Several thousand miles away in a dusty desert camp in Iraq, a soldier hears his name called out in mail call. He hasn’t received a piece of mail in several weeks and is shocked to see two 30-pound boxes with his name.
The boxes are crammed full of food, toiletries, books, socks, toe warmers, a Bible, candy — everything you could want, but could not get in the middle of a war zone.
This box, to Sgt. Sam Kasten is number 807 for Payson Supply Line (PSL), a group of individuals who pack up and ship out packages daily to the troops overseas.
Butch Klein, co-owner of Quality Movers, started the operation nearly four years ago with a friend, Lud Kaftan and the support of their wives, Kathy and Marian.
Klein, on his way back from Payson, was listening to a radio show, four years ago on Veterans Day. Various stories of veterans were recounted on the show and Klein was so moved by the broadcast, that by the time he arrived in Payson, he knew he wanted to help. He thought up a name, what they would send and how they would do it.
“I just thought, if God keeps hitting you in the head enough of the time, you better listen,” he said.
The only thing missing from the plan was money. But money shortly came in from multiple sources, and has never dried up.
“We have never had a time that we could not send a package, when we ran out, we wouldn’t have a name, and when we got a name, we would receive a check in the mail,” Klein said.
Names of soldiers who could use a morale boost come in locally from parents, spouses and friends.
Klein, operates what he calls a “baby Walmart” from a storage room on Highway 87 where he packs up boxes.
“Every penny given is going into this,” Klein said.
The group easily drops $700 a month at local stores for supplies.
“We don’t just give junk stuff, we give protein and such,” Klein said. “We don’t send generic stuff either, because I never want them to think they’re second class.”
In the winter, the group sends tuna and chocolate, which melt and “turn into a whole other animal” when mailed in the hot summer months, Klein said. They also send hand-knitted caps and gloves.
To easily fit in pockets, everything is sent in miniature format, small bags of peanuts, Slim Jims, shampoo and foot powder.
“They have to take everything with them,” he said. “They do just about everything out of their helmet.”
PSL prefers sending several large boxes so more than one-person benefits.
“If we send this big one, that means eight to 10 of his buddies also get stuff,” Klein said. “We want to get one name and hit 10 guys.”
Mailing a box costs between $50 and $65, but is received overseas in six to nine days.
Some boxes contain do-rags worn under the helmet that Klein says jokingly have instructional sayings on the side — “Get-R-Done.”
Last Christmas, a dozen small trees complete with decorations were sent along with 1,300 Christmas cards.
A group of soldiers managed to set up one of the trees in a Hummer.
“They send pictures back and we get e-mails all the time,” Klein said.
“They always say the stuff was a lifesaver, but that it really showed someone gave a damn.”
One e-mail from a soldier, Jackie, on Nov. 23, 2006 reads, “I can’t thank you enough for all your support. I was shocked! Thank you so much. Our whole shop split up everything.”
Some of the more interesting items requested are bike tubes, golf balls and a guitar.
When Klein got a request for golf balls he could not figure out why. He later found out the troops teed them off into minefields to set them off.
Most commonly, soldiers ask for jerky and socks.
“We are a pretty spoiled society, but they’re living on the edge,” Klein said. “I don’t want people to forget them.”
PSL is holding a donation drive event from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Dec. 6 at the Mazatzal Hotel and Casino conference room. Anyone can help pack boxes and drop off donations.
For more information visit, www.paysonsupplyline.com or contact Klein at (928) 474-6968 or Kaftan at (928) 474-6981.