SIKESTON -- A little TLC has paid off for the members of the Semo Military Support Group and for the military personnel they've contacted.
In March, the support group formed and immediately began making care packages to send to area service men and women. Recently, the group received feedback from the recipients, thanking them for their "thoughtful gifts" and "morale boosters."
"It's like Christmas at the meetings," group member Suzann Romines said. "When we get letters from the troops, we just sit down and read them together."
Romines' son, Matt Lasters, is stationed near the Iraqi border and has been in the Middle East since February. Wanting to let the troops know they had love and support from home, Romines along with several family members of military personnel formed the support group.
The cloth bags packages are different, Romines explained. One package consisted of band aids, combs, wet cloths and lip balm, and another package had goodies like individual snacks such as beef jerkey. All of the items were donated by the public.
Approximately 10-15 packages were sent to area soldiers stationed in the Middle East, Romines said, adding that postage cost about $2,000. Each package can serve 30 soldiers.
"We sent seven or eight boxes to each soldier (from the area) so they could share it with others," Romines noted.
In addition to the care packages, the Semo Military Support Group also sent questionnaires about living in the Middle East and for other personal information for the recipients to fill out and send back. Romines said the group has received between 20-30 questionnaires back.
"It feels wonderful knowing they (troops) appreciate what we've done," noted Julia Kirk, who son, Logan Kirk, is serving in Afghanistan.
It even touches those who aren't from Southeast Missouri.
For example, the platoon leader of Sikeston native Kent Walker who is stationed in Iraq wrote to Walker's parents: "Some soldiers really don't get any mail from family and friends, and I'll be the first to say, mail is like gold here."
Other responses included things like: "It was like Christmas for us" or "The packages make my stay a little easier."
One soldier not from the area, Dwayne Davis, who is stationed in Iraq, wrote: "Thanks for the gifts. We need to hear from you guys. We need to know that our people are behind us."
"It means everything in the world," said Romines in a trembling voice about hearing from the troops. "It makes you cry."
Due to the extreme heat - about 120-130 degrees in the Middle East - Romines said currently the group is working on sending over Gatorade and paperback books for the troops. The group might send Semo Military Support Group T-shirts, she said.
"The war may be over, but the soldiers aren't home yet -- and many are just now going over to the Middle East," Romines pointed out. "We've got to keep supporting them."
Romines added support group meeting attendance has dropped since its origin.
"Everybody was great at first, but then some people stopped coming," Kirk agreed. "The troops still need to know we support them and that we're doing what we can to help them."
The support group needs more supplies in order to meet the soldiers' needs, Kirk said. For example, one soldier wrote the group and said he didn't have any paper or envelopes so the group sent that to him. Another wrote back and needed AA batteries while someone else wanted summer sausage so the group sent the troops what they asked for, she said. And one U.S. Army staff sergeant requested packages be sent to her best friend and his soldiers who were serving on the frontline.
"You can make a difference -- and it doesn't have to be anything large. Sometimes a letter is all they need," Kirk said.
Area school children have also written letters to everyone the support group has addresses for, Kirk said.
"You have to do something for them," Romines said about supporting the troops. "You have to be proactive. These are someone's sons and daughters over there, and just to know that you've made a difference makes you feel so good."
The Semo Military Support Group meets at 7 p.m. every Monday night at the GMAC Realty Building in Sikeston. For more information, contact Romines at (573) 472-6288.