November 7, 2016 Voices Of Montana, _Featured

Laurel Hometown Troops And Ryan Zinke Joined Us On Voices Of Montana

After the 911 disaster many Montana soldiers and sailors were deployed overseas to fight in the middle east and stationed all across the world. After troops started to trickle home many military personnel would relay stories and their experiences from countries thousands of miles away from family and friends.

One Montana family that had a son fighting in the middle east, Keith Burns, told them that there were many Montana soldiers that never received a single care package from home during their entire tour of duty. That got Keith’s Mom and Dad to thinking what they could do to make sure every military personnel serving overseas, fighting for their country from Montana would get something from home, especially during the holidays.

Cindy and Gene Burns and Cindy’s sister Susie took that little idea and figured bcare-packages-for-our-troopsy adding some simple supplies and special Montana made items it could make the soldiers lives a little bit better. Once people heard of the Burn’s idea around Laurel, many wondered if they could help. That’s how it got started some 16 years ago this year.

After the death of Cindy, and with Gene’s illness, there has been some changes to that group they created called Laurel Hometown Troops, but according to the new President Renae Marshall the one thing that hasn’t changed is the mission.

Renae joined us on Voices of Montana Friday morning along with Montana’s lone Congressman Ryan Zinke who is a 23-year US Navy Seal Veteran and is the first navy seal voted to the house.

During the show I asked Renae about the name Laurel Hometown Troops and if that causes any confusion since you send packages to any Montanan that is serving overseas? “It sounds as though we are only interested in supporting home-grown Laurelites,” Renae said, “But of course that is not true. If we hear a military member needs some cheer from home we send a package no matter where their home is across the state.”

Laurel Hometown troopsLaurel Hometown Troops ship to any deployed member of the military with any ties to the state of Montana. Laurel is just where they are headquartered and many of the volunteers are also from there but they send out to anyone with Montana ties.

Ryan Zinke told us that as a commander, he knows that there is nothing better than receiving something from home, especially when it’s made in Montana. It gives the soldier a sense of pride when they share something from home.

“When we send packages to our Montana troops we send enough for them to share with at least 25 other troop members in their unit. Some of those items are Christmas trees, decorations, fudge,  summer sausage, crackers, kick balls, and much more.”

Laurel Hometown Troops supports the troops year round now. According to Renae, “We try to send smaller packages in February or March. These boxes usually include valentines, girl scout cookies and various other goodies. We also send large boxes in June and July which have extremely hot temperatures in the middle east. We fill them up with chapped sticks, eye drops, drink mixes, water bottles, sun screen along with some dental care items.”

Laurel hometown troops2Laurel Hometown Troops has several fundraisers throughout the year as well as working to obtain grants. Additionally they receive numerous donations from individuals and groups throughout the year.

Shipping can come to over $7000 just for Christmas boxes alone. Remember, If you have an address of a soldier or sailor with any Montana ties you can contact Renae at 406-698-4070. So they can get a care package, But you must hurry.

Ryan Zinke commented that there are other groups in Montana that do pretty much the same sort of  things and he and the troops do appreciate it. He continued, “Most of the soldiers share the treats with their buddies and that is really cool to see.”

While we were taking calls we received one call from North of Glasgow and she just wanted to let us know that they have a volunteer group that does the same thing and they were so glad to hear there were other out there.

To date, Laurel Hometown Troops has reached 15,000 troops from across the state as well as fellow troops from all across the United States.

If you would like to help in any way or to send an address, Message Laurel Hometown Troops on Facebook or, once again, contact Renae at 406-698-4070.

Zinke also commented that “It’s a great way for Americans to come together as one and do something nice for the troops.” We sure can all use that after this election season.

Jon Arneson