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Thinking of others' comfort

Medford seniors put together packages to ease soldiers' life

For a few minutes Wednesday, a group of Medford seniors forgot about budget cuts that threaten their homes, medications and comfort to think instead about the comfort levels of servicemen and women fighting in the war against Iraq.

Volunteers and three dozen of the 60-plus residents at the Orchards Assisted Living Facility put together care packages for Army units deployed to the Persian Gulf area.

Parents, grandparents, spouses and veterans filled boxes with items such as shampoo, razors, toothbrushes, eye drops, candy bars and flea collars to ward off sand fleas.

Though the weather was dreary outside, the room was filled with smiles and fond memories of preparing care packages in decades past.

— Residents Jeanne Fieberling and Pearl Howlett recalled packing up goodies for their Marine husbands during World War II.

Fieberling laughed as she described her husband's special request for Italian sausage and cheese and how he struggled to guard them from fellow troops.

And he demanded that everything be homemade, she said.

Howlett told of her family's three generations of servicemen, all pictured on a wall in her room: her husband, two sons who fought in Vietnam and a grandson in the Coast Guard.

I'd pack things up for all of them but they didn't always get it. Those fellas who sorted the mail sure did get lucky a few times, said Howlett.

Veteran Don Figurski, who served from 1956 to 1958 in the U.S. Merchant Marine, said receiving mail helped ease homesickness.

Getting mail is so important to the servicemen, Figurski said. I think they know they're over there for a just cause, but it's not easy being away from home. So it's important for us to support them because this isn't a war that didn't need fought.

Orchards administrative assistant Cheryl Wheeler, who organized the project, said making the care packages gave residents a way to show they cared.

They've been so depressed because of Measure 28, she said. Everyone is worried about where they're going to live or get their medicine. Even the ones who don't have to worry are worried about someone next to them.

But this was just a happy thing. This was something that they could do something about, a way they could help the troops.

Walker said additional care packages would be prepared in coming weeks. For more information or to contribute items, contact Wheeler at the Orchards, 776-5255.

Margaret Walter, 77, a resident of Orchards Assisted Living in Medford, assembles a package Wednesday for soldiers stationed in Iraq.