Because of a communication mix-up between the military in Anchorage and Soldotnans, donated items destined for troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan are still sitting on pallets in Soldotna.
Canned fish, socks, bandanas, toiletry items and other goods collected through Soldotna’s Red, White and Blue Program run by Mayor Dave Carey, as well as through the efforts of the mayor’s brother, Mike, originally were to be airlifted by the military to the troops.
When U.S. Army brass got wind of the plan, however, the mission was scrubbed.
According to Mayor Carey, the army banned the shipping of care packages to troops after its distribution system was overwhelmed by such requests during the first Gulf war.
A lower echelon non-commissioned officer at Fort Richardson, contacted about the current Soldotna donation-gathering activity, reportedly made the offer of free shipping, which was rescinded by higher ups.
“The army is not willing to accept anything we send,” said Mayor Carey late last week.
The Soldotna effort had gathered 4 1/2 pallets of materials to be shipped. It was all set to be picked up by Lynden Transport, which agreed to truck it up to Fort Richardson at no cost.
“The community has overwhelmingly supported the effort,” Carey said.
The mayor has now devised Plan B.
“We are going to mail the material,” he said.
Carey has set May 19 Armed Forces Day and Military Appreciation Day on the Kenai Peninsula as the deadline for raising money needed to mail all the gathered materials to the troops.
He said he and Sen. Tom Wagoner have each donated $500 to get the mailing fund started.
Initially the 4 1/2 pallets of goods were to be airlifted to the Alaska-based 509th Infantry. Because the goods will now be mailed, Carey said the items will be sent to the 56 individual members of the armed forces on the city’s Red, White and Blue Program list.
The list includes Kenai Peninsula service members in all branches of the service stationed in the Mideast and elsewhere, according to Carey.
He said people willing to volunteer to help with U.S. Customs paperwork needed for mailing are welcome to contact him at Soldotna City Hall.
“We may start mailing things Friday,” he said.
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