SOUTHBOROUGH — Students in Monica Coyle’s second-grade class at Woodward Elementary School had plenty of questions Wednesday afternoon about the letters they wrote to troops overseas.
What types of snacks do soldiers like?
“They like Oreos best,” said Lisa Braccio, an organizer of the town’s care package drive this weekend. “They don’t like the fake ones. They just don’t taste the same.”
The troops also like lollipops, gummy bears, peanuts, sunflower seeds, Reese pieces, Jolly Ranchers, Doritos, Cheez-its and Goldfish — many of the same snacks students enjoy. Some of the packages are dropped from planes, so the potato chips usually end up crushed, but it doesn’t matter.
“The soldiers say even the crumbs still taste like potato chips,” said Braccio, elected to the Board of Selectmen earlier this month.
Where will the packages be sent?
Likely Syria, Iraq or Afghanistan.
Braccio, along with many others in town, is relaunching the Care Packages for Our Troops drive after a two-year break. Between 2005 and 2014, the group organized 19 drives and shipped overseas more than 9,000 boxes of goods weighing about 200,000 pounds. The drive ended in 2014 as the government started withdrawing troops from the Middle East.
The group will collect items from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Southborough Senior Center, 9 Cordaville Road. Some of the needs are personal care items, food, magazines, books and games and handwritten letters.
Braccio told the students the letters are the best part of the packages for many of the servicemen and women. Students at the Kane Elementary School in Marlborough also wrote letters.
“This will be the very first thing these soldiers away from their families see,” she said. “They’ll get your notes and your pictures and they’ll know even though they are far away you guys were thinking about them.”
One note reads: “Thank you for your service! I know it must be hard to be away from your family. But you are always appreciated.”
“Do you sleep in a tent or a cabin?” another one reads.
One longtime Care Packages for Our Troops volunteer, Dustin Martin, joined the Marines after graduating from Leominster Trade School in 2015.
Braccio wanted to relaunch the drive in part to support Martin’s unit after learning he’d be deployed to Syria.
“How could we not support someone who gave so much of himself to support others?” Braccio said.
The drive will also support Marine Sgt. Jim Hastings of Bellingham’s unit in Afghanistan.
Braccio said she learned about the needs of troops in 2005 from anysoldier.com. She and a neighbor, Sheila Fucci, started the drives.
Oftentimes, the soldiers write back to the students or class.
One time, a soldier called the school from Afghanistan to say thank you, Braccio said.
“If there is anything I can say to people it’s to open their hearts once again to touch the lives of service members we will never meet with our support, and let them know they are not…