Patrick Young, a Marine combat veteran and director of the Office of Veterans Services at Towson University, doesn't send care packages to service men and women overseas with the motivation of hearing "thank you."
But he can't forget those instances when he does.
Last year, months after sending out packages with items such as lip balm, instant noodles, beef jerky, bug spray and crossword puzzles, he received a heartfelt email from a soldier in a combat zone, who told him simply that, "he didn't think anybody cared about them over there," said Young.
Another note came from a soldier who received a package at a low point in his morale. He was in a "tough spot," said Young, serving in a hostile area in Afghanistan, and said he hadn't gotten mail from home for quite a while with the package from Towson arrived.
"We don't expect (to receive thanks)," Young said, "but it is good to hear back."
For the past three years, Young has helped organize a Veterans Day Drive to collect items to send to military personnel, and is in the midst of the fourth annual collection.
From now until Nov. 11, the campus' Towson Veterans Student Group, a support group for veterans attending the school, is collecting items on campus that will be sent over the holiday season.
Collection points have been set up at the TU Veteran's Center, which is located in the school's Psychology Building, room 107, as well as at Cook Library on campus, outside room 410, and in the TU Administration Building, outside rooms 410 and 320.
The Veterans Student Group started the drive in 2008, and collected 20 boxes worth of items. A year later, that amount was doubled to 40 boxes; last year it doubled again, as the group of volunteers collected, assembled and shipped 88 boxes worth of items.
Young said the Veterans Center and support group know what soldiers like and need, and are asking for items that might not readily come to mind — such as baby wipes (used in the field when showers aren't available), bug spray, batteries and Ramen noodles.
"Ramen noodles are huge," Young said.
Other items on the wish list include drink mixes, DVDs, Slim Jims, hard candy, cigars, tampons, deodorant, bars of soap, magazines, sunflower seeds and head phones.
In years past, most of the items have been collected directly on campus, through staff and student donations.
But Young said the drive welcomes donations from the community as well.
The group is also happy to hear referrals for people to receive the packages. Most people who get them are referred by friends, fellow students and faculty, but Young said that if Towson-area residents know of a relative, neighbor or friend who could benefit from a package, the group would be happy to hear about it.
The only requirement, he said, is that they should be currently deployed.
"We want to send them overseas, to people in hardship areas," he said.
In addition to items for service men and women, Young is also collecting money to help pay for shipping. In previous years a Catonsville-area VFW Post had paid that expense from its own coffers, but the growing collection made it difficult, Young said.
This year, the TU Veterans Student Group has been holding fundraisers to gather funds, but Young isn't sure it'll be enough to cover the costs, which can run about $12.75 per package, he said.
For more information about donating, or to make a referral for someone to receive a package, contact Patrick Young at 410-704-2991, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
In conjunction with the drive and Veterans Day, the TU Office of Veterans Services is hosting a series of events this week on campus that are open to the community. Call Young at 410-704-2991 for details:
• Wed., Nov. 9, 6-8 p.m. — Student Veterans Panel discussion, held at the University Union.
•Thu., Nov. 10, 4-5 p.m. — Yoga for Veterans, held in Burdick Gym
• Fri., Nov. 11, 1-3 p.m. Open House at the Veterans Center, Psychology Building, room 107.
• Fri., Nov. 11, 7-9 p.m., Veterans Film Series screening, "Where Soldiers Come From," Van Bokkelen Hall, room 204.