Whitehorse legion sends Yukon style care overseas

They patrol devastated areas of Afghanistan. They work to make roads and villages in the war-torn country safe for civilians.

They patrol devastated areas of Afghanistan.

They work to make roads and villages in the war-torn country safe for civilians.

And they have seen fellow soldiers injured and killed in attacks.

Canada’s military, stationed in the central Asian country, do a job few would volunteer for.

Darcy Grossinger knows what it’s like. He served six months in Afghanistan in 2002.

He knows what it’s like to be away from family and friends during the holidays, spending two Christmas seasons overseas in Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry — one in Croatia, the other in Bosnia.

And he knows how important relief packages are to morale.

“It’s really heartening to know that people are thinking about you when you’re overseas, especially around Christmastime,” said Grossinger.

Now a civilian, Grossinger is helping the soldiers still on duty.

On Monday morning he was in the Royal Canadian Legion building sorting through a table covered in Afghanistan-bound goodies — Christmas wreaths, tinsel and a boxed fake tree, plastic water bottles, Yukon Brewing Company beer mugs and coffee presses.

Then there are the special foods Grossinger hopes the troops could use for a holiday gathering — chips, nuts, 20 cans of sardines, 40 cans of oysters, a 2.25-kilogram block of cheese, garlic sausage, crackers and candies.

M&Ms are the only chocolates you can send, said Grossinger.

“It’s cause they melt in your mouth, not in your hands; everything else melts.

“When I was over there, I was there during Easter and everyone got sent chocolates that just went into a big pile.”

The prized items are brightly coloured construction paper Christmas cards handcrafted by the Grade 1 kids at Takhini Elementary.

There are cutout angels and Christmas trees pasted to the front. “Merry Christmas,” and “I love you” are scrawled on the inside in red and green crayon.

The most important item in these packages is something you might not expect — flea collars.

The collars, usually clasped around the necks of pets, are tied around the soldiers’ ankles to ward off sand-flea bites.

“They’re having a real problem with them because they’re sleeping on the ground while they’re on operation,” said Grossinger.

There’s nothing novel about sending gift boxes to overseas troops, but the content of these packages is unique to the Yukon.

Local songwriting legend Hank Karr is donating a raft of DVDs to the cause — one for each soldier in the platoon.

These packages are destined for the third platoon in the A company of Second Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry from Shilo, Manitoba, a group that the Whitehorse legion has adopted as its own.

Two Yukoners, Tom Eschak and Doug Tizya, are currently serving in the infantry.

Those are the only two Yukoners serving in Afghanistan that the legion knows about.

“There’s rumours of more, but we’re trying to confirm,” said Grossinger.

The legion sent six, 14-kilogram boxes of supplies two weeks ago and is now packing 10 more to follow.

“There are quite rough conditions for them in Kandahar now, as I understand it,” said Grossinger.

The infantry is operational, which means it is outside of the capital city performing operations in rural Afghanistan.

So far, the legion raised $1,100 on its fundraiser night and $800 in donations through its yellow-ribbon campaign.

Now it’s tracking down donations from local businesses.

“I think now people are starting to realize that we’re serious about doing this,” added Anne Turner, a member who helped assemble the packages.

“People are stepping forward to give us donations.”

The legion is also raffling off a handmade burl table, 100 gallons of heating oil, an amethyst necklace and a bird quilt to raise money to send more support overseas.

“One hundred per cent of everything we get goes to the troops,” said Grossinger.

Legion supporters came up with the idea to send the packages overseas in September.

They will keep up the effort as long as there are Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan.

Canada Post has donated, to the legion, free shipping to the troops until mid-January, and the group plans to use it to the fullest.

“As soon as we’ve sent this package off, we’ll start work on another one,” said Turner.

To donate, contact the legion at 667-2800.

More than 3,000 Canadian soldiers, sailors and air force personnel are deployed on active overseas missions.

More than 2,200 troops are stationed in Afghanistan, where 43 Canadians have been killed since 2002.

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