Every few weeks Betty Schultz gives her husband a couple of boxes packed with food, toiletries, gum, batteries and other odds and ends to lug down to the post office where it’s sent to a far away land and ends up in the hands of a complete stranger.
Schultz and her husband Floyd usually spend about $25 or $30 filling each box, plus the cost of shipping. Off and on, they’ve been sending care packages to U.S. soldiers stationed overseas since the first Gulf War in the early 1990s.
“For one, we appreciate those guys being over there,” Schultz said.
The retired couple has joined several organizations that aim to pair up generous citizens with soldiers looking for a few comforts from home. Acting as a sort of war time Santa Claus, Schultz looks over the lists of names provided by the organization and picks a soldier who likely will be staying put long enough to receive the package. She usually sticks to the list and sends beef jerky, baby wipes, sunscreen, snack food and other items. One of the strangest requests she got, Schultz said, was for Beanie Babies. As it turns out, the small stuffed toy likely saved the lives of a handful of soldiers.
According to Floyd Schultz, one of the toys was given to a young Iraqi girl who was apparently so moved by the gift, she alerted the Americans to a land mine buried just 200 yards up the road from their vehicles. The couple heard about this life saving exchange in one of the many letters they receive from troops.
In a letter written by an Army chaplain a year ago this month, Schultz was praised for her generosity. Last month she received a certificate of appreciation from military leaders in Afghanistan.
“I assure you that what you send is meeting a tremendous need in the soldiers of the Ready First Combat Team,” Brigade Chaplain Michael Wood said in his June 2006 letter.
In each box, Schultz places a two-page letter she writes to inform the troops of who she is and where she lives. She talks about her quilting, the volunteer programs she and her husband participate in and any other tones of home she can think of. But her signature gift, the one that seems to get the biggest rise from the soldiers, is the Frisbee she puts in every package.
“Anybody writes her a letter back, the first thing they thank her for is the Frisbee,” Floyd Schultz said.
One of the toys sent to the men and women on board the USS Abraham Lincoln went overboard on the first toss, according to a thank-you letter requesting another, Schultz said.
Floyd Schultz is a veteran of the Korean War himself, having served as a paratrooper in England at the time Queen Elizabeth II was crowned. Schultz’s own father fought with the Marines in Haiti nearly a century ago and her brother joined the Navy’s elite Frogmen program.
“We know what it’s like that these guys are over there,” Schultz said.