Payson Supply Line Works To Boost Morale Of Soldiers Fighting In Iraq

RIM REVIEW COVER STORY

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Dew rags, with the Payson Supply Line logo on the front, help keep sweat out of the eyes of surgeons and soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Camouflage fabric cool ties, made and donated by a local woman, keep soldiers' body temperatures down under the heat of the desert sun.

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Butch Klein in Payson Supply Line's warehouse said foot powder, antiseptic creams and personal hygiene items soldiers can slip into a pocket help them, when they are in the field.

Phyllis Harper knits hats for the soldiers to wear in winter.

"I named the supply line right," said PSL co-founder Butch Klein. "There have been so many people in the community that have jumped in to help."

The American Legion just raised $1,200 for PSL with a motorcycle poker run.

Eddie Randleman and Gary Johnson entered last year's demolition derby, planning to donate whatever they won to PSL.

"They did not win, but a friend who was with them heard about their plan and donated $1,500 to us, along with the $200 the men had left from putting the car together," Klein said.

The list of people, business and organization who have helped goes on and on.

"And we could not keep PSL going without our wives, Kathy and Marian," Kaftan said.

"Thank you so much for all the goods you sent," wrote Jennifer Beatty, a young woman attached to a surgical unit.

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Inside one of Saddam Hussein's palaces, with other soldiers on his team.

A wooden sign that reads: "May God be your shadow in your footsteps, as you follow the path to protect the innocent." David Slater makes the signs out of old doors.

"The signs are hanging in helicopters and Hummers, too," Klein said.

"The things that people do for the men and women over here mean the world to us," Army Spc. Lee Nelson e-mailed PSL.

"It means a lot to know you all have our back out here... my entire platoon wanted me to say thanks for everything," Brian Langeliers e-mailed. Brian is a Marine with tours of Iraq and Afghanistan under his belt.

"The boxes are full of useful things and it is nice to get a package from home," said Brian's father Norm.

A typical care package weighs 30-45 pounds and cost $60 to $75 to mail. Each box helps five -- nine people.

PSL does not send the box to random units. The care packages go to soldiers with a "Payson connection."

"Your sister's good friend who is serving her country will get a box, just as quick as I get the name," co-founder Lud Kaftan said.

Outside a gas station in Story City, Iowa, Klein saw a beat-up AMC Gremlin with Marine Corp. stickers and "We miss you, Chris" written on it. So, he went into the convenience store and asked who had a son serving overseas.

That Marine got a box.

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Zach Carpino, a few days after nine young men from the 82nd Airborne lost their lives in this bombed-out school house. Carpino was injured from shrapnel, but that didn't stop him from saving a fellow soldier's life -- digging him out of rubble, under fire.

"But it's one color in combat," Kaftan said. Kaftan is a retired Marine officer who saw combat in Vietnam.

The branch of service does not matter to PSL. The politics do not matter to them, either.

"We've got to take care of the kids in the dirt," Kaftan said.

When Kaftan's unit got care packages from home in 1965 and 66, the Kool-Aid, cheese and salami would really "jack the guys up."

"If that is how ‘my kids' felt, think of how much it means to the kids over there now," Kaftan said.

Individually packaged, pocket-sized protein bars, cheese or peanut butter crackers are the kind of munchies PSL sends out.

"The Girls Scouts were generous with cookies," Kaftan said. "The most rewarding feeling I get is when children get involved in this project."

A dozen cans of silly string sit in PSL's storage unit waiting for Klein to pack into an appropriate box.

Soldiers use the string to find trip wires in doorways.

A dozen pairs of socks are packed in each box.

"When a soldier is outside the line for five or six days, the socks can rot right off their feet," Klein said.

Item donations are greatly appreciated. Money is often better because Kaftan and Klein have "grunt minds," so they know what soldiers need at a given time and can use the money to buy those items and pay for shipping. Donations are tax-deductible.

When Black Hawk pilots near a place they are going to land for combat purposes they toss baggies filled with an assortment of individually wrapped hard candy out of the helicopter, according to Klein.

"The candy lures children to a safer place," Klein said.

PSL had a goal of shipping a single box per week, in January 2005.

They thought too small.

On May 17, 2007, PSL sent out box 391.

Klein and Kaftan put a personal note in each box. "And I write, ‘We can get you anything, but women or discharges,'" Klein said.

To contact Payson Supply Line, call Lud Kaftan at (928) 474-6981 or Butch Klein at (928) 978-0896.

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