By: Sarah Snyder
On Monday, President Obama listed concerns for troops and offered federal aid to make sure the men and women in uniform are taken good care of. Right here in the Basin, an organization called 'H.O.T.' or Honor Our Troops, is already doing just that. They provide encouragement not only to the ones on the front lines but also to the thousands of West Texans who want to say thanks.
"We started when my son was in Afghanistan fighting the Taliban on the border, and now we're at about 10,000 care packages later," H.O.T. Founder Jim Leascher, said. "Probably about 11 or 12,000 now."
Those 12 thousand care packages are a personal mission fought right here on West Texas soil. Jim Leasher started the Honor Our Troops organization hoping to connect a soldier with Texans.
"There's just a lot of soldiers that aren't getting anything," Leascher said. "They're getting lost in the cracks. We're doing all we can to make sure that doesn't happen."
Volunteers assemble the care packages which have everything from soap to snacks. They bring the already-made boxes to businesses, schools, and churches around our area where the sender has the chance to write a letter. A simple process that brought big results when local schools got involved.
"Helping them understand that they can do something to help to make the soldiers feel like they haven't been forgotten, because we try to get kids to understand there's a price that has to be paid for the freedoms we have," Barbara Jordan Elemenatry Principal, Jan Brown, said.
And for Barbara Jordan Elementary it's not just a food drive or donation - for most of the kids it's personal.
"A lot of our parents are veterans or still in the service, we have lots of students who have brothers or sisters or parents that are oversees with the Armed Forces, so it's close to home for us," Brown said.
"The students getting a dogtag, writing letters to a specific soldier - it just connects them," Leascher said. "They're in the real deal and a lot of times those soldiers will write them back and they share that with the whole school and they're connected as pen pals."
This year, H.O.T. plans to continue growing, soon they'll be at local sporting events.
"If we can make them smile a little bit, we have a lot of them that say when we come in off a mission, we look on the bunk and the H.O.T. care packages is there, it means the world to us," Leascher said. "So we're going to keep doing what we're doing. This will be going on the rest of my life. This is my heart."
It's a mission that just might go global.
"We're going to be talking to Southwest Airlines a week from Tuesday," Leascher said. "I don't know what's going to come from that, but they heard about us and they want us to come over there. I think we're already touching the world, this area is touching the world for the troops."