Monroe military mom is on an ‘’ mission

‘Citizenship is taught to you and when you’re thankful for what you have, you give back’, By Nancy Kriz

MONROE - She’s not Santa, but sometimes Monroe resident Kathy Aldinger feels like she’s close to being him.

Instead of reading letters from kids, she routinely reads letters from soldiers posted on the non-profit Web site. There, she reads their wish lists of items they’d be grateful to have and hope someone will send.

The Web site works like this: volunteer soldier “contacts” write on the “where to send” page. Web site visitors simply click through the names and select the one(s) they wish to support. The soldier contact lists what the troops say they want and need. There is even a search capability to easily identify what the troops need most.

All the soldiers involved in this effort are military volunteers stationed in areas that are in harm’s way, according to the site. Participants like Aldinger send their items (letters and/or packages) addressed to the soldier contact when they see the “Attn: Any Soldier” line in their address. Those soldier contacts then put their letters and packages into the hands of soldiers who don’t get much or any mail first.

“It is addicting,” said Aldinger, who “adopted” a unit stationed in Iraq. “The difference is that it’s adults asking for stuff and not kids.”

Now, Aldinger - a teacher at Pine Tree Elementary School - is on a mission to create as much public awareness of the Web site as possible. She hopes others will become involved by reading the notes and choosing to help by sending the requested sundry items and other perks that she knows will help the troops as their tours of duty continue in Afghanistan, Iraq and other locations.

‘A very American family’

She has good reason to know how welcome such packages can be. Within Aldinger’s family is an impressive list of members who have served or are currently serving in the military. In the 1940s, her father Charles McCarthy served in the Army, while her beloved uncle, Francis C. Dalton, served in the Navy.

Her brother James McCarthy, who served in the Army, was killed in Vietnam in 1967, while another brother, Dennis, served in the Army in Cuba at the same time.

Her husband Robert Aldinger served in Vietnam in 1969. Their son, Thomas Aldinger, has been in the Army since 2005 and will be going to Afghanistan within six weeks for a 400-day deployment.

In the past, Aldinger, said, she sent packages to soldiers serving in Desert Storm and Korea. And as a teacher, she routinely meets the parents of her students. When she met Monroe resident Namond Travis - the father of her student, Trinity Travis - Aldinger learned he serves in the Army and is currently stationed at West Point. She asked him if her class could write letters to soldiers and if there was anything else she could do.

That’s when she learned about

“I come from a very American family,” said Aldinger. “Citizenship is taught to you and when you’re thankful for what you have, you give back. It’s good to serve (in the military). A lot of good comes out of it.”

Since this past January, she’s been in contact with an Army unit, originally stationed in Germany, now in Iraq. With 120 men and 40 women, Aldinger’s been trying to meet their wish list requests.

The Bandits

“Kathy’s support to our unit has been great,” wrote Brian Stephens, an Army missile maintenance technician, via e-mail from Kalsu, Iraq. “She has been supporting us since I first registered on back in December. Her boxes have been filled with needed or wanted items from the soldiers here in my company. She has sent decorations for the holidays that have already passed and am pretty sure she will send more. She has gotten the school involved and we have gotten letters from kids and even plastic Easter eggs each containing a small note.

“Yeah, all the food and hygiene products are great but the letters from the kids always put a smile on a soldier’s face. Let me not forget, she always sends pound cakes that we use for birthdays over here.”

Stephens’ unit, the B Company 172D Infantry Brigade, known as “the Bandits,” is originally based out of Schweinfurt, Germany. It is a maintenance company providing support not only to the brigade, but to any unit coming there on a convoy. The company is separated with people at three other locations. One is group is “very remote and items received through the ‘anysoldier’ Web site go to them all the time,” Stephens wrote. He’s also trying to get help via the Web site for a new clothing drive, sponsored by the warrant officers of the 172D Infantry Brigade for the local orphanage, and welcomed donations. The clothing will be delivered after June 1.

Why there is a need

Aldinger noted the reasons why service personnel can use the packages are varied. While they’re issued the basic necessities, she said, many of the items they may buy at the local PX are sold out, or the PX is not open at times they can go to make urchases. For others, she said, they simply don’t have the money because military salaries are low, or they send their paychecks home and don’t have funds; or even their families’ don’t have the extra money for those additional items.

So allows them to create a wish list, with people like Aldinger being faux-Santas and fulfilling those requests. The site also guarantees that e-mail addresses listed are “true” addresses.

“Is that a lot of ask for?” said Aldinger. “Shampoo and conditioner, so a female soldier can feel ‘girly?’ These people are being pulled out their normal jobs and doing what they have to do to serve their country. I feel helpless that I can’t do more, but it makes me feel good that I can do something. No matter what I send, someone can use it there. It’s embarrassing that he’s (Stephens) always thanking me. But I’m telling him that he’s doing his thing over there while I’m doing my thing here.”

Marty Horn, founder of the Web site, was grateful for the support of people like Aldinger and hoped more would get involved.

“This is about support, it’s not just about stuff,” said Horn, who retired in 1993 from the Army as a military policeman after 20 years of service. “The support that has come through this Web site so far has helped over one million troops. It helps the morale of the troops. Troops with a high morale have a higher survival rate. They’re busy fighting for freedom. We all want them to come home alive.” With his wife, Sue, they developed the Web site concept with their son, Sgt. Brian Horn, when he was in Iraq. The elder Horn built the site and maintains it.

Aldinger has made it her mission to spread the word about the Web site and just responding to one letter can have a positive impact for its sender. She’s thankful to groups like Monroe Girl Scout Troop 472 for writing letters and making plans to adopt its own group.

“As a parent, I think someone you love is away and not having something,” she said. “Technology (the Internet and e-mail) has opened the doors for us. We know what they want and what they need and we should do something about it. Don’t be afraid to go onto the site. Remember, you’re not compelled to do anything, but if you see something compelling to your heart, do as much as you can.”

Can you help?

Here’s a sampling of recent letters posted by soldiers on the Web site.

April 29, 2009:

We live in small CHUs-nothing large please.

We have microwaves available for use and some have refrigerator access. There is a laundry service available also.

What we do need is a selection of shampoos, conditioners, mousse, dark hair clips (brown/black), hair ties (match natural hair colors), deodorants, sun block, foot powder, African American hair products, pt shoes, ankle white socks, acne face wash (sun, dirt, and sweat don’t mix), razors, toothpaste, tooth brushes, body spray, body wash, bug repellent.

Some sizes of PT shoes are not available to some of the soldiers.

There is a small PX that offers a very limited supply of the basic necessities.

Spc. Amanda M. Chance, an Army combat medic whose unit, originally based in Germany, is now based in Iraq through Nov. 20. There are 20 men and 20 women in her unit.

April 29, 2009:

We have no special living conditions here or containerized living units (CLU) which is a metal box with two to four people living in them. We use 220 power in our CLU’s. We have self-service laundry that we can use, as well as drop off. We have no means to cook food other than using a microwave.

I’m representing my department and after talking to my two female sailors they said that they do not have any special request. Some of the needs that my Sailors have mentioned were magazines, cards and card games, low cut socks, gum, hygiene products, power bars, beef jerky, dehydrated fruits.

Our department is made up of sailors from all over the states. We are all military police here on camp. Thanks for the support-what you are doing for us is great!

MAC (SW) Michael J. Dexter is Navy sailor; his location is not listed for security reasons. He has 11 men and two women in group.

April 29, 2009::

Coffee (Dunkin’ Donuts brand if possible), drink mixes to go (Crystal Light or Ocean Spray), sugarless gum, (non- mint flavors), hand warmers, small microwave and 98 percent fat-free popcorn (got to stay in shape :o).

We have 110 electricity in building. We have laundry service. We do have a soda fridge. Representing a squadron from Peterson AFB, Colorado and Andrews AFB, Maryland. Both communication units.

Javier Perez-Lopez is in the Air Force. His unit, originally stationed in Colorado, and now in Afghanistan until Nov. 15, has 23 men and two women.

April 28, 2009:

My name is Staff Sgt. James Horr and my unit is out of Hawaii. I also have Marines from North Carolina, and California. Items needed are Fusuon razors, shaving cream, Green Speed stick deodorant, Dove body wash, vitamin E body lotion, head and shoulders shampoo, baby wipes, under armor PT gear (large T-shirts and medium shorts), black and white ankle socks. Thank you for your support the Marines over here really appreciate all you do.

Staff Sgt. James Horr, with the Marines, whose unit is originally based in Hawaii, is currently stationed in Afghanistan and is expected to leave Sept. 10. There are 12 men in his unit.

Reprinted with permission from Marty Horn, founder of Visit the site and follow the prompts to read more letters from service personnel by clicking either “where to send” or “what to send.” You can also click on the “view contacts sorted by” box to further refine your search.

What is began in August 2003 as a family effort to help the soldiers in one Army unit, thus its name.

• On Jan. 1, 2004, was launched to include both active duty and reservists of any of the armed services, stationed in any areas in harm’s way.

• On June 4, 2004, any soldier Inc. was formed as a non-profit charitable organization in Maryland and granted 501(c) (3) status by the IRS in August 2004.

• Starting in August 2005, Any Soldier Inc. launched new sister Web sites: ,, and