Compassion Trumps Politics

Marin resident and Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey is a passionate opponent of the Iraq war, but when it comes to supporting the men and women on the front lines it’s a different story. “As a nation we are indebted to every American who has worn the uniform, and we must honor their service and sacrifice,” she says. “It’s important that the troops serving in Iraq, and elsewhere, know that while most of us don’t support the President’s policy in Iraq, we will always stand beside them and they have our full support. That’s why I think making an organized effort to provide comfort to our troops serving in Iraq is a great idea.”

In Marin, several individuals are doing just that. Motivated not by politics but by compassion, they’re mobilizing money and resources to send America’s fighting men and women tangible forms of support, especially during this holiday season.

Only a few months ago, San Rafael photographer Klaus Larsen was offered an assignment in Iraq and found himself surfing the web for information about the region. He came across a web diary by 25-year-old Sergeant Edward Watson of the 82nd Airborne Division—the same division that parachuted behind enemy lines on D-Day.

As Larsen began reading the soldier’s blog, he learned that coincidentally they were both reading the same book, Militant Muslim Combat Methods — “just some light reading,” Larsen jokes. He soon wrote to Watson, recommending other books on the same subject. After a few more e-mails, Larsen mailed a small care package, which got him thinking.

“He was very grateful, and I realized that if I could send one, why not dozens, or hundreds?” With this notion, the Marin native created the nonprofit Adopt the 82nd, whose mission is to send care packages to troops overseas. Not only are such parcels greatly appreciated, but mail in general is definitely something the soldiers look forward to. Though Larsen operates on a shoestring budget (the group is currently looking for corporate sponsorship), he’s hoping to start mailing parcels amply stocked with food and personal care items to the 82nd Airborne. “I figure that regardless of our political views, we can all get behind the idea of helping out our brothers and sisters in harm’s way.”

Back in 2003, Marin resident Thomas Burford, a veteran himself, created Operation Triple H (Helping our Heroes from Home). To date, the group, with logistical help from Marin Rod and Gun Club and American Storage, has shipped nearly two tons of care packages to the United States Army’s Rest and Recuperation Center in Qatar, in southwest Asia.

Over 450 soldiers are seen at the center each day, and Burford says sometimes they’ve been evacuated from duty so fast they come in with only the clothes on their backs. Hence he sends food, clothing, playing cards, books, personal hygiene items such as toothpaste and deodorant and more.

Both groups could use monetary support to keep moving those packages overseas. To donate, go to adoptthe82nd.com or contact Burford at marinbackroads@msn.com.