CROSS PLAINS (WKOW)-- At the American Legion in Cross Plains a Santa's workshop of sorts was busy wrapping presents Saturday morning. Not for good little girls and boys, but 68 servicemen who can't spend the holidays at home.
The group has been sending gifts overseas for more than ten years. At one point they were shipping them out to more than 120 servicemen each year.
"We're up to 1,771 people we've shipped to," volunteer Judy Anderson says.
This year numbers have dropped by more than half, but volunteers say it's not necessarily a bad thing. One less box taped and shipped is one less servicemen spending a holiday away from home.
"We're hoping next year is the last year according to the government, but you never know," Anderson says.
According to the military nearly 70,000 U.S. servicemen and women will spend the holidays in Afghanistan this year.
"There have been many Christmas's that he has not been home. We just celebrate when he is home," army mother Cindy Berg says.
Berg first started sending presents overseas when her son was deployed to Iraq in 2009, but this year it's her nephew in Afghanistan who is getting the gifts.
"There are DVD's, there's girl scout cookies in the boxes, all kinds of cards and candy. It's a little piece of home," Berg says.
Joe Hoggson knows the struggles of serving during holidays firsthand after spending several Christmas's deployed in Germany.
"The first year is tough," Hoggson says.
That's why he's paying it forward and helping out his nephew serving with the marines.
"We want to make all of these soldiers over there feel like they're needed and they're cared for," Hoggson says.
Not only do volunteers buy the gifts, wrap the gifts and ship the gifts overseas, but throughout the rest of the year they hold fund raisers to actually pay for that shipping. Which will cost between three and four thousand dollars this year.
Besides sending gifts during the holidays the group of volunteers also send out care packages to soldiers during the rest of the year. Everything the group sends overseas is either donated by the public or bought with fundraising money.
To donate to the Helping Our Military Everyday project e-mail Karen Schilling at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 608-249-1891.
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