Soldier thanks El Pasoans for invaluable care packages
By Tulara McCauley , DoMaD Public Affairs:
Boxes filling up in a local place of business and then emptying out in a war-zone office describes a Soldier care package program that works with the effectiveness of a teleportation system.
Redeployed Reservist Sgt. 1st Class Karl Ragin, 344th Military Police Co., out of Middletown, Conn., met with Sofia Cereceres and other employees of Jordan Foster Construction Company, March 20, to thank them for the invaluable care packages he received during his recent deployment to Afghanistan.
“It took time and money to send me the package so the least I can do for gratitude and appreciation was to get a flag to give to them to show that Soldiers do care for those care packages,” said Ragin. He presented Cereceres with a U. S. flag and a certificate that verifies the flag was flown in Afghanistan.
Cereceres founded the program after watching the documentary “Restrepo,” a movie that chronicles the deployment of a platoon of U.S. Soldiers in Afghanistan’s Korengal Valley. She was moved by the harsh living conditions for the Soldiers and became motivated to ease those conditions. Cereceres started the care package program by putting a box at her desk with a list of items to collect. She wanted to make sure the packages were received so she asked employees for names of local Soldiers who were deployed. Packages were sent to many different Soldiers known in the El Paso community.
Ragin, originally from New York City, N.Y., has been an El Paso resient since 1985. He was on his fifth deployment when he received a care package from the program. He responded by sending a thank you note with a few bills of Afghani money. Receiving the card from Ragin encouraged Cereceres to continue her efforts.
“I never expected to be acknowledged but when I received the card from Karl it motivated me to keep the project going,” said Cereceres.
By using Ragin as a point of contact in Afghanistan, Cereceres was able to distribute goods to many Soldiers at the base.
“A lot of Soldiers don’t have family or have family without the resources to send them care packages,” said Ragin. “Receiving that box, especially from someone they don’t know, really boosts morale. (For) a lot of the young Soldiers, it’s their first time away from home and family. By sending that box it may allow them to get more motivated and push on to endure the deployment.”
In the spirit of cooperation, all items shipped are disbursed.
“If there is something in a care package that we don’t need, we place it in a box in our office for any Soldier to take,” Ragin said.
Ragin was thankful for the support he received, so after returning to El Paso in late January he planned to meet personally with the people behind the program.
“It’s a great cause; you’re not only helping out a Soldier you are helping out the whole war effort,” said Ragin. “When arriving overseas, some Soldiers feel that they are not making a difference. When you send a box over there, showing support coming from this side of the water, that is very appreciated.”
Joe Gomez, director of business development, community affairs and governmental affairs for Jordan Foster Construction Company, was unsurprised that the program, founded by Cereceres, Marissa Amador and Denise Frias, was successful.
“Many of the employees are involved with charitable organizations outside of work,” said Gomez. “What was unexpected was the immediate response of all the employees to bring in items for the care packages. That was an overwhelming support.”
Gomez is an Army brat who served in the Reserves with the 900th Quartermaster in El Paso. He knows personally how important care packages are to Soldiers.
“Receiving something from total strangers is very, very special and unexpected,” said Gomez. “I appreciate Karl Ragin for coming here today because it adds fuel to the fire to keep us going when you have somebody reciprocate the way he has. It helps the civilian population appreciate what the military does for all of us.”
Ragin will be returning to work at the Directorate of Mobilization and Deployment as the operations noncommissioned officer in charge. He will continue to support the Soldier care package program with time and resources.
Cereceres wants to engage other groups of people to start their own program or participate in hers. Local El Pasoans who wish to assist can contact her to donate or for guidance in starting another program.
Jordan Foster plans to mount the flag in a frame and hang it in the office where the whole project started.
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