Dec. 8, 2009
CONTACT: Gordon Ovenshine:
Students demonstrate spirit of the season
SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - While it is not possible to eliminate the pain of separation soldiers feel during the holidays, Slippery Rock University student Colleen McCoy, an education major from Saxonburg, hopes the 141 care packages she is sending to soldiers stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan will help lift their spirits. Her two brothers serve in the U.S. Army in those warzones.
"They're both going to be there for Christmas," she said of William McCoy III, a former SRU student whose unit was activated to Iraq, and Michael McCoy, deployed to Afghanistan. "Just knowing how their whole unit feels, it's one of the hardest times of the year for them. They don't get to see their families, their children and friends. If we can bring some kind of cheer, some kind of joy for the holidays, the project will be more than worthwhile."
The packages, boxed with military precision by McCoy and other students in SRU's Building B residence hall, include hygiene products, crackers, candy and 300 cards made by SRU students thanking soldiers for their military service. The boxes were mailed Tuesday. SRU's Association of Residence Hall Students paid the $1,700 postage.
McCoy said the project exploded in scope after she posted fliers in Building B and sent e-mails to other students asking them to get involved. More than 100 students contributed an item or crafted a card.
"Originally, it was just going involve my floor," said McCoy, a Building B community assistant. "We were just going to make a few cards and send a little care package. But when I brought it to a Residence Life staff meeting, it became a building-wide project. I am thrilled with the response. I never expected it to be this big. Students really helped. They came out for the card-making session, and they've donated items for the boxes and supported us."
McCoy, who comes from a military family, said she communicates with her brother William on Facebook but doesn't know the specific whereabouts of her brother Michael.
"It's a hard time for them," she said. "A lot of support for the war is diminishing. It takes a toll on the soldiers and on their morale. To do something like this, to be able to give back when they are serving our country, is amazing. It shows me that Slippery Rock University students care and are willing to get involved."
Lt. Col. Patrick Callahan, commander of the Army ROTC program at SRU, commended McCoy and the other students for the gesture, saying, "That young woman is incredible. You wouldn't believe what things like this do for morale."
Callahan, who served in Iraq from 2006-07, said he understands the feeling of isolation many soldiers feel during the holidays.
"When I was over there on Christmas day and Thanksgiving, I tried to ignore that they were going on, because I knew what we were all missing. Small things can make a difference, just to let us know that the country cares and hasn't forgotten us. The only family we have on a regular basis is our peers, our fellow soldiers."
Slippery Rock University is Pennsylvania's premier public residential university. Slippery Rock University provides students with a comprehensive learning experience that intentionally combines academic instruction with enhanced educational and learning opportunities that make a positive difference in their lives.