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High school student collects mail for military personnel overseas

December 11, 2002|by ANDREA ROWLAND

andrear@herald-mail.com

WILLIAMSPORT - Williamsport High School student Branda Reynolds hopes to make the holidays brighter for U.S. soldiers stationed overseas.

Branda, a junior, is asking her classmates, teachers and anyone else who is interested to contribute goodwill-wishing cards, poems, pictures and letters to the drop box she plans to set up within the next week in the high school's main office.

Branda and other interested students will then pack the correspondence and other items into packages and mail them first to soldiers in Afghanistan and then, if the effort is successful, to U.S. forces at other military bases in foreign countries, said Branda, 16, of Keedysville.

"I want soldiers overseas to know that just because they're gone, they're not forgotten. I know there must be soldiers who don't even have families to write them letters or send them cards," she said. "I figured this would be a good way to cheer them up a little bit."

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Branda said she got the idea earlier this fall after the U.S. Air Force temporarily stationed her uncle, F-15 Crew Chief Brad McCumsey, in Turkey within days after he learned his wife was pregnant with their third child.

"It was really hard," said Branda, who is the daughter of Nina Fincham and Glenn Reynolds. "I thought, 'Wow. If my family is going through this, it must be even tougher for other families and soldiers who are alone.'"

Branda started thinking about how she could help make a difference to the men and women serving her country. She drafted a plan titled, "Merry Christmas in Afghanistan," and presented it to her history teacher, she said.

"Because of the events that happened on September 11, 2001, the United States stationed troops overseas. Sometimes we forget about those who have left ... to defend us and protect our families," Branda wrote.

"Now that the holidays are approaching, it puts these soldiers in an even harder position to have left their lives behind ... But there is something that you can do to help ease some of their fear and sadness."

Branda is asking students, family, friends and neighbors to jot down a few words of appreciation and holiday cheer in a card or even on a paper napkin - and to tell others to do the same - so soldiers will know that they are being remembered at home, she said.

Perhaps younger students could even draw cheerful pictures for the soldiers, she said.

Branda held a meeting in early December at which about five other students agreed to help her organize the cards and letters so they can be mailed.

"They were really excited to be able to help people who are helping us," she said.

Williamsport High Principal John Davidson showed his support for the project by allowing Branda and her friends to collect the correspondences in a box kept at the school, she said.

"We were going to get a post office box, but he didn't want us to have to go through all that trouble," Branda said.

She plans to ask for donations to help pay the $25 to $30 cost of mailing each package - in which Branda estimates about 30 cards and other correspondences will fit - to Afghanistan, she said. She isn't collecting anything heavier than paper to limit expenses.

"If this works, it could get pretty expensive," she said.

It will take about one week - and maybe longer due to holiday mail traffic - for the packages to reach Afghanistan though the U.S. Postal Service, said Branda, who is gathering the addresses of U.S. military bases in the Middle East.

"It's the thought that counts," she said. "If it gets there after Christmas, it gets there after Christmas. That's okay."

The important thing is to have plenty of mail to brighten the lives of servicemen and women during the holidays and beyond, if the project works well, she said.

Correspondences can be hand-delivered or mailed to Williamsport High School, 5 S. Clifton Drive, Williamsport, MD 21795.

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