The soldiers of the Fort Drum Infantry Regiment hold a special place in Inez Cedillo's heart.
Mrs. Cedillo's son, Sgt. Ernest Villarreal III, is one of those soldiers. He has served four deployments, but due to an injury, he was unable to join his unit's current deployment.
For Mrs. Cedillo, all 26 other soldiers in her son's unit are family.
The Cedillo family always sent monthly care packages while Villarreal was deployed. This time they wanted to make sure his platoon members still had little reminders of home, even though he wasn't there.
"We send care packages to let them know we think about them, we care about them," Mrs. Cedillo said. "It's the least we can do."
In all, more than 150 care packages will be sent between now and April 2016, when the soldiers will be preparing to return home.
"A lot of people are thinking Christmas. If they want to do something like that, we can send them," she said. "If they want to adopt a soldier, we can get it all ready. But the reality is we need to keep the morale going for January, February, March and April. They're still there for four more months."
Organizations such as the American Legion Auxiliary Unit 15 in Lindale and the Better Business Bureau of Tyler are pitching in with similar efforts. Students from Douglas Elementary also decorated boxes to be sent out this month.
"Whenever there's extra, they put it in the center of the room on top of the table so anyone can come get it," Mrs. Cedillo said. "Soldiers in the barracks may not have anything, so they give extras to those soldiers."
Nancy Smith, with the American Legion Auxiliary, said the auxiliary would include Christmas cards in the care packages they sent out Tuesday.
"Being that I'm a mother of a soldier, it's nice because it's a little touch of home," Mrs. Smith said. "They can't get a lot of these things, so it really helps the morale."
The men of the Lindale Foreign Legion donated $10 per box to help soldiers buy supplies. Mrs. Smith said the auxiliary received additional donations, including snacks, to add to each box.
Mrs. Cedillo also tries to include tidbits of local news to catch soldiers up on what's happening back home.
She will be sending care packages through the second week of April and is happy to show others how to set them up.
For more information, call 903-330-0390
Ensuring packages make it on time is one of the most stressful parts of the holiday season. USPS and Military Postal Service offer advice and dates to ship packages on time.
To send packages to loved ones serving in the military abroad, the postal service offers a discount on its largest Priority Mail Flat Rate Box at $13.80 (online) and $15.90 (retail). The price includes a $2 per box discount for mail sent to APO/FPO/DPO (Air/Army Post Office/Fleet Post Office/Diplomatic Post Office) destinations worldwide.
To ensure packages are delivered on time this holiday season, refer to the timetables below:
Military addresses -
APO/FPO/DPO AE Zips 090-092, 094-098, 340, 962-966
• Priority mail express military service - Dec. 17
• First class mail letters and cards - Dec. 10
• Priority Mail - Dec. 10
• Parcel Airlift mail - Dec. 3
• Priority mail express military service - N/A
• First class mail letters and cards - Dec. 3
• Priority Mail - Dec. 3
• Parcel Airlift mail - Dec 3
Domestic shipping deadlines are as follows -
• Standard - Dec. 15
• First-class - Dec. 19
• Priority - Dec. 21
• Priority mail express - Dec. 23
To send packages to loved ones serving in the military abroad, the Postal Service offers a discount on its largest Priority Mail Flat Rate Box at $13.80 (online) and $15.90 (retail). The price includes a $2 per box discount for mail sent to APO/FPO/DPO (Air/Army Post Office/Fleet Post Office/Diplomatic Post Office) destinations worldwide.
Mail may not be distributed within two to three weeks of the end of deployment
Non-military domestic parcels should be sent by -
• First-class - Dec. 19
• Priority - Dec. 21
• Priority Mail Express Service - Dec. 23
SUGGESTED CARE PACKAGE ITEMS
Athlete's foot powder
Powdered drink mixes such as Gatorade or cocoa
Meal enhancers such as seasoning or packs of hot sauce and other condiments
Quick protein such as energy bars, tuna, sardines, non-perishable beef jerky
Candy and gum, avoid chocolate in hot climates.
Disposable hand warmers
Cotton socks and underwear, avoid cotton blends
Word games and puzzles
Electronics and batteries
Art projects and family photos