Donations, Support for Deployed National Guardsmen

Grace Allen
The 188th Engineer Detachment, soon after arriving in Kuwait.
Issue Date: 
May, 2018
Article Body: 

When John Kent and his wife Caitlin moved to Norfolk in November, they did not anticipate how generous the town’s residents could be. Last month, they found out.
Kent, a captain in the Massachusetts Army National Guard, was deployed to Kuwait in February, and his wife decided to send his unit a care package.
“I posted on Facebook thinking I’d get a few people in town to donate, and instead it turned into this town-wide effort,” said Caitlin Kent. “It was amazing.”
Ten very large boxes of supplies were collected and then shipped to Kuwait in early April. Items included coffee, protein bars and trail mix, ziplock bags, bed sheets, magazines, chapstick, and sunscreen. The supplies, said Caitlin, will help make the soldiers lives a little bit more comfortable.
“Kuwait is hot and sandy and a lot of days are over 100 degrees, with summer temperatures close to 150,” said Caitlin.
Items like sunscreen and chapstick are important to the soldiers, she added, explaining that although military bases have small stores (exchanges and/or commissaries), they usually have a very limited selection.
“By sending them these items we are able to make their deployment feel a little more like home, and also help them to stay focused on their mission while they are deployed,” she said.
The project was facilitated with the help of Sarah Ward, the children’s librarian at the Norfolk Public Library. Ward saw the Facebook post and offered to coordinate the effort and designate the library as the collection spot.
“She has been awesome,” said Caitlin. “She took it over and organized it. It wouldn’t have happened without her help.”
Ward said the library was an obvious choice for donations since it had been the site of other drives in town.
“I figured the response would be pretty big because I’ve lived in Norfolk my whole life and I know how people respond to things like this,” said Ward. “I was happy to help out.”
The Norfolk Community League volunteered to pay the shipping costs to send the boxes to Kuwait.
“I was shocked at how generous they were. It was unbelievable,” said Caitlin. “I’m very appreciative.”
Area Girl Scouts and elementary school classes wrote cards to the soldiers, and those were included in the shipment, too.
“The soldiers really love receiving them,” said Caitlin. “I know they hang them on the wall. Along with the donations, to know people are thinking about them and care about them, it really helps with morale.”
Captain Kent has been in the military since 2003. A member of the 188th Engineer Detachment, Kent will be deployed for ten months. His detachment, a facilities management group, will support Operation Spartan Shield by helping to maintain buildings and highways during their stay. Kuwait serves as the gateway for troops deploying to elsewhere in the Middle East.
This is the second deployment for Kent, who previously served in Afghanistan.
While her husband is away, Caitlin is taking care of Echo, a Doberman pinscher that belongs to one of the soldiers in her husband’s unit. Residents have donated items and food for him too, she said.
“I’m so grateful to live in such a supportive community,” said Caitlin. “We just moved here. People don’t even know us yet they have been so generous. Military deployment is kind of a unique thing. There aren’t a lot of people who go through it. My husband and I really appreciate that people have been so supportive. To know people are there for us, even if they don’t totally understand what we’re going through, we feel very grateful.”
She added, “I told my husband we picked the BEST town to buy our forever home.”
Another shipment for Capt. Kent and his unit is planned for this summer. Donations can be dropped off at the library beginning July 9. More information, as well as a list of suggested items, will be posted on the library’s Facebook page and website ( later this spring.