GOWEN — Throughout the summer, Gowen resident Brenda Gibson went shopping for batteries, ointments, jerky pouches, books, candy, crackers, eye drops and many other items that she shipped to Florida for America’s deployed soldiers.
Gibson is doing this because she is involved with a group of women that helps those serving in the American armed forces. She got involved with the group through a friend she met online. She sought out support from other mothers after her son Nathan enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps.
“He became a Marine a year ago,” Gibson said. “I really haven’t gone through the empty nest feeling so I started getting online and researching what was out there and I was really surprised about all the information that gives support of families whose children are part of the military.”
Gibson met another mother online who was part of a larger organization in Florida. After speaking with her a few times, Gibson got involved with the Semper Fi Sisters, a national organization working to assist military members and families in all branches of the U.S. armed forces.
“This is the fourth year we are getting together in Florida,” said Semper Fi Sisters President and co-founder Brenda Garth of Port St. Joe. “We have sisters, wives, mothers, grandmothers, aunts and cousins coming to pack more than 1,000 boxes this year for military men and women who are currently deployed through December.”
It was surprising for Gibson to learn there are men and women serving in the armed forces who don’t receive any mail.
“When I became involved, I was shocked at how many soldiers get no support from the homefront,” Gibson said. “I know I am a little bit of an overprotective mom, but I couldn’t believe how many soldiers get no mail or packages from home.”
Gibson has written sympathy cards and letters to soldiers thanking them for their service. She was preparing to drive to Florida on Saturday with a retired Coast Guard mother from Grand Haven to attend Semper Fi Sisters Beach Blast.
“Being part of this year’s program is something new for me,” Gibson said. “I have shipped 275 pounds of materials to be packed in these boxes.”
According to the website, Semper Fi Sisters Beach Blast is something that helps provide friendship, support, valuable resources and information to female family members of past and present armed forces in a safe, friendly, fun and peaceful environment while participating in the annual “Boxes of Love from the Home Front” packing event for deployed service members.
“It is a labor of love,” Garth said. “It is a wonderful experience for all women who attend this event.”
Garth said this year they will have women representing a family member serving in every branch of the military.
“I have gotten most of my stuff to send from friends at work,” Gibson said. “My mother has made pillowcases for the boxes.”
Gibson is no longer accepting donations from this area, but those who want to get involved may make postage donations at semperfisisters.com online.
“People can help out from anywhere,” Garth said. “If there are those in your area that wish to still help, there is a donate button on our web page.”
Another organization that is helping with the addresses of the deployed soldiers is Soldiers’ Angels that was started by another mother who found out that some deployed soldiers weren’t receiving any mail from the homefront.
“We have many addresses already,” said Garth. “Working with Patti Patton-Bader, the founder of Soldiers’ Angels, has helped us extend our reach even more.”
The event begins on Wednesday and the packing event will take place Saturday, Oct. 20.
“I breaks my heart to hear about soldiers who have no support from home,” Gibson said. “This is my first year going for this event and I am really excited to share this box packing event with women from all over the country.”