Agatha Christie. Mark Twain. Louis L’Amore. Stephen King. We pass them every day, on our mantles, at our bedsides, in our family rooms; well read and gently used paperback books waiting to be handed off to American troops far from home.
“It’s just a great feeling,” said SSG Kevin Adriano, a Peoria Marine Corps recruiter who was once deployed to Iraq and twice to Afghanistan. “All those items stateside, you take them for granted and you’d be really surprised at how much those mean to you when you’re away from home.”
Cards, gifts, and books bring about a sense of caring warmth to men and women serving overseas or recovering from injuries, and this month, volunteers from Friends of the Fondulac District Library labeled, packed and shipped 450 donated books. They shipped to various locations March 8.
“We don’t do this on our own. We have a really great group of people who help us,” FFDL president Vicki Lambrich said. “There are cover letters that go in each box, and each book has to have a sticker from where it came from, which library and state.”
Six years ago, FFDL joined with Operation Paperback, a national organization established in 1999 to provide reading materials to deployed service members. Since its inception, Operation Paperback has shipped more than 2.2 million books to at least 30 overseas locations.
Aside from entertainment, the books also have helped service members achieve professional goals, assisted chaplains in counseling troops and have provided parents with children’s books they can read to their children via webcam or on DVDs.
“We get our names from the website from the Operation Paperback website,” lists of APOs, hospitals and ships,” Lambrich said. “We send a lot to Afghanistan. This time we shipped some to the USS Chancellor, a hospital ship, and Johns Hopkins in the US.”
They follow requests, she said. Operation Paperback has wish lists. Among them, biographical and autobiographical material, fantasy the likes of J. R. R. Tolkien, and horror on the lines of Stephen King.
Books of a religious or steamy nature, even romances, are confiscated, so volunteers are careful to audit the books before they are boxed and shipped away, she said. The most requested books are mystery, sci-fi, biographies, and nonfiction on a variety of topics, including military history, politics, business, and self-help.
“We try to send whatever a certain location wants and sort them ahead by authors and see what they’re looking for,” Lambrich said. “In Afghanistan, certain ones, like the Louis L’Amore westerns, are really popular because they’re small and they fit in their pockets.”
FFDL pays for the letters, labels and shipping, which cost around $150 for each drive, which they hold twice a year. The next drive will likely be in August, she said, but there are other campaigns the group champions to support troops.
In October, volunteers will gather and send Christmas cards, to troops overseas and to the Blue Star Mothers of Illinois who support “mothers, stepmothers, grandmothers, foster mothers and female legal guardians who have children serving in the military, guard or reserves, or children who are veterans.”
“We just want them to know, the servicemembers and their families, that they are not forgotten,” Lambrich said.
— Fondulac Library joins Operation Paperback to ship books to troops —