MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- Cpl. Mike Anderson, G-5 Marine Air Ground Task Force plans non-commissioned officer-in-charge, II Marine Expeditionary Force has helped coordinate the deployment of more than 30,000 Marines and sailors in support of operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom. However, once the service members leave for deployment, Anderson and his family don’t leave them out to dry.
Rich Lane, Anderson’s uncle and founder of Treats and Letters From America Incorporated not for profit, sends homemade beef jerky and letters to II MEF Marines, sailors, and any other service member who asks for the jerky.
While Anderson was stationed in Okinawa, Japan, he called home during Christmas and his uncle told him he’d send some Jerky. Lane sent his nephew a package and Anderson asked for more. Lane and his family sent another package of about seven pounds of Jerky to Anderson while he was conducting training.
When Anderson and his unit returned to camp, he got the package and shared it with his fellow Marines. That’s when it all started.
“We were hungry and I shared (the jerky) with my team. They were amazed that it was home made. The jerky craze then ensued,” said Anderson. “
Since those first shipments in 2003, word spread about what Lane and his family were doing, requests poured in from service members, family and friends. Lane and his family filled every order with his homemade jerky and a personal letter, at no cost to the addressee.
"I was really inspired by my nephew sharing his package from home," Lane said. "I just felt it was time for me to do something. I was always searching for something to do to help out."
In December 2004, Lane sent a large shipment of jerky to approximately 100 Marines with I MEF in collaboration with a local church organization. To date, Lane has sent jerky to more than 200 service members with about a dozen of those being from II MEF.
“I’ve never had a negative response,” said Lane. “We want to expand the reach of our mission so we can serve more troops and send more frequent packages to those troops.”
To expand their organization, Lane is looking into a few ideas for fund raising including a golf tournament and eventually selling the jerky in supermarkets to underwrite the cost of the jerky that is sent free to troops.
The group is also working on putting tribute banners together which companies will sponsor. A decorative American flag will appear on the upper left side of the banner. A yellow ribbon will appear on the upper right portion of the banner with the words “God Bless Our Troops” written across it. Lane has obtained permission from both the Illinois and Indiana family readiness group leaders to display the banners at both Illinois and Indiana National Guard bases for troops leaving as well as returning from over seas deployments.
To receive jerky, service members must directly request it through e-mail or a letter. Requests should be e-mailed to email@example.com. However, the email must be sent from an authorized military e-mail address.
Request letters should be mailed to Treats & Letters From America Inc. NFP, P.O. Box 52, Lansing, IL. 60438-0052. Postal requests must have a military return address and postmark.
“Many Americans take their freedom for granted. My Uncle has voiced his support for the troops and for his country. He did not sit on the sidelines,” said Anderson. “He actually embarked on a very difficult journey, using a lot of his own money, to send his support…to troops all over the world.”
Lane says he is not alone in this effort.
“We have several dedicated volunteers that make our mission possible. Treats & Letters is about honoring sacrifice in a personal and inspiring way,” said Lane. “I get letters from the guys calling me an American hero and I'm not. I'm just making jerky here in the safe confines of my home, because of what they're doing over there."
Editor’s note: Some information from this article was gathered from http://www.treatsandletters.org and a Northwest Indiana Times news article.