Back in 2004, Alachua resident Jim Yakubsin’s youngest son was deployed to Iraq. Looking to support his son, Jim quickly realized there was no organized support system in place in this area. Being a retired Marine and Vietnam veteran, Jim knew the importance of this kind of support, particularly in a theatre of war.
Jim contacted a number of friends, most who had kids serving in the military, and organized a small group to send care packages to them two times per month. He formed a Board of Directors to help develop and guide the group. He had a website built to centralize information. He contacted the media outlets to let them know what we were doing. The community responded. People began coming to the meetings to help. Local businesses gave donations.
Jim realized that having the family members at our meetings provided an opportunity for them to share their feelings, their hopes and worries, to others who could understand. The support group was supporting more than just the troops – it was supporting those here at home who felt the many emotions that come with having a loved one in a war zone.
Our military troops responded as well with their letters and emails in gratitude. They were also a critical source of first-hand information for what was happening on the ground in Iraq. Information coming from national media about Americans not being welcomed in Iraq did not match what our troops were telling us about their interactions with the people and the children of Iraq. So another mission of the group became to pass on the real news to the families and our community. We made sure that we read the troops’ letters and emails at every meeting (and still do to this day.)
The community has continued to support this group over the last decade. Many businesses and individuals in Alachua and Gainesville have given their support through donations of money, items and services. As a group that is fully funded by donations, we have a profound appreciation for the generosity and patriotism demonstrated by our donors.
Those who have come to embrace the mission of this support group develop a new appreciation for the continuing support needed by our military veterans. Some of our folks seek to become involved with one or more of the many active veteran groups in Alachua, Gainesville and surrounding areas. For some, this fosters a sense of accomplishment, of active support for those who have served and the various missions that they continue to take on in the community of supporting our veterans. In the support group, we help to make our people aware of these opportunities as they are brought to our attention.
We extend our gratitude to First United Methodist Church in Alachua. They have allowed us to use their fellowship hall for our meetings and care package assembly for more than ten years free of charge.