The 600th box of love and support and much-needed comforting supplies is going in the mail this week from the Payson Supply Line to Iraq.
The box, packed this weekend by Supply Line founders Lud Kaftan and Butch Klein, will go to lifetime Payson resident Laura Crabtree and the men and women with whom she is serving. Her mother, Karen Crabtree, helped pack the box at the Payson Supply Line's storage unit at the Swiss Village Self-Storage facility.
Laura, whose father Louis teaches at Rim Country Middle School, arrived in Iraq only two weeks ago, her mother said.
"I can hardly wait for her to get the box; it's a surprise," Karen said. Actually, the 600th shipment will be about three boxes of supplies. The boxes contain such things as batteries, socks, personal supplies, snacks, lotion and Chapstick. The most coveted inclusion: international phone cards, so the recipients can call their loved ones at home.
"This is a wonderful thing they're doing," Karen said of the Supply Line's work. "It is a tremendous support system," she said.
Laura is a U.S. Marine Corps corporal working in communications.
"She goes right out in the middle of the fighting in one of those big vans," Klein said.
She went right into the Corps following graduation from Payson High School, Karen said.
"It has given her wonderful travel opportunities. She has seen Okinawa, Thailand, Korea and Japan," Karen said. When she went to Iraq, her plane landed in Germany, too, but they were not allowed to leave it.
"She said the most fun she has had was playing for the Marines in the Armed Forces Women's Softball Championship last September," Karen said.
Laura has a seven-month tour in Iraq and then will decide whether or not to re-enlist.
The Payson Supply Line shipped its first box on Jan. 18, 2005. Klein and Kaftan organized the program with the goal of sending needed supplies to U.S. troops in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Normal government issue does not provide the supplies.
Both men are retired Marines and know the special needs of the men and women serving on the front are not always met. Family and friends are encouraged to contact Klein or Kaftan about getting supplies to their soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"This works. I was in Vietnam and it worked for us. It worked for the first Iraq war. We want to keep these kids comfortable," said Kaftan.
"We will take requests from anywhere," Klein said.
They will also fill just about every request. Klein jokes he tells the men he is in contact with, "There are only two things I can't get you: a discharge or a woman." Other than that, if the Supply Line volunteers can find it, they'll send it. They have sent: battery-operated power tools to a group stuck out in the middle of nowhere, unable to get them through official channels; caulking has been sent to help seal gaps in shelters; clothes are sent and a group of women from one of the area churches keeps the Supply Line stocked with knit caps that are very popular; and they even filled a request for worship music.
People can call Klein at (928) 474-6968 or Kaftan at (928) 474-6981 or e-mail email@example.com.
The Payson Supply Line's boxes are so popular that even the men and women who receive them ask that other military units be put on the mailing list.
Contributions of goods and funds are always appreciated. The list of goods the Supply Line needs is available at the Oasis Christian Bookstore, 512 S. Beeline Highway.