WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Dec. 4, 2006) - Silver Star Families of America, a group dedicated to supporting wounded servicemembers and their families, is thinking outside the box this Christmas.

A member of America Supports You, a Defense Department program highlighting ways Americans and the corporate sector support the nation's servicemembers, the group has undertaken a program to send holiday cheer to military and veterans hospitals.

"We concentrate on sending Silver Star banners to the wounded, but the members wanted to do something special for the wounded for Christmas," said Steve Newton, the organization's founder.

Through "Project Christmas," Silver Star Families is sending at least one box of goodies to a military hospital, a Veterans Affairs medical center or a combat support hospital in every state in the U.S., and to Germany and Iraq, Newton said.

The effort got under way a mere three weeks ago, and the organization has nearly met its goal. All boxes for overseas locations have been shipped to ensure they arrive in time for the holidays. As for the stateside venture, only a handful of states remain to be checked off the list.

"This has been a big project for us," Newton said. "We usually don't tackle care packages on this scale, but we've had a lot of support."

That support has come from within, with members donating items to stuff the boxes, and from the celebrity realm, including best-selling author Dean Koontz. The author shipped "cases and cases of autographed books," which meshed well with the group's goal of sending "fun" items. Other items donated for the packages include signed baseball, football and other sports memorabilia, as well as items with musicians' signatures.

"We got pencils from the Chicago Cubs, just hundreds and hundreds of pencils," he said. "The Cleveland Cavaliers basketball team sent us, I bet it was 150 ... T-shirts, beautiful T-shirts."

The Silver Star members also are taking it upon themselves to pick up any slack, Newton said. One member from the Washington area stepped up to cover the postage for all of the packages being sent from the national headquarters in Missouri. Other members are sending packages on their own to ensure as many wounded servicemembers as possible have a great Christmas.

"If you'd asked me a week or two ago, I'd have said, 'I don't ever, ever want to see any kind of box again," Newton said with a laugh. "But I think we'll do this every year."

(Samantha L. Quigley writes for the Armed Forces Press Service.)