Close to 3,000 Iowa National Guard soldiers are serving our country in Afghanistan as we speak. And once again, their friends and families are back at it packing boxes full of love and supporting each other in the process.
Military families gathered at the National Guard Armory in Sioux City with one goal in mind: To send their loved ones overseas a reminder of how much they’re missed. From sweet treats to personal care products. Everything inside was packed with love and care.
“It makes me feel like I’m supporting his efforts while he’s oversees and then when he gets the box it’s like a little piece from home that reminds him that there are people at home that care about him,” said Susane Kabisch, the wife of a soldier.
“I want him to think of us and how great of a family we are,” said Mason Mackey, who’s brother is in Afghanistan.
While this event produced boxes of support for our soldiers, it also served as a support system for families right here in Siouxland.
“When we come to events like this where there are other family members who are going though the same things that we are during the deployment it’s very comforting and uplifting to come together and work for the common good,” said Kabisch.
Showing that a little can travel far and keep loved one’s close to heart.
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It’s the third year in a row the Wilmes family has put on their spectacular holiday light show. The entire display has well over 20,000 lights, and every year, the lights are synched to music. This year it’s a medley of all your favorite holiday classics that you can hear on 106.5.
“We just love it. People in our neighborhood, our neighbors come out and we all stand on the side walk, turn on our cars, our radios and we all stand there and dance to the music,” Pam Wilmes, homeowner.
The whole thing starts right on the computer. Matt Wilmes uses an excel-type program to synchronize the lights with the music. And according to Wilmse, that’s the easy part.
“The twenty-five minute show that we have this year it’s a minimum of a hundred hours of sequencing every minute takes about 2-3 hours,” said Wilmes.
The hardest part, actually finding the time to put up the lights. But when it comes down to it, Wilmes says its not about time or money, it’s about giving back and honoring his father who passed away several years ago.
“My dad I felt was a good man and one of the things he instilled in me was to give back, and that’s what I’m doing,” said Wilmes.
And while these lights turned on for the first time only a couple days ago, Wilmes is already thinking about next year.
The Wilmes’ welcome everyone to come out and see the holiday light show, that runs now through January 2nd. This year, any donations the family receives will go to Support Siouxland Soldiers. There is a donation box in the shape of a candy cane out in front of the house.
The address is 4026 Capitol Street in Sioux City.
Support Siouxland Soldiers held it’s 4th Holiday Care Package event on Saturday. Families and friends filled up box after box for their loved ones overseas. There were different stations to pick from, with things like toothpaste, socks, holiday cards and candy.
One mom was making a care package for her 21-year old son who serves in the U.S. Navy and is currently in Afghanistan.
“He said anytime he gets a box it feels like Christmas. He never know what’s going to be in it, so it’s always a surprise and they just really really just appreciate anything that comes over there.”
Support Siouxland Soliders provides everything families need to make the care package, all you need it your soldier’s address. It takes about 3 weeks for the soldiers to get their holiday surprise.
About 100 volunteers toughed out the heat, to make sure their loved ones feel welcome when they return from Afghanistan.
More than 3,000 Iowa soldiers went overseas last year, but they will be home by the end of July.
“It’s been up and down, you don’t hear from him, technology nowadays, you don’t hear for 10 days you freak out, you think it’s a long time, but think of the old days, that really wasn’t that long,” said Patrick McKeever, who’s son is in the 113th Cavalry in Afghanistan.
People worked through the summer sun, to make sure the soldiers feel welcomed.
“It’s really important for the troops to see that their community missed them, and supports them, and that we are really proud of them, and we’re just really glad that they’re home safe,” said Sarah Petersen, from Support Siouxland Soldiers.
The families don’t know the exact date their loved ones will return, but they can’t wait for that day to arrive.
“His mom, brother, and sister, and all his family together and just enjoy it. I’m leaving July 30th to go out of the country, so I’m praying he gets back by then,” said McKeever.
The families say they usually don’t find out when the soldiers come home until about 48 hours beforehand.
Many Siouxland military families were not together for the holidays last year and for many soldiers who just came back from deployment, this time of year can be very stressful. But tonight an event helped with some of those problems.
Sioux City’s Public Museum was turned into a Christmas base filled with about 150 military families. The mission? “Operation Pay it Forward.”
“Holidays are hard, especially for our military members. Some of them come home to no jobs, some of them come home laid off and it’s just helps to make things a little bit more fun for them,” said a volunteer for Support Siouxland Soldiers.
Support Siouxland Soldiers, the museum and the Free Masons of Iowa gave the families an opportunity to have some holiday fun together and for the kids Christmas came early. Each of them got to choose a toy, a book and a Scentsy Buddy.
And to help Support Siouxland Soldiers continue their work in the home-front, the Iowa Free Masons donated $10,000 to help make sure our heroes have a safe happy holiday back home.
Firehouse is helping throw a live music concert Saturday night for Support Siouxland Soldiers. It’s a free event honoring Siouxland Soldiers past and present. There’s four local bands playing to show support to 350 of our local soldiers. There’s T–shirts for $15 which will fund care packages for military men and women who are deployed. And the more you drink, the better.
“Every drink sold tonight, fifty cents of it goes to Support Siouxland Soldiers,” said Brittany Dekker, Support Siouxland Soldiers.
On top of drink proceeds, the owner of Firehouse is matching the bartenders tips to donate to the organization.
“I wanted to give back to the soldiers. The soldiers are risking their lives for us and this is our chance to throw them one heck of a bash,” said Paul Andersen.
The party goes til 1 a.m.