By Jerome Tharaud/Havre Daily Newsfirstname.lastname@example.org
Three weeks after Havre residents sent more than 500 care packages to sailors on the USS Abraham Lincoln, the packages are arriving.
They've prompted dozens of grateful e-mails from sailors.
"I'm writing this e-mail to thank you and all of the participants who donated their time, money and goodies for the morale of the Cougars of VAQ-139," wrote Master Chief Mike Schlosser. "In my 27 years in the Navy, I have never seen such an outpouring of support from a group of people such as yourselves. It's people like you that make doing our job all worth the time and hard work that we spend away from our families and friends."
Jean Smith, 61, the Havre woman who organized Operation Havre Love, said about nine or 10 of the 25 boxes have already been received.
The packages, which contained homemade cookies as well as store-bought snacks, letters from Havre residents and brochures about Havre, were sent through Smith's granddaughter, Jody Corner, one of the 5,617 sailors on the carrier.
Smith said the packages began to arrive about April 4, about a week before the sailors found out they are coming home. The ship has been at sea for 10 months, the longest of any ship in the fleet, she said.
"That was perfect timing because that was the idea, to give them a morale booster," Smith said. "Jody said it was perfect timing. It was really wonderful."
Smith found out the ship was coming home Wednesday from a sister who had heard the news, and Corner e-mailed her from the ship two days later telling her she had also found out.
The ship will arrive about May 7 at Everett, Wash.
Corner has been distributing the contents of the boxes since they began to arrive. Each box contains about 20 plastic bags, so there are enough for about two of the 200-person crews on the ship.
Smith has been inundated with e-mails from sailors.
On Friday, sailor Deon Williamson wrote, "You have no idea how much I appreciate the care package. It gets lonely out here sometimes and to know that someone cares makes us feel good."
"Thank you so much for the care packages," wrote sailor Julie Thornton. "It means a lot to all of us out here when we get mail - it's the best part of the day! Even more when it's from a Montana lady - I'm from Great Falls myself!"
On Friday, the commanding officer of Corner's squadron, Scott Pollpeter, wrote, "On behalf of a grateful bunch of COUGARS, we appreciate the generosity and support from Havre, MT!! Your care packages and letters were a great pick-me-up for the folks in the squadron and around the USS Abraham Lincoln. It was a quick reminder why the sacrifices and time away from family and friends are important and necessary."
Sailor Rebecca Jo Nurmi wrote, "Hello ma'am, I'd like to say thank you for the time and effort and organization you put into the care packages of baked goods. It was received with big eyes and brilliant smiles."
Smith said she could not have carried out the project without help from Havre Mayor Bob Rice, the children from several area schools who wrote letters for the packages, and the volunteers who helped put the packages together. The Havre High School student council alone baked about 1,200 cookies, she said, half the number sent.
Smith said she hopes to eventually send small care packages to all of the service people from this area, but that it will probably not be until after Corner gets home.