FORT MONMOUTH, N.J. -- A bar of soap. A toothbrush. A handful of candy. Trivial things to some, but for those in a combat zone, opening a care package filled with "trivial things" can sweeten bitter days spent far from home.

Ensuring that Soldiers abroad feel remembered, volunteers gathered here at the Army Community Service (ACS) center Nov. 20 to assemble care packages for the holidays.

"All of these items came as donations," said Roseann Salsano. As the Relocation Readiness Program manager, she is the newest member of the ACS staff and organized the event. "Many of the items here came from the members of [our] Hearts Apart group, but some came from outside sources."

Salsano cited a real estate brokerage firm in northern New Jersey that started a campaign to collect donations that were then turned over to her. "I wasn't even aware they were doing that," she added.

Postage to send the packages overseas will be paid by the Association of the United States Army.

"I am very proud of all the support provided for our deployed military," said Linda Strong. "ACS has done a great job organizing this wonderful Hearts Apart event." Strong, who helped to fill some of the 75 boxes sent, is the spouse of Maj. Gen. Randolph P. Strong, commander of the CECOM Life Cycle Management Command.

The Hearts Apart program is for family members of military or civilian personnel who are away on deployment or assignments that take them away from their families.

"This is our first event, but it won't be our last," said Salsano. She intends to organize another care package event in the first quarter of 2010.

In the hallway outside the conference room where the items were being packed, Spc. Justin Erosh helped Ida Gonzalez open and fold flat cardboard into boxes ready to be filled. Gonzalez, whose son, Spc. Michael Gonzalez, died in 2008 while serving in Iraq, came to support the effort. Erosh came to lend support to Gonzalez.

"He was my best friend," said Erosh. Both were assigned to the 430th Military Police Detachment, an Army Reserve unit based at Red Bank.

Erosh, who has not yet deployed, said his friend volunteered to deploy as an Army Reserve individual mobilization augmentee.

Perhaps no amount of scented hand soap or minty toothpaste can wash away the acrid scent of spent rifle cartridges or the taste of salty desert sands, but it's sometimes the smallest gestures that can have the greatest impact.