Spencer McGuire, Don Downer's grandson (dressed in blue shirt and blue jeans), led the International Baccalaureate Student Service Project the week of May 11-14th 2010, which culminated with a generous donation of $350 to GoDonGo.com, Inc. On the first 2 days, students passed out information flyers to all the drivers in the carpool line. The flyers described the service project and specifically how it would benefit GoDonGo. The 3rd and 4th days, the students walked the carpool line and took donations.
Spencer also wrote a winning essay for the Patriot Pen's contest which was read at the Marine Birthday Ball in Okinawa where Don Downer was the invited Guest of Honor.
Thank you for your bravery and for fighting to keep our country safe. I know you must struggle sometimes and that you probably miss home a lot, so I am sending you this care package to help out. I will keep you and the rest of the troops in my prayers.
Chiazam, Troop #211
These heartfelt sentiments have been echoed by other members of Chiazam's Girl Scouts of Central Maryland troop. On October 18th, the Cadettes-- along with their troop leader, Ms. Pam, and two parent volunteers-- gathered to assemble 12 of Don's care packages.
The troop became involved in the effort after one of the girls, Malerie, read an article about Don in a local newspaper. She approached the troop, asking that they help Don reach his goal of shipping-out his 500th box before his mid-November trip to Okinawa, Japan where he is being honored at the Marine Corps Ball.
The girls voted to do so as part of earning their "Generations Hand-in-Hand" Girl Scout badge. A few weeks later, they made their service project-- and Don's goal-- a reality. Family and friends gave generously. In addition to a $100.00 cash contribution (which defrayed the cost of postage), donations included but were not limited to cookies, crackers, baby wipes, razors, gum, candy, Tabasco sauce, popcorn, peanut butter and jelly, and of course, Don's requisite can of SPAM.
Each of the girls selected a soldier or marine for whom they packed a box and wrote a personal note. Each scout also enclosed a self-addressed envelope in hopes of hearing from the recipient of her care package.
While the girls say they had fun, they also "took this service project very seriously," observed one parent. "I was really struck by their enthusiasm as well as their diligence. They were very conscientious, making sure that each box was packed correctly and that every item was accounted for."
When asked what she likes best about being a Girl Scout, troop member Cierra answered, "I like being helpful and doing good things for people."
Well, the girls of Troop #211 have done a wonderful thing! In helping Don achieve his goal of shipping #500, they have upheld the Girl Scout Promise to "serve God, my country and humankind." Their compassion and service to country is truly appreciated; and, will be remembered by Don and our combat troops in Afghanistan and Iraq for a long time to come.
Opinions - Letters to the Editor
Author: Jane Loren, Bloomsburg
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Women have traditionally helped the troops by knitting garments. I am asking for help from knitters in this area to provide wool hats to serve as underliners for helmets to troops in Afghanistan. The hats need to be black, brown or olive green. They need to be pure wool for warmth but even more importantly for flame resistance in case of IEDs. A synthetic hat will melt, causing more injury. Caps are lightweight to stuff in a pocket when not worn. There is a very simple, quick pattern (see below).
I find I can produce about two per week working in the evenings while I watch television. Four-ply wool yarn is available at the local Ben Franklin stores as well as other places, I am sure. One 3.5-ounce skein will do for two hats and start a third.
I will arrange to meet with anyone producing hats and will ship finished ones to a retired Marine named Don Downer, who sends at least one box per day to troops overseas. Each box supplies a unit with goodies and needed comforts. He's an interesting one-man military relief unit, and you may want to read about him on his Web site, godongo.com. I personally can vouch for his legitimacy. He's been honored by the postal service and is receiving a special Marine award in Okinawa next month.
I appreciate any help Press Enterprise readers can give with this project. Winter is coming fast and each hat can be of comfort to a soldier. You may be for or against the war, but we can all support our troops in a meaningful way.
Size 10 needles
Cast on 72 stitches
First 7 rows, knit 2 pearl 2
Next rows. knit 1 row pearl 1 row until piece is 8 and a half inches long, ending with a pearl row
Knit 2 together across row
Knit 2 together across row
Use knitting finishing needle to draw through stitches remaining to close up top of hat, stiching down the edges to form cap
By Mike Santa Rita
Howard County Times
Posted July 23, 2009
Don Downer is not going it alone anymore.
The 80-year-old retired Marine who has mailed 400 care packages to troops overseas, costing him in excess of $20,000, has received a boost in funding from local residents since a June 18 story in the Howard County Times about his efforts.
Nine residents have sent a total of about $750 to Downer since the article was first published, helping him continue his efforts to ship packages of food and toiletries overseas, he said this week.
Downer said he is thankful for the gifts he has received from local residents.
"I think it's the good nature and the generosity of these people," said the Columbia resident. "It's nice that they contribute, and I respect their generosity."
Meanwhile, family members have created a Web site to assist Downer in sending care packages to troops overseas. The site contains links to articles on Downer and a link to help the public make donations.
Downer began sending the packages to the armed forces after his wife died in June 2008 as a way to occupy his time.
Kathy Guerin, 56, of Columbia, donated to Downer's cause because she appreciated how he did something positive after sustaining a loss.
"I saw this guy who lost his wife and he turned his life around to do something positive," she said. "I thought, 'Isn't this great, this guy doing it all by himself.' "
Downer, who retired from the Marines in 1952, began by sending packages mostly to Iraq and then later to Afghanistan as troop buildup there continued.
In each package, Downer includes a variety of items ranging from wool socks to coffee, hot chocolate, microwave meals and toiletries. Downer also includes cookies and a can of Spam -- two items he regularly received as a young Marine.
Since Downer's story was first published, the U.S. Marine Corps has offered him an all-expenses paid trip to Okinawa where he will be the guest of honor at a Marine banquet. Downer said this week he will turn down the Marines' offer to cover his expenses and pay his own way to the banquet.
"To me it's probably the greatest honor that can be bestowed upon me," he said. Downer, who mailed package No. 400 this week said, "I hope to reach 500 by the time the ball comes along."
Downer said he is also being profiled in Semper Fi, a Marine Corps magazine and portions of the Howard County Times article were excerpted by the Armed Forces Network.
Virginia Rhude, 79, a neighbor of Downer, said she believed his efforts promoted civilian support of the troops overseas which will ultimately lead to the military successes.
"The Vietnam conflict was not a very good thing because the people were not behind it, and that was a terrible lesson," she said.
Rhude, whose late husband was in the U.S. Air Force, said Downer's personal experiences with the military made him a generous giver.
Two veterans send hundreds of packages to troops
June 23, 2009
By Grafton Pritchartt (Soldiers Media Center)
Photo credit courtesy
Lt. Col. Dan Yarosloski and U.S. Marine Corps ETT 27 stationed in Afghanistan receive the 300th care package sent by Don Downer.
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, June 23, 2009) --Three hundred and fifty is a large number, and for retired Marine Don Downer, it's a large part of what he does every day.
Downer, acting on a tip from retired Army staff sergeant and neighbor Edward Connor, has now mailed more than 350 care packages to troops stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Downer mailed his first package July 24 last year and he mailed package number 356 Monday.
"My wife passed away June 18, 2008, and I moped around, looked around for something to do. Now I have a mandate that says I have to take care of the troops," Downer said.
Connor, who has been mailing care packages for 18 years, had the perfect solution for Downer.
"I am always asking people to send packages to the troops, so him being a veteran, I thought he may be favorably disposed to the idea -- I thought it was something he might like. I had no idea how much he would enjoy it," Connor said.
So, Connor searched the Army Knowledge Online Web site looking for a unit; he prefers units that have had heavy casualties or are deployed in substandard living conditions.
He then contacts the commander, typically by e-mail, and receives the lists of items the troops need. He then shares the addresses with Downer. After that, the boxes are filled with magazines, candy, soaps, DVDs and other items to supplement the Soldiers needs.
In addition to all of those items, Downer has a staple to his care packages: spam and chocolate chip cookies. Downer's mother would mail him care packages in China containing the previous items. Spam quickly turned Downer's appetite the wrong way.
"Now it is my turn; suffer!" is one on the slogans Downer writes on the spam cans he sends to the troops.
"I just write it as a joke, in every package I send there is an aura of pride, respect and admiration," Downer said. "There's not one that doesn't have that for each Soldier and Marine."
Currently Downer is mailing 62 Soldiers, and has formed close relationships with several of them through e-mail. He sends them personalized packages with chewing tobacco, waffle mix and Dove soap. Downer has never met any of the troops he bestows gifts to.
"I have not met any of them upon return. It's hard to get there because they fly in to different locations around the country. But, I feel good that they are home safe and it's kind of rewarding," Downer said.
The euphoric high obtained by sending the packages is shared not only by Downer, but by Connor also.
"There is no draft going on right now; they are in the military voluntarily. They are better than any football team or super star; with people like that you can never do enough," Connor said. "I had one Soldier that wrote me back and he said you could put a crumbled piece of paper in the box and we would appreciate that."
Neither man plans on ending the sending of their care packages any time soon.
"I will continue sending packages as long as I have money," Downer said
Connor added, "I plan on doing it as long as I can. The guys are out there fighting for us, and I want to do this as long as I can."
Columbia man sends more than 350 care packages to troops
By Mike Santa Rita
Howard County Times
June 18, 2009
Don Downer can still remember the chocolate chip cookies sent to him in care packages as a young Marine stationed in China in 1948.
The cookies rarely arrived intact, but Downer and his fellow Marines would scoop up the crumbs and eat them nevertheless.
"Even the dust was put in the coffee, and nothing was wasted," recalled Downer, now 80 and a Columbia resident.
When Downer's wife died in June 2008, he needed something to occupy his time and as a former Marine, his thoughts immediately went out to those in the armed forces serving overseas.
"I had to find something to do," he said. "I groped around for a while and it came to me as a mandate to send these care packages to the troops because I was deployed and I know how much it meant to have a package received overseas."
One of Downer's neighbors had been a paratrooper during the Gulf War and put Downer in touch with people who are currently in the service. Downer started mailing off care packages and gradually got to know more and more service men and women, he said.
As of June 12, he had mailed 350 care packages. The total cost out of his own pocket has been more than $20,000, he said. He has received one donation of $200 from a member of his condo association, he said.
Downer was honored at a ceremony June 17 at the Columbia Post Office, at 6801 Oak Hall Lane, where he mailed his packages, said Yvette Singh, a post office spokeswoman. U.S. Postal Service officials recognized Downer as part of a ceremony in which they unveiled a new Bob Hope postage stamp. Singh said the ceremony was designed "because Bob Hope did have a love for the troops so it would be fitting to try and tie it in."
In each care package, Downer includes a variety of items ranging from wool socks, to coffee, hot chocolate, microwave meals and toiletries.
He began by sending packages mostly to Iraq and then later to Afghanistan as troop build up there continued. The cold weather in Afghanistan has inspired him to send hand warmers that troops can stick in their gloves, he said.
In each package, Downer also includes cookies and a can of Spam -- two items he remembers receiving in care packages. The Spam, however, is something of an inside joke. Downer said he remembers getting sick of Spam, as it was almost always included in the care packages he received as a young Marine.
"I want to get the reaction when they get so tired of it," he said with a chuckle. He also includes chocolate chip cookies because "everyone knows that chocolate chips are a winner."
Downer, who retired from the Marines as a second lieutenant in 1952, said his military experience played a large part in forming his character.
"I loved it. It squares you away for the rest of your life," he said. "You have ethics involved; you have morals involved; you have honor; you have integrity. Those are attributes that can't be taken away from you."
Downer said he hopes his packages increase morale and said he receives letters from the troops thanking him for thinking about them.
"They're really appreciative that somebody over here is thinking about them," he said. "It brings the morale ... to a higher level."
Downer said he will continue to send the packages "as long as there's a need and that's for some time."
Excerpt From Article
By Matt McLaughlin
The Record Herald
Wed May 27, 2009, 11:21 AM EDT
On May 29, 2009 which would have been Hope’s 106th birthday a first-class commemorative stamp depicting Hope will be available at post offices around the country.
Bob Hope was born Leslie Townes Hope on May 29, 1903, in Eltham, England. In 1907, Hope’s father moved the family to Ohio, where they became U.S. citizens.
For almost six decades, the man known as "G.I. Bob" to soldiers traveled the world to entertain America’s troops.
"Bob Hope’s unwavering commitment to the morale of America’s servicemen and women is entertainment history, indeed, world history. Many say ‘legend,’" reads the entertainer’s biography on the official Bob Hope Web site.
In 1997, he became the first person recognized by the U.S. Congress as an honorary veteran of the U.S. armed forces.
The military care kits include everything needed to ship to military personnel overseas. The kits contain six flat-rate boxes, packing tape, labels and customs forms.
Murphy wants to be sure that everyone with loved ones overseas knows about the U.S. Postal Service’s discounts for military shipping and the free care kits.
"He (Bob Hope) seemed to care so much about them," said Murphy. "It was a good opportunity to honor him but also give thanks for what the soldiers do."
All Work anywhere from 12 hours (Standard work day hours) to 18 hours per day 7 Days a week. No days off. For 7 months at a time. I’m proud of all of them. We have grown from a small clump of dirt in the desert into a small city with Telephones, Local Area Networks, TV services, Base wide power, buried Fiber cables and improved roads. We still live in tents, but the Marines wouldn’t have it any other way. My Marines have buried over 15 miles of Fiber, and wired in over 10,000 phone lines. In less than 7 months. Think they would be worth something to the Civilian sector?
They respond to trouble tickets and resolve them in less time than it takes most companies to log it into their system. All this with less the 50 Marines manning the systems for ALL Communications systems on base. These Marines would rather go without sleep than let one of their systems fail. They impress me every day. Ever wonder why I can’t quit this rod and gun club for a cushy retirement?
They are the BEST America has to offer. Count on it.
LCpl Johnson (Holding the Spam) (Radio Operator)
LCpl Awalt (Field Wireman)
LCpl Sandwith (Radio Operator) (She just got back from serving with a Georgian Battalion in a Joint environment)
Cpl Richardson (Radio Operator)
Don Congratulation on 800 Care packages. Proud of you buddy. The Marines are lovin and hatin the new addictions to Spam. Your contributions to the Deployed Service Members warrants recognition, and the greatest recognition I can give is from my Marines. Attached is a photo of me and my Marines from MLG (FWD) G-6. Communicators all. Hard working and living the dream of defending their nation from terror. This is my honor to be associated with these young Men and Women. And it’s my honor to know you.
It's with heavy hearts that we report the arrival of package 450. Last week, while conducting combat operations, we were met by a complex ambush. During the course of the ensuing fight, 4 of our Marines were KIA and two were wounded. One other US Army was wounded also. My 1stSgt, one of the wounded, remains in Germany but we are hopeful for his return. We are doing as well as can be expected and are back to our duties. Especially now, it helps to receive a package from home. Thank you for all your continued support. Semper Fi.
Package number 400 received. We have a photo op scheduled for tomorrow morning, I'll send it to you. I've looked through the box and was ecstatic to find one of my all time favorite shelf stable, canned meat products! I hardly ever get to eat it at home because my wife, for some reason, just isn't a fan. Thank you for your generosity and thoughtfulness. You're a true American Hero and Patriot and I'm honored that you would consider us worthy of your troubles.
I received an outstanding package from you the other day. It was great and the boys enjoyed it. Mail has been running slow around here. We have been pretty busy getting after it down here. Attached are a few photos.
As a result of Don's efforts, Girl Scout Troop 1719 in Norcross, GA, mailed out Care Packages #253 - #256 which were comprised of a gazillion Girl Scout cookies! Don's granddaughter Becca is in the Troop and organized the event.
From the Officers, NCOs and Civilians of The Iraq Threat Finance Cell we would like to thank you for the wonderful gift of Girl Scout Cookies. We really appreciate the gift because Girl Scout cookies are a little taste of home.
Thanks for making the difference in the lives of these fine Soldiers and Marines fighting overseas for and with the "Big Red One". I know they appreciated your kindness and thoughtfulness beyond measure, except for the SPAM of course. You're a great American! Thanks from an old Army Veteran.
I just got box 350! Sgt Callen is really appreciative of the snuff... he says he keeps meaning to e-mail you but just doesn't follow through... he is a busy guy - as with any good Sgt, he holds down about three or four jobs and we have been running him and Sgt Uselton ragged with the Mountain Lions. Now that you have read the Leatherneck article, you know what I am talking about! In fact both of them are out today, so tomorrow when they get back we will take a picture with box 350, the sniper rifle and of course the Spam and Tobasco. We are getting down to the end here, so I probably only have enough time for one more box... Of course I want to go home, but this is also a GREAT mission and I know I will miss my Afghan National Army brothers. Again, thanks for all your support - we will get the picture taken tomorrow.
We received package 300 today! Your continued support is absolutely fantastic and greatly appreciated by all the guys. Gunny Garza is down at Bagram right now so I will have to take a picture with some of the other guys instead. I will take the picture at tomorrow mornings start up meeting. Just to let you know, we had a Marine Vietnam Vet living with us for about two and a half weeks writing for Leatherneck. If you go to the website you will see some pictures and in the June issue we will be the feature story! I noticed in package 300 you went all out and put in TWO cans of Spam! It is truly our lucky day!
From all of us here in Afghanistan on ETT 2-7- Happy Birthday! We appreciate your packages and more importantly the support you send our way. We as Marines stand on the shoulders of the giants that helped us earn our reputation - and you are one of those giants.
Do you have a son, daughter, husband, wife, father, mother or loved one
overseas? Don cares! He supports our troops by sending them Care Packages with all sorts of goodies (see Press articles) and loves to correspond with them via email. Don is a true patriot and wants our troops to know that he supports their mission wholeheartedly no matter where they are on this earth. Go Don Go!