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Minnesota National Guard
Sweet people packing sweet cookies

BASRA, IRAQ - Mention "Sweet Martha's Cookie Jar" around a native Minnesotan in Iraq, and you're almost guaranteed a glazed-eyed expression and rambling murmurs of longing Say "10,000 cookies" right after, and you might need to find them a chair

Yet, that's the number of cookies volunteers from several charitable and patriotic organizations - and many Sweet Martha's employees - gathered Dec 19 to pack-up and send to troops deployed to Operation Iraqi Freedom with the Minnesota National Guard's 34th Infantry Division

As part of the event, Soldiers at Contingency Operating Base Basra hopped on Skype and got a chance to ogle the buckets as they were being prepared

Volunteers from all over participated on the Minnesota side; Cadets from St Thomas Academy, Mendota Heights, Minn, where the event was held, pitched in and even added notes to each package for the Soldiers

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Members of the Minnesota Patriot Guard, the Minnesota-based arm of the Patriot Guard Riders who attend funerals of service members, shared table space with Blue Star Moms, a service organization of military mothers They were joined by local members of the Vietnams Veterans Association and local exchange clubs

Even Minnesota Timberwolves board member Bill Popp showed up to support the troops and say a few words over Skype

Spc LaFena Washington, 34th Inf Div Human Resources Specialist from Minnetonka, Minn, said she was especially touched by the singing and guitar playing of Joshua Revak, himself a veteran of recent conflicts

Revak serenaded several of the Soldiers over Skype, and spent a considerable amount of time at the Skype terminal chatting with and singing to them

It was the first time Washington had ever used Skype, she said, and that Saturday night, if not for a friend encouraging her to come participate, would have otherwise been a movie and popcorn night

"I'm so glad I did this," she said after passing the headset on to the next Soldier "It was worth missing movie night"

"The fact they had a veteran playing for us really stood out," she said, "and that people took time out to come over and talk to us I was really impressed"

Staff Sgt Paul Gudding, 34th Inf Div Personnel Noncommissioned Officer, followed Washington

"It was just nice to see that a bunch of people got on," said the Moorhead, Minn native "It was a little hometown experience"

Brad Walton, Event Organizer, said the event carried on a tradition started in 2006 when a Marine returning soon to Iraq called in to WCCO, Minneapolis radio show  When Walton asked him what he could do to help the troops, the Marine simply replied, "Chocolate chip cookies"

Walton immediately thought of Sweet Martha's Cookie Jar, and owner Martha Rossini-Olson jumped at the idea, Walton said

That first batch saw 10,000 cookies heading out to the troops, and now another 10,000 are shipping overseas

"About a month ago as I thought of you and the Red Bulls and all the troops, I reflected back to 2006 and the cookies for the troops," Walton wrote in an email to Chaplain (Lt. Col.) John Morris, 34th Inf Div Chaplain, in early December  "I called Martha Rossini of Sweet Martha fame and asked her if she was once again up for doing what we did with the Blue Star Moms and all back in 2006"

Of course, her enthusiasm for the idea was as great in 2009 as in 2006

They would even throw in an added bonus, Walton noted in the e-mail: milk  Gudding was happy at the idea of the milk when volunteers showed it off to him over Skype

"It'll be nice to have some real milk," he said

In the end, it comes down to basic gratitude, on both ends

"We are all so indebted to all of you for your service," Walton, said, with Rossini-Olson nodding agreement next to him  "It's just our way of saying thank you"

On the other end, once those cookies have reached the troops, the volunteers and organizers are sure to have that thank you returned to them, perhaps not 10,000 times in word, but certainly in 10,000 moments of enjoyment    

By Sgt Benjamin R Kibbey
Dec 24, 2009

Article source: http://www.theredbulls.org/article00529



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