By David Sedeño
The Texas Catholic
PLANO — Socks. Toothpaste. Peanut butter crackers. Candy. Protein bars.
For about 90 minutes on Sept. 15, Prince of Peace Catholic School seventh-graders Katie Walsh and Maree Suhalim joined dozens of other students and volunteers from the parish in packing boxes with those items and more for military personnel.
This was the second year that parish and school volunteers have come together to gather items, assemble 500 boxes and pack them with the items that went to the USO Center at DFW International Airport for troops deploying or passing through the terminal.
Susie Anderssen, one of the directors of the military support ministry at Prince of Peace Catholic Church, said that extra items would be taken to homeless veterans being discharged from the Veterans Administration Hospital in Dallas.
“We have 28 family members from our parish who are currently deployed in the military and we support them in any way we can and we want to support anyone who is serving and we want to thank them,” Anderssen said.
She said that more than 125 people are involved in the Honor Our Heroes Committee and that children from the parish and school also are getting are becoming more aware of the importance of thanking not only the active personnel, but retired veterans, as well.
“All the children should be aware of what the veterans and servicemen and women are doing to protect us and enable them to have the choices that they have, to have a choice to go to the school that they want to and to worship wherever they want to worship and to have the freedom of speech,” she said. “And we want to honor the people who are sacrificing so much for them.”
She said the support from Father Tom Cloherty, the pastor, and Father Stephen Ingram, the parochial vicar, has helped the ministry expand.
Each year, at Masses on the weekend before Memorial Day, each person attending Mass receives a poppy in remembrance of those who served and died in war. On that day, on July 4th and Veterans Day, more than 200 American flags are placed along Plano Parkway in front of the parish to signify the parish’s support for veterans and active military personnel.
Anderssen said that the committee also supports the VA Outreach Center in Plano that serves more than 400,000 veterans in Collin County.
This year, Anderssen said, school children donated their “Buck-a-Jeans Day” collection to the committee.
“They also collected 797 sun- screen tubes and collected about that many socks,” she said. “They are all involved and we are hoping and praying that out of this that they come away with knowing that someone is sacrificing for them and they will be able to honor them whenever they see them.”
Kate Walsh said she volunteered to pack items for the military in honor of her grandmother, who served in the Air Force.
“This is really important to our school because we sometimes don’t always show support to our heroes,” she said, her friend Maree Suhalim nodding in agreement. “We really want to show our appreciation to all of our heroes. We don’t realize how many people are serving and protecting our country. We are so grateful for those heroes.”
Playing cards, Oreo cookies, sunscreen, Skittles and Pringles, also were among the items collected for the boxes. And the final item packed, and the first thing that military personnel saw when they opened up the package, was a card, many of them with an American flag, and a few words, hand-written by a student from the school.
“Hero, thank you for your service.”