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thedrifter
04-16-06, 06:55 AM
Article Last Updated: 4/16/2006 02:52 AM
Operation SAM sends comfort
By Kristofer Noceda, STAFF WRITER
Inside Bay Area

PLEASANTON — When Eric Froboese served in Fallujah, Iraq, with the Marines two years ago, receiving mail from his wife was the highlight of his day.

But when his wife, Shelly, got involved with a local group sending comfort packages and letters of encouragement to soldiers serving out-side the country, Froboese's rare treat turned into an uplifting experience.

"Anytime you get mail it makes your day," he said. "But when you get packages and letters from people that don't know you it really cheers you up no matter how bad your day is going."

Now back home to Livermore with his family, Froboese is giving back to the organization that helped him and fellow soldiers get through the day by serving as president for Operation: S.A.M. (Supporting All Military).

Froboese and 20 members conducted a drive for goods Saturday in front of the Pleasanton Wal-Mart.

The nonprofit and all-volunteer group was co-founded by Livermore residents Penny Redmon and Kristin Ekvall in 2004. So far the Livermore-based group has shipped 7,500 packages and 12 tons of goods.

For Redmon, the idea to form the organization came from wanting to stop a recurrence of how Vietnam veterans were received. Her brother is a Vietnam veteran. "I was saddened by the response soldiers like my brother received and I want to prevent a similar situation from happening," she said.

Lynn Gastelum of Pleasanton signed a card and made a donation during the goods drive. "I just wanted to let the troops know that we haven't forgotten about them," she said.

Inside "comfort packages" include new socks, a washcloth, hygiene products, food packets, a Beanie Babies stuffed animal and two letters of support written by local resident.

Letters are the most requested item by troops and they often write back creating a pen pal relationship.

"It creates a great bonding experience that can go on, and I remember whenever I read letters from kids it was the best thing in the world," Froboese said.

Operation: S.A.M. sends out packages on a bi-weekly basis and meets at 7 p.m. on the second Monday of each month, at the Livermore Police Station Community Room. For more information call (925) 443-7620 or visit www.operationsam.org.

Kristofer Noceda can be reached at (925) 416-4821 or at knoceda@trivalleyherald.com.

Ellie