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Longview doc plans care packages for service members stationed abroad

By Angela Ward
Nov. 9, 2011 at 11 p.m.

Dr. Jeannette Liu knows what it's like to be far from home in a hostile environment during the holidays.

Liu, a neurosurgeon at the Neurological Institute at Good Shepherd, is a veteran of the U.S. Air Force. She was stationed at a field hospital in Afghanistan during late 2008 and early 2009.

"When I was stationed there, it always brightened my day to get a package from home, regardless of whether it was from somebody I knew personally or not," Liu said. "I remember one of my friends sent me some Christmas ornaments and that really helped me handle being far away from family and friends."

So she is doing her part to make life brighter for U.S. service members stationed overseas this Thanksgiving. She's heading up a drive to ship care packages from Longview to Afghanistan.

The News-Journal is supporting the effort along with the Rotary Club of Longview, City of Longview and Good Shepherd Medical Center.

"Civilians don't understand what a big deal it is for airmen or soldiers to get a package from home," Liu said. "Opening packages is a communal event in the military. We always show off what we get and share it with other members of our unit."

In August, Liu sent a shipment of care packages to members of the U.S. Air Force at a base in Kandahar, Afghanistan. The second shipment is being timed to coincide with Thanksgiving, Liu said, because all Americans should be thankful to members of the military.

"I've got a friend, Capt. Agnes Yau, stationed there," she said. "She and the chaplain work together to make sure the packages are distributed to both patients at the hospitals and servicemen in the field."

While all service members are supplied with food and basic toiletries, the care packages can provide fancier versions and special treats that help make life in a remote place a bit easier to bear. More important than the individual items, Liu said, is the knowledge people back home are thinking about them and are concerned with their welfare.

"For women service members, especially, it's fun to get 'girly' stuff like scented soaps and lotions," she said. "And almost everybody appreciates fancy foods or Christmas decorations."

The care package effort snowballed from Liu's original intent, which was just to have her co-workers at the Neurological Institute help her put together a few packages for her friends in the service. In August, they sent 107 packages. This shipment will include many times that number.

"I've just been astounded at the generosity of people in Longview," Liu said. "This is the first time in my life I've ever lived in a relatively small town, and I'm amazed at how supportive people here are of one another's projects."

Some suggested donation items are hard candy, fancy coffees, pre-popped popcorn and other non-perishable foods; scented soaps and lotions, lip balm and other toiletries, non-breakable holiday decorations, recent magazines, playing cards, board games and blank postcards and Christmas cards.

"One thing that's really been a challenge is paying for the postage," Liu said. "So, while we appreciate any and all donations, we're especially seeking financial help to pay to get these packages shipped over there in time for Thanksgiving."

Checks for the postage should be made payable to The Neurological Institute at Good Shepherd. Items for the packages, or completed packages in unsealed, large USPS flat-rate boxes, can be dropped off at the the institute, 701 E. Marshall Ave., Suite 400.

All donations must be received by noon Nov. 18. For information, call (903) 315-4764.



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