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Father inspires community to donate to son's unit in Afghanistan

By JR Ortega
July 5, 2014 at 2:05 a.m.
Updated July 6, 2014 at 2:06 a.m.

Albert Vasquez, left, along with the community, will be helping his son and his battalion in Afghanistan with snack and toiletry donations. The  base camp of his son, Orion,  is losing its post exchange store.

How to help

Albert Vasquez has set up several drop-off locations throughout Victoria. Items that can be accepted by the battalion include:

• Beef jerky, beef summer sausage

• Canned cheese dips

• Canned sardines, smoked oysters

• Chicken or tuna lunch kits (includes foil pouch of tuna, crackers and condiments in each single-serving kit)

• Cookies

Fruit: single serving size cans

• Gum (blister pack gum is best because of the intense heat)

• Gummi-Bears

• Nuts, sunflower seeds, peanuts, trail mix, dried fruit

• Pop Tarts, cereal bars, granola bars

• Popcorn

• Power bars, protein bars, nutritional bars

• Ramen noodles

• SpaghettiOs and other canned ready-to-eat meals (single serving) with pop-top

• Single-serving bags of snacks, crackers

• Batteries (AA are most requested, then AAA)

• Cigars, cigarettes, dip

• Eye Drops (to relieve dry eye, not redness)

• Eyeglass wipes

• Lip balm (Blistex, Chapstick, Carmex) in stick-tubes rather than tubs, not tinted

• Pain relievers (Aspirin, Ibuprofen, Tylenol, Midol) in small containers

• Sunblock (travel size or stick preferable, no aerosol SPF 30+)

• Travel size packages of Q-tips

• Dental floss

• Disposable multi-blade razors (no single-blade razors)

• Kleenex (travel-size packets)

• Liquid body wash soap, liquid anti-bacterial soap (no bar soap or pump-style dispensers)

• Lotion, unscented, for dry skin (no pump-style dispensers)

• Deodorant

• Oral B Brush-Ups

• Razors and replacement blades

• Shampoo

• Toothbrushes

• Toothpaste (in hard-side tubes rather than traditional tubes)

• Protein supplements, vitamins

Run in the works

Irma Vasquez is planning a 5K at the Children's Park in Riverside Park on July 18. Time, cost and other information are still being planned. To learn more, search Facebook for "Let Freedom Ring 5K."

Where to donate

Items can be dropped off at:

• Apache TV Repair, 1708 E. Airline Road

• TDECU: 1514 E. Rio Grande St., 1401 E. Mockingbird Lane, 7800 N. Navarro St.

• Duffy's Lawn and Garden, 3705 John Stockbauer Drive

• Cash Customs, 3302 N. Ben Jordan St.

• Crossfit 302, 406 Profit St.

Albert Vasquez does not believe that a village is ever done raising a child.

And for Vasquez's 22-year-old son, Orion, who is stationed at Camp Leatherneck in Afghanistan, this is certainly the case.

His son's camp will be losing its PX, or Post Exchange, in the coming weeks, and Vasquez - along with many in the Crossroads and even beyond - are shipping items such as toiletries and snacks to ease the battalion's burden until it is pulled out at the end of the year.

The PX is like a convenience store.

Vasquez's son has been stationed at the camp since March 4; it's his first tour.

"Three months with little to nothing to keep you occupied or give you that connection to home - it can be pretty brutal on these guys," he said.

Vasquez first learned of the PX slowly closing during a conversation with his son late in June.

As battalions are sent home, the base camp is being taken down over time, and the PX now is half empty. Also, with Ramadan - a monthlong Muslim holiday of fasting - there is no telling when the next trucks will make a shipment, if any do, Vasquez said.

Everything from sunblock and razors to gum, cookies and popcorn are being accepted.

Everything must be shipped before July 31. After that, there is no guarantee shipments will make it to the camp, his father said.

Any donations will be dispersed throughout the battalion.

"They have what they call a community Wal-Mart, where care packages come in, and they just put all the stuff together where everybody can grab what they need," he said.

Irma Vasquez, a friend of Albert Vasquez, has spread information about the donation drive through Facebook and word of mouth.

"We really need to work together," she said. "Those are our guys out there."

As the head of her own group, Josie's Joy, a Victoria organization that raises awareness about kidney disease, she is familiar with what it takes to put on a donation drive and wanted to help Vasquez.

"Sometimes, the military is taken for granted, and I'm glad the community is pulling together to get this done," she said.

The situation will be uncomfortable for sure, but Albert Vasquez is happy to see the community doing what it can to support the troops, he said.

"This is about our community now," he said. "Just knowing that help is on the way and that people back home care for you is enough to get them through these months that they'll be left out in the dark."



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