Soldiers with Switzerland County ties get a ‘little taste of Christmas’ this holiday season

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What started out as a project of the Vevay American Legion Auxiliary has expanded to include many residents of Switzerland County — as soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan with local connections to the county will soon be getting a big dose of Christmas.

On Tuesday of this week a group of volunteers gathered at the home of Lowell Wayne and Rita Sullivan to prepare packages that will be shipped to six soldiers who are currently serving in the war zone.

“Each of the soldiers is going to get two packages in the mail,” Rita Sullivan said. “When we started this about three years ago, we had as many as 18 soldiers connected to this county over there. We want them to know that the folks back in Switzerland County haven’t forgotten them during the holiday season.”

The contents of the boxes were all donated items, ranging from food to Christmas candy; toiletries to socks to hand warmers.

And each soldier will also be receiving something special in these boxes — a miniature lighted Christmas tree.

“We’ve had a lot of help and donations from a lot of very caring folks,” Rita Sullivan said.

Along with the treats, each of the soldiers is also receiving some Christmas cards handmade by the Sunday School classes at Fairview Baptist Church and Switzerland Baptist Church; and Kathy Daugherty’s fourth grade class at Jefferson-Craig Elementary School also made cards for the soldiers.

Along with donations of items, Rita Sullivan also said that the auxiliary has received donations of money to help with the expense of mailing the boxes overseas.

The generosity has been so overwhelming, in fact, that there is still enough left to give the volunteers a head start on Valentine’s Day packages — which will be mailed the third week of January.

Rita Sullivan said that anyone is welcome to make donations to the shipments, and things can either be given to her or left at the American Legion post. For the next shipment, Valentine’s Day cards and other items will be appreciated.

Once the volunteers finished assembling the packages on Tuesday, a special event took place.

American Legion commander Lowell Wayne Sullivan presented Maxine Bushman and Heather Collins with “Blue Star Banners” to hang at their homes.

The Blue Star Banners is a program that was initiated by the American Legion during World War I, and is a small banner that hangs in the window of the house of a family with a soldier serving in active duty. This is a way for the family to show its support for the troops and their family member.

Maxine Bushman’s grandson, Staff Sergeant Michael Bushman, is currently on active duty; as is Heather Collins’ husband, Virgil Collins.

“Things got pretty emotional at that point,” Rita Sullivan said of the Blue Star Banner presentations.

The program of sending packages to troops with county ties has been ongoing by the auxiliary, as Rita Sullivan estimates that the group has sent more than 300 packages over the past three years.

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Want to send your best wishes to a Switzerland County soldier?

• S Sgt. Michael Bushman,

G Trp 2/3 ACR,

APO AE 09379

• S Sgt. Brian Johnson

586 ESFS

Delta Company, 1st Platoon, 1st Squad

APO AE 09375

• Spc. Virgil Collins

B Co. 203rd F.S.B.

O.I.F. 3 F.O.B. War Horse

APO AE 09397

• Spc. Justin Marcinko

B Co, 3-187 IN, 101st ABN Div.

APO AE 09364

• L Cpl. Matthew Kuhnen

2nd BN 6th Marine Co.

Unit 73165 a Plt #1

FPO AE 09509-3165

• Cpl. Joseph T. Gillis

3rd BN, 6th Mar. Lima Co., Unit 73305

FPO AE 09509-3305