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Operation Shoebox gets off on a good foot

Story by Nick Stubbs
Thunderbolt staff writer

To the casual observer it might have appeared the crew was loading the KC-135 bound for Southeast Asia with hundreds of pairs of shoes. But in this case you can't judge a shoebox by its cover.

The boxes were part of an airlift of care packages put together by Operation Shoebox, a program started recently by the Tampa mother of a deployed Marine who wanted to "do something" for the troops. Inside the boxes were toothbrushes, candy, sunscreen, baby wipes and other goodies destined for MacDill servicemembers overseas. While far from treasures, these "comfort" items can be heaven sent, according to Master Sgt. Sharon O'Connor, 6th Maintenance Squadron, who helped load the plane.

"Anytime you get a package from home it's like Christmas or your birthday," said Sergeant O'Connor, who spent three months overseas herself last year. "I'm not saying everyone will use every item in them (the boxes) but it does warm your heart to get them."

Sergeant O'Connor said Operation Shoebox, which is on the web at www.operationshoebox.us, was started by Peggy Chiasson. The items in the boxes were donated by businesses and individuals for distribution to all branches of the military, including Air Force servicemembers from MacDill.

The program has met with wide support and quickly spread throughout the country, said Sergeant O'Connor. The load of boxes that left MacDill last week also included packages from families to deployed servicemembers. If all went according to plan, the packages have been distributed by the time this story appears, said Sergeant O'Connor





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