By Sgt. 1st Class mark BellAugust 4, 2014
FORT MEADE, Md. -- Thanks to Operation Homefront and a dedicated family program staff, dozens of Army Reserve Soldiers received much-needed school supplies for their children August 3.
Patrons who visited discount stores in Odenton, Jessup and Laurel, Maryland donated school supplies for service members to the Fort Meade area.
During battle assembly weekend at the 200th Military Police Command Soldiers lined up outside a makeshift school supply store to gather pens, paper, scissors and more than 1,200 various items on school supply lists in the area.
Deadra Martin, the 200th MPCOM's School Support Specialist, said helping Army Reserve families is a top priority for the command.
"We have many young families that need assistance, and if we help them with school supplies, we are making a difference," she said. "School supplies may not seem like a big financial burden, but we have many families that can use the help."
For the past three weeks, Martin has been making trips to local stores collecting the school supplies and said the store employees and their customers were excited to help military families.
"Everyone involved in this project has been very helpful," she said. "This is a way for our communities to give back to those serving in harm's way and here in the area."
Martin said the Army Reserve is a part thousands of communities across the country, and if one customer donates a small pack pens, that cost can be used for other items for their children.
"We had one young female Soldier picking up school supplies who said she now could buy extra clothes for her children for school," she said. "We are always looking at ways to help our families, and this weekend the community was able to give back to our Soldiers."
One of those Soldiers standing in line was Sgt. Shanita Hodge, an admin specialist with a five-year-old daughter, Jashua.
"These types of opportunities really helps out the Soldiers who can't afford school supplies or just needs a little assistance during this time of year," said the Jackson, Mississippi native. "Today is just another day in the Army where leadership demonstrates they care for their troops. As a Reserve Soldier, we make sacrifices they might not notice during the one weekend a month, but I am very proud to serve my country and very proud to be a part of this organization."
As Hodge and other Soldiers walked out of the room with camouflaged bags filled with supplies, Martin said more Soldiers are still in need and she'll continue the program for several more weeks.
"We must care for our Soldiers and their families," she said. "Just knowing we are helping out, as small as it may seem, feels good inside. This is my extended family, and I enjoy spending weekends and time off from work helping them."
Supplies were not randomly chosen and Soldiers didn't get to fill bags with more than they needed. Martin said each Soldier had to provide a school supply list from their child's school before shopping.
"It's important to be responsible with the gifts from the community," she said. "Having the school supply list ensured each child had the right item for his or her particular school and grade."
The room was fill with supplies in all colors and designs.
"Boys are easy to shop for," Martin said laughing. "Girls, on the other hand, can be more particular about the color of their pencils and folders. We have it all here, and it's fun to see Soldiers find exactly what their child would like. It's a really good feeling to watch them leave here smiling."
Wilda Tierney, the command's Family Programs director, said military children are the country's future, and leaders have a responsible to ensure the military family has the support and resources available to them.
"The Army Reserve ensures family members are included in the day-to-day lives of our Soldiers," she said. "It's not just about the Soldier, but the family. We are family strong, and without the family, we have failed."
She said programs like the school supplies, are important to Maj. Gen. Phillip Churn, the commanding general of the 200th MPCOM, and the entire leadership from all levels in the largest Department of Defense military police organization.
"Whether it's summer camps for the children or counseling for the family members, we make great strives to ensure the right information and resources are available to our Army Reserve families."