Group that Sends Care Packages to Military Personnel May be Grounded by Change in Mail Rules

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For 20 years, Operation American Soldier has been sending out a piece of home to men and women serving in the U.S. Military overseas from Watertown, but the pipeline of care packages appears to be coming to a sudden halt with a change in rules for shipping packages to military bases.

Co-founder Wendy Rocca recently learned that the flat-rate boxes used to send the care packages will soon no longer be available, and the rates will be much higher.

“It was $15.30 (per box) at the Christmas-time rush. It was $14 and change for the rest of the year,” Rocca said. “Now we do not have the flat rate. We have to buy our own boxes and do it by weight.”

Each box contains items like snacks, coffee, toiletries and magazines, along with a letter written by the person packing the box. Operation American Soldier runs out of the basement of the Marine Corps League’s Charles Shutt Detachment on Mt. Auburn Street, and people from local businesses and organizations volunteer to fill the boxes.

The group receives donations, as well as grants from organizations such as the Watertown Community Foundation, Watertown Savings Bank, UPS, and Tuft Health Plan. The group was even recognized by the New England Patriots Charitable Foundation. In 2016, Rocca was one of the recipients of the Myra Kraft Community MVP Award.

The flow of care packages, however, will stop next week.

“As of next Monday, I’m done,” Rocca said, adding. “I had to put people off, because we don’t have any way to do it.”

Wendy and her husband John started Operation American Soldier in 2oo2 their daughter, Tracey, was deployed in Iraq.

Nowadays, when Rocca tells people about the organization, she sometimes gets puzzled looks from people who are surprised to hear that the United States has military units overseas, because there are no ongoing wars. There are many, she said, spread across the globe.

Eric J. Adler Wendy Rocca, co-founder of Operation American Soldier, received the Myra Kraft Community MVP Award from New England Patriots owner Bob Kraft, right, and Patriots Executive Director of Community Affairs Andre Tippett, left, in 2016.

One of the challenges for Operation American Soldier if it sends out packages by weight, is the boxes don’t all weigh the same amount.

“I can’t produce the labels ahead of time knowing what stock we need, and who needs where in what country,” Rocca said. “Every box is individual to the person it is going to, or at least to the unit it’s going to. I don’t send to South Korea what I send to Kuwait — two different climates.”

Sometimes the packages go to people known by someone in Watertown, other times people contact the group to request that boxes be sent to a unit overseas. Rocca said they can be a big pick-me-up for the servicemen and women. Rocca said her son, who served in the Army, was approached by a woman who thanked him, and said that it was the only piece of mail she had received during her entire deployment.

Rocca hopes that the decision to get rid of flat-rate boxes to the military is reversed and she has already started advocating for that.

“We have to get on Congress. Congress is the only one that can turn this around,” Rocca said.

2 thoughts on “Group that Sends Care Packages to Military Personnel May be Grounded by Change in Mail Rules

  1. Thanks Wendy and John for all your years sending the soldiers care packages , you made that women’s day and countless others. Not surprised to see that some people don’t understand what it takes to keep peace in the world, you can’t have it by just wishing “peace, love and understanding” On the Congressional side, we have Jake Auchincloss, Seth Moulton and Stephen Lynch along with a few others who will get it done! Such a great cause, hopefully this is not the end. Thanks Again!

  2. By establishing Operation American Soldier Wendy Rocca and her husband certainly filled a void for the troops needing basic supplies, snacks, writing and reading materials and so many other items to supplement the needs of those who serve all over the world. Over the years many people and companies donated to keep the supplies in stock and there were so many volunteers to make the packing and shipping happen.

    We CAN’T let this important charity fail. The Post Office doesn’t know how to run an efficient and budget-conscious business. They can’t hire and keep enough postal workers because of their low starting pays and not offering good health benefits from what I hear. The current workers are FORCED to work HUGE amounts of overtime due to a shortage of personnel and that must be costing a FORTUNE! There have been times where people haven’t received mail for up to three days. Any regular business would change their business plan to solve these problems and run efficiently.

    If we continue to allow mail-in ballots for elections, we need to have dedicated, honest and hardworking mail personnel handling our mail. I think the postal system needs a total overhaul to make it work better for everyone. Maybe personnel changes are needed to accomplish this. So let’s do what can be done to make it a viable entity.

    If you are ever going to call your state representatives and senators on an issue, this is an IMPORTANT one. To let Operation American Soldier fail would be criminal. Our GOVERNMENT FAILS to provide a lot of necessities to our soldiers, which is INEXCUSABLE, so they should at least be able to change the rules back on charities shipping goods at fixed and reasonable rates to help people who defend and help us.

    Thanks and kudos go out to Wendy and her loyal group of volunteers for their service to our troops over these twenty plus years. Let’s not let Operation American Soldier end. Let’s call our government representatives and put the pressure on them to restore reasonable rates for the packages going to our troops.

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