It’s been more than a quarter century since the Gulf War. Operation Desert Shield. More than 25 years since the elder George Bush was president and commander-in-chief. Although she didn’t realize it at the time, Maxine Russell made a major change in her life, her daily routine, during this era.
She sent her first ever care package overseas.
It would be the first of thousands.
“I’ve sent now almost 7,200 packages,” she told ABC 10 NEWS in San Diego, California, recently.
“One of my dear friends, her husband is a Marine pilot, and when he was deployed I got his address and that spiraled into a lot more Marines. I really do this because I’m passionate. I love the military and I want to show my support.”
To say it’s her hobby would be a disservice. It’s her life’s work.
Walking around her kitchen, you’ll quickly notice that she hardly has any real estate left in her own cabinets and drawers for the food she eats. It’s all stocked with treats, meals and supplies that will soon be on their way to deployed Marines.
And, after all her experience shipping the things, you can bet anything she knows what they’re looking for.
“Each unit is kind of different. Some like regular Chex Mix, some like cashews, others are so health conscious they want unsalted almonds.”
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There is one person she can’t send one to. She had to bury her son Darren in 2005.
“I remember being in a temple, and the rabbi was saying, ‘I’m sure those of you who have lost loved ones would rather be with them, but if you do that, who’s going to keep their memory alive?’ And it was just like a light when off,” Russell added.
She could not make Darren’s favorite meal or send him an ‘I love you’ package, but she could make someone else’s son smile. So, she started crafting care packages in his honor. She also became a grief counselor since she knows some troops will not make it home.
“When I’m going through a difficult time, sitting and reading the letters and looking at pictures with everybody smiling or holding up all the Girl Scout cookies, it just makes me feel good like I’m making a difference,” Russell said.
On Wednesday, Russell will finally get her due from the branch she’s so supported for so long. They’re scheduling a ceremony at Camp Pendleton to pay tribute to her work, and to offer their gratitude.