By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Oct. 5, 2007 - Country music fans soon will be invited to join top country artists and the Grand Ole Opry in creating the "World's Largest Care Package" for troops serving overseas.
"We feel like this is a great way to thank (servicemembers) and recognize the sacrifices that they made to serve our country and defend our freedom," said Pete Fisher, Opry vice president and general manager. "This just seemed like a great idea that we thought would catch people's attention and put some smiles on some faces overseas."
The Grand Ole Opry, with the United States Postal Service and the Defense Department's America Supports You program, will unveil the World's Largest Care Package during its televised "Grand Ole Opry Live" show on Oct. 6. The project is part of the theater's 82nd birthday activities.
America Supports You connects citizens and corporations with military personnel and their families serving at home and abroad. "(America Supports You) is a campaign we believe very strongly in," Fisher said. "We also think it's important to provide an opportunity ... for country music fans and Opry fans to express their support (for the troops). So America Supports You is always on our mind."
That opportunity comes in a box large enough to contain 1,000 individual packages, exactly the number of boxes the U.S. Postal Service donated, Fisher said. Those boxes, which carry the Grand Ole Opry and America Supports You logos, will be filled with letters from Opry fans, as well as gifts from musicians and record labels and some of America's most recognized corporate brands.
"We're welcoming (fans) to drop off letters," Fisher said. "What we will really emphasize is really to share their thoughts in a letter."
Fan letters will be accepted through the end of October. The packages will be shipped by Nov. 11 so troops serving overseas will receive them by Thanksgiving, Fisher said.
"Mail is a great morale booster for our troops," Joanne Giordano, Postal Service vice president for public affairs and communications, said in a joint Opry, Postal Service, America Supports You news release. "We're proud to be part of an effort to connect our brave men and women in uniform with their friends and family back home."
Support for the project has been widespread, including fans who participated in an Opry online auction that netted $10,000 to ship the packages. Volunteers from the nonprofit group Tennessee Marine Family will pack the boxes with goodies that are collected.
Donna Clemons, the mother of a Marine who has served three tours in Iraq, founded the group, which also supports the America Supports You program.
"The way all these organizations have come together, I believe, is truly representative of the support of our mission for our military family, and we're grateful for their generosity," said Allison Barber, deputy assistant secretary of defense for internal communication and public liaison. "The partnership between the Grand Ole Opry, one of our earliest supporters, and the U.S. Postal Service is an excellent example of how organizations can come together through the America Supports You program."