By Michael Gresham
The Texas Catholic
A desire to do more, a chance conversation and the support of a parish all added up to provide the spark for an effort to honor United States military members traveling through Dallas.
During Masses on Sept. 22-23 at Prince of Peace Catholic Church in Plano, members of the parish’s Honor Our Heroes committee will collect care packages to distribute to members of the armed forces.
“We want to support and thank the brave men and women who keep us safe,” said Susie Anderssen, a committee member who said items also were collected at Masses on Sept. 15-16. “Our goal is to collect items for at least 200 boxes of both food and non-food items.”
Anderssen said the boxes will be given to the United Service Organizations center at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport.
Rick Martinez, a member of the Prince of Peace Honor Our Heroes group who also has been a USO volunteer for more than five years, said that the DFW airport’s USO center serves between 700-900 military personnel and their families daily.
“In addition, the USO is asked to assist in troop sendoffs, assist families when there is a fallen soldier, assist with new recruit orientation, air shows and numerous other events,” he said.
At the USO center, located in Terminal B, military personnel can find complimentary food, toiletries, travel information and assistance as well as rest and relaxation.
Martinez, whose three children all serve as officers in the U.S. armed forces, said having the Prince of Peace group join efforts with the USO is a “simple way to support those who serve our great nation.”
Anderssen said when the group first contemplated how to support U.S. servicemen, she reached out to Dale Heidenreich, co-chair of the St. Michael’s Society at St. Mark the Evangelist Catholic Church in Plano.
“Their military support group has been in place for a number of years and he graciously shared with us their experiences,” said Anderssen, adding that Heidenreich informed her that the biggest problem they face is finding ways to connect with servicemen in need. “They used to go through military chaplains, but no longer have luck with that approach.”
During a dinner with Martinez and his wife Carrie, Anderssen said an opportunity presented itself.
“That is when Rick told me about the USO at DFW. He said the need is great and the entire operation depends on donations,” Anderssen said. “I thought it sounded like a win-win situation.”
Anderssen shared the idea with her Honor Our Heroes co-chairs, Claudia Jennings and Marianna Thiebaud, who agreed.
Martinez said Prince of Peace’s care package drive was akin to delivering answered prayers.
“We ask our military personnel to sacrifice so much and, at times, they do not know if they are appreciated,” he said. “This committee has made a difference in our prayers, and now with our Care Package Drive for them.”