Local teen reminds troops of home | VailDaily.com

Local teen reminds troops of home

Melanie Wong
Vail, CO Colroado
Dominique Taylor/Vail DailyJohn Cummins, right, gives Jeremy Windham money for postage and other goods to help send care packages to troops in Iraq.

EAGLE-VAIL ” When Battle Mountian High School senior Jeremy Windham started his Eagle Scout project, he did not know just how big of an operation it would be.

The 17-year-old planned to send care packages to an army brigade in Iraq by asking for donations through the newspaper, TV and via e-mails to family and friends.

The response was overwhelming, he said, standing amidst boxes of donated food, toiletries, t-shirts, CDs and books.

“The first couple of weeks it was just a box of stuff in the corner of the garage. In a few more weeks it just grew until it filled the garage, and then the living room,” he said.

Windham has spent weeks collecting the donations after setting up drop boxes in Avon, Edwards and Eagle. Then he, his parents, Jim and Janet, and his friends started boxing up almost 100 packages, which he will ship out on Monday.

Windham, a member of Vail Troop 231, said he wanted to do something different for his Eagle Scout project. The project is usually a community service project, such as building a playground or grooming a hiking trail, that requires three to six months of work and requires significant planning and leadership.

He said he heard about another scout doing a similar project in Grand Junction. Through his football coach, Jason Sedlak, who served in Iraq from 2003 to 2004, he got in touch with a major whose unit still had almost six months left in their mission.

“I know a lot of people with family members in Iraq. They say how much it helps and how they like getting stuff from home. I’d just like to support that,” he said.

The family was motivated to help when they heard that troops, when not fighting, generally had to stay in a compound for most of their missions, said Jim Windham, Jeremy’s father.

“It’s almost like they’re in prison for two years, and that really struck us. That’s when Jeremy said, ‘That’s gotta be what I do.'”

Sedlak, who has had his team write letters to troops before, said that one of the biggest struggles soldiers face is boredom and isolation.

“Anytime you get anything in the mail, it feels good to get something from home. You’re out there for so long without a hug or eye contact with people you care about at home,” he said.

Some of the most requested items from troops were simple things such as chapstick and peanut butter, Jeremy Windham said.

Although he does not personally know the soldiers in the unit, he said he was encouraged to continue the project when he heard from Maj. John Crean, a member of the brigade.

“Thanks for thinking of us here,” Crean wrote via e-mail. “As you know it is painfully hot here and we are generally mortared, bombed, and shot at on a daily basis. Anytime we receive correspondence from the homefront, it is welcome and reminds us of why we do these things.”

Jeremy Windham said the overflow of donations filling his entire house shows the generosity of the community. People have also donated money for postage, which will cost almost $2,000.

“If there’s a good cause, there’s no limit,” he said. “Imagine if I do this three more weeks, or if I had a bigger house.”

Windham plays varsity football, basketball and baseball. He said he hopes to go into a sports-related profession after college, either playing or training.

“He’s definitely everything an Eagle Scout should be. He always keeps going 100 percent,” Sedlak said.

Learn about sending care packages at http://www.platoonadoptions.com

Staff Writer Melanie Wong can be reached at 748-2929 or mwong@vaildaily.com.

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