Most college students enjoy getting a care package from home, but imagine how it feels when you are earning your degree while deployed on a military base in the Middle East far from your spouse and children.
Since April 2011, the staff at Thomas Edison State College has adopted several units in Iraq and Afghanistan where some of the college's active duty military students are deployed and is sending them care packages filled with items the service members have requested. To date, the Support Our Troops Project has sent more than 100 boxes to five different military units with items such as coffee, snack food, pre-paid phone cards, magazines, DVDs and video games. Items are collected in Support Our Troops containers located throughout the College.
"The Support Our Troops Project means a great deal to our deployed students and their units," said Charlene Martucci, fiscal administrator in the College's Office of Military and Veteran Education who is chairing the effort. "Our deployed students have told us that they look forward to receiving our boxes, and that knowing that we support our troops and are thinking about them makes their deployments a little easier."
Martucci, who serves as president of the American Federation of Teachers Local 4277, was inspired to create the Support Our Troops project after attending the funeral of U.S. Army Sgt. Keith Buzinsky, the son of a childhood friend who was killed in action in Afghanistan on April 7. Martucci is a resident of Hamilton, N.J., and Buzinsky grew up in Hamilton.
The day after Buzinsky's funeral, Martucci received an e-mail from Thomas Edison State College student Greg Schaefer, whose U.S. Navy unit is stationed in a remote area of Afghanistan. After speaking with Schaefer, Martucci decided to start the Support Our Troops Project in memory of Buzinsky.
Schaefer's unit was the first to be adopted.
To show their appreciation for the Support Our Troops Project, Schaefer and his unit flew a United States flag over their camp in the college's honor and sent the flag to the college. Martucci presented the flag to Thomas Edison State College President Dr. George A. Pruitt on Nov. 17. Approximately 8,800 active duty military personnel attend Thomas Edison State College, including thousands who are currently deployed in the Middle East.
"We are proud of our military and honored to serve their unique needs with our unique format," said Pruitt. "We are also proud of the excellent work that Charlene and our staff are doing to make the Support Our Troops Project such a success."