Maugansville residents Ron and Diana Meihls didn’t take long to spring into action after they heard that American troops serving in parts of Afghanistan would go without a Christmas meal this year.
Diana Meihls said they received the news around Halloween in an email from their daughter, U.S. Air Force Maj. Marie Meihls, who works on an Afghan Air Force base in Kabul during the day and lives on a NATO base at night.
“Our dining facility is not supporting us for Thanksgiving or Christmas so we must do fundraisers to purchase on our own or get companies from the States to send us stuff,” a portion of Marie Meihls’ email said.
Diana Meihls said she was shocked, then angered when she heard the news.
“A lot of people don’t understand what they’re going through over there,” she said.
As upset parents, the Meihls said they contacted their representatives in Congress, whose offices assured them the troops serving on American bases would receive a holiday meal. But what the federal legislators didn’t understand, the Meihls said, was that they were referring to Americans serving on NATO bases.
Sue Walitsky, a spokeswoman for U.S. Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin, D-Md., said American troops serving on NATO bases received a special meal on Thanksgiving and will get a special meal on Christmas.
“It seems to be a very big misunderstanding,” Walitsky said. “... Certainly these are troops we are proud of. We wish they didn’t have to serve away from their families ... We recognize their sacrifice.”
A spokesman at the Pentagon said he didn’t know whether a Christmas meal would be served on the NATO base in Kabul.
Diana Meihls said she asked her bosses at Conservit Inc. south of Hagerstown if the company would be willing to help. They responded with a $500 donation. Others soon followed, she said. Martin’s gave $100 to the cause, Walmart added $200 and the Maugansville Ruritan Club donated $250. When the money from those donors and numerous others was added up, the sum was nearly $1,700.
The donations were used to purchase 400 pounds of food, which was packed into 20 boxes, Ron Meihls said. They tried unsuccessfully to get a military plane from Andrews Air Force Base to fly the food to Afghanistan.
Diana Meihls said they would have shipped hams and turkeys had they been able to get a military flight with a refrigeration unit. Instead, they had to stick with sending nonperishable food, candies and ingredients to make desserts.
She said the troops in Afghanistan eventually were able to scrape together enough money to buy their own hams and turkeys.
The Meihls said they shipped the nonperishables via U.S. mail on Dec. 9 at a cost of $300. Marie Meihls emailed her parents earlier this week, saying all 20 boxes had arrived.
Marie Meihls told her parents that the American troops intend to share the Christmas meal with their NATO allies.