Soldier’s mom organizes aid program

BY C.J. FUTCH

Ascension section writer

GONZALES — Vicky Stinson’s children were 10 and 11 when terrorists attacked the U.S. on Sept. 11, 2001. It was hard to explain to them what was happening, she said.

Ten years later, Stinson’s 11-year-old son, Christopher and a soldier serving in Afghanistan with a military intelligence unit of the U.S. Army’s 303rd Military Intelligence Battalion, based in Fort Hood, Texas.

With his departure, Stinson said, she found herself dealing with another set of difficult-to-explain emotions.

“He’s wanted to be a soldier since the 10th grade,” Stinson said.

No one in her family is in the military, so she couldn’t exactly explain how his interest developed, but he joined the Army Reserves, and served in that capacity all through college, while he worked part time.

When he graduated, Stinson said, her son sat her down, and broke the news that he wanted to go on active duty.

“I said, ‘Well, son, put a helmet on and go for it at 100 miles an hour.’ He wouldn’t be happy doing anything else,” she said.

Even with that knowledge, Stinson said, she was perpetually uneasy, doing her best to mother Chris long-distance through carefully compiled care packages.

When they speak on the phone, Stinson said, Chris never talks about his military mission, but does spend a lot of time talking about the comforts

of home he misses, and how few of his fellow soldiers are still getting care packages.

“That’s when I thought to myself, ‘Well, maybe I can do something about that,’ ” Stinson said. She decided to try to organize a series of care packages to as many soldiers as she could manage.

She began asking around, and one of her first stops was Chris’ alma mater, East Ascension High School.

EAHS history teacher Jamie Andrews volunteered, along with Jamie Breaux of the Gonzales Fire Department, to help collect supplies and raise money to ship the boxes to soldiers in Chris’ unit, and beyond, depending how well they do.

Since then, the project has snowballed into a multifaceted effort to remind the community that soldiers are still overseas serving, and it’s still a dangerous job.

“We’re planning a program about 9/11 at the school, a letter-writing campaign and we’re going to collect supplies for care boxes,” Andrews said.

Andrews was able to track down graduates from EAHS who have served overseas to speak at the event, which will be the Friday before the tenth anniversary of the attacks.

It will be good for students to hear that these veterans once sat where they sit today, Stinson said, and that will hopefully spark a robust collection.

But the drive has done more than provide little touches of home to soldiers overseas, Stinson said.

“It’s become a mission for me,” she said, and fills her spare time with phone calls and requests for donations.

She’s already gotten pledges of support from the city of Gonzales, the police and fire departments, the Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Office, and many local businesses, she said.

Andrews said they’ll release a list of desired supplies and more details about drop-off points after the assembly.

Andrews said the full assembly will be presented to seniors only, but a version of the program will be presented to each grade level in class.