Operation CarePak, Support Florida Soldiers, Kicks Off Monday

2:30-4:30 p.m. in R-01

A project to honor Sgt. Travis Rivero and Sgt. Jeffrey Mattison Wershow, two Santa Fe College students who died in Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003, has won overwhelming support from across Santa Fe College and the greater Alachua/Bradford County community.

Anyone wishing to assist with Operation CarePak – Support Florida Soldiers is invited to the project launch, 2:30 p.m. Monday, April 12 in Building R, room 01 at Santa Fe’s Northwest campus, 3000 NW 83rd St., Gainesville. Click here for a campus map. More information is available online: www.sfcollege.edu/operationcarepak.

Project’s scope

Operation CarePak will send “care packages” to the redeployed 2nd Battalion, 124th Infantry Regiment, which is part of the 53rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team of the Florida Army National Guard. Wershow and Rivero were attached to this battalion, and many of the soldiers who served with them have been redeployed.

CarePak volunteers will donate a variety of personal care items, nonperishable foods, cold remedies, books, magazines, games, and DVDs – to name just a few. Personal letters to the soldiers are also welcome.

What happens at the launch?

Participants will learn how they can be most helpful in ensuring the success of CarePak. Organizers are working on setting up communications with the soldiers in Iraq, so if the technical details can be worked out, the soldiers will “visit” with volunteers at the launch. Participants will get all the project details and see a demonstration of the new CarePak website, www.sfcollege.edu/operationcarepak. Sponsor groups will be recognized and a Q and A will follow.

Project runs April through December 2010

Operation CarePak runs from April until December of this year, when the deployment is expected to end. Packages will be sent each month to the members of Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, Delta and Headquarters companies of the 2/124th Infantry Regiment.

Gen. Mike Fleming, assistant adjutant general of the Florida Army National Guard, has visited Santa Fe to give the Student Senate his personal thanks for supporting the project.

When they were killed, Wershow was in his second semester at Santa Fe and Rivero had transferred to the University of South Florida. The Jeffrey Mattison Wershow Memorial Scholarship is awarded to a current or former member of the United States Armed Forces with an honorable discharge who plans to pursue a degree at Santa Fe College.

SF President Jackson Sasser, the SF College Senate, Student Senate, Career Service Council, and many student clubs and organizations, have all signed on to support this effort.

The project was initiated by Anne Marie Mattison, mother of Jeffrey Mattison Wershow. For more information call her at 352-381-3828 or e-mail annemarie.mattison@sfcollege.edu.

CONTACT:

For media inquiries regarding Operation CarePak, please contact Julie Garrett for help facilitating your story: 352-870-2924 (cell) or 352-395-5430 (office) or julie.garrett@sfcollege.edu. Photos of Rivero and Wershow are available upon request.

An E-mail Interview with Major Blake Glass, Iraq

Q. How will you decide who get the CarePaks that are sent, or will they be shared between the soldiers?

A. We will distribute the packages evenly amongst the five different companies in the battalion. The companies will put the packages in a central location and allow soldiers to pick through them for items they need.

Q. Can you speak some on the importance of getting mail and how this project could possibly boost morale?

A. It is no different than at home. Mail is rarely used in the states to send letters, so when you get something in the mail, it is personal. It means someone went through some effort and time to send you something. The something rarely matters, it is the thought. It a huge morale booster for the soldier and the unit.

Q. Is there anything we could put in the packs that is particularly helpful/desirable/popular? 

Most soldiers like to get magazines to read and it is cool beaus the magazines can be passed off to other soldiers. Razors and personal hygiene supplies are good also. DVDs are very popular, but expensive. Girl Scout cookies have been popular this month.

Q. You knew both Travis (or did he go by his first name, John?) and Jeffrey. Could you talk about what type of people they were, and how you think they’d feel about this project?

A. I knew both soldiers well.

Sgt. Rivero went by John with his friends. I only knew him in a professional manner. He was an excellent soldier who showed a lot of leadership ability. He was promoted to corporal and made a junior NCO because of these qualities. [He was posthumously promoted to sergeant.]

Jeffrey I knew a lot better. I had met Jeffrey several months before our deployment and we found out we shared a common bound. We had both been in the 82nd Airborne Division on active duty. We were not there at the same time, but soldiers from this division all share a close bound. Being a paratrooper just makes you different. You have not only volunteered for duty in the Army, but you have volunteered to jump out of airplanes. Not everyone is up to the challenge, so there is always mutual respect amongst paratroopers.

Being from Gainesville myself was just an additional reason why Jeffrey and I shared a common bond. Jeffrey was a superb soldier. He was one of the most professional soldiers I have ever met. Not everyone realizes that being a soldier is not just the part civilians imagine of shooting guns and sleeping outside. It is a professional organization; Jeffrey understood this. He was an intelligent young man who loved to debate issues. He was reliable and showed great leadership skills. The mission he was on the day he was killed, he volunteered for.

Both of these soldiers were courageous young men. Myself and the men of C Company miss both of them tremendously. They both would be big supporters of a project like this.