122.
In 2003-2004 I was deployed to Kosovo as the Area Support Group Command Sergeant Major. While there, one of my duties involved soldier morale. I got to know the manager of the MWR facility, Renee Favors, who "introduced" me to groups of patriotic Americans in the States wanting to help our soldiers. I remembered this when I arrived in Afghanistan and contacted Renee again to see if she knew of any organizations that might be interested in helping our soldiers in Kandahar.
Within a few weeks boxes started to arrive, with American Legion 122 being among the first to respond. Since September 2006, American Legion 122 has sent hundreds of boxes to our soldiers. These boxes have contained much needed items like toiletries, toothbrushes and toothpaste, soap, shampoo, and deodorant. They also contained "necessities" such as candy bars, chips, hot chocolate packets, gum, canned food, and other goodies.
Legion Post 122 Cmdr. Ron Johnson would send an advance email letting me know how many boxes were on the way and I'd reply when we received them.
Ron would also ask what the soldiers would most like or use. If I gave him a list of items, I knew they would arrive in the next shipment. One time I mentioned that the PX had no toothbrushes or toothpaste. I received several boxes filled with these items within a couple weeks. It was that way no matter what I requested. I just knew the Legion would respond for our troops.
Although these items were needed, more important was the huge boost to soldier morale when they arrived. These boxes made being away from home a little easier. They gave us a better life with the items we received. They made Afghanistan more tolerable.
Each day soldiers would stop by my office on some type of made-up mission. What they were actually doing was checking to see if any boxes arrived which they could take to their teams. When I would send out the message that the Legion had sent more boxes, they were like little kids on Christmas morning.
Veteran soldiers, some on their second or third tour, acted like children checking out the boxes to see which they wanted to take to their teams. As a new month arrived, or a holiday was coming up, I had soldiers from all over my command contacting me to see when the best time would be for them to come and get a "Legion" box.
In August 2008 my deployment was over and I left Afghanistan. I came back as a contractor in October 2008 working with the U.S. Military. Within a month I was again receiving boxes from American Legion 122. As many of the soldiers still knew me, they continually visited my office, anxiously waiting for boxes to arrive. I felt like Santa Claus giving out goodies.
Words cannot begin to describe the looks on the faces of the soldiers as they picked up a box of goodies. Words cannot depict the feeling of gratitude from each soldier when they received this token of appreciation for their service. They cannot portray the amazement many soldiers expressed when they learned there are people in the states who thought of them enough to sacrifice time and money to send a box, and had been doing so for almost seven years.
These are memories I, and each soldier I served with, will keep forever.
I have learned that there are only 41 members in American Legion 122. Yet these patriots have sent more than 4,173 boxes to our troops since 2006. These men and women have worked diligently and conscientiously on our behalf.
To the soldiers in Afghanistan, American Legion Post 122 members are our heroes.