When CPA Valerie Kemp and her co-worker, Lacy March, learned that 51 Fort Campbell soldiers would be coming home this month from a 10-month deployment in Iraq with no family or friends to greet them, the two went to work on a plan to make sure that the soldiers’ return was warm and reverent.
“These soldiers’ personal belongings won’t make it back until a week after they arrive home, meaning soldiers could be coming home to empty barracks,” Kemp said. “Their belongings will arrive five to 10 days after they get here. So Lacy came up with the idea of welcome home boxes, which would include things like blankets, pillows, snacks, toiletries, toothbrushes, toothpaste, shaving cream, razors, sheets and towels.”
Kemp put a video online to get the project rolling.
Local schools started chipping in by having students write thank-you cards for the soldiers. It wasn’t long before packages started arriving at Kemp’s VKDCPA office at 106 Spring St. in Ashland City. March is the client services and marketing manager for VKDCPA.
“We have received packages from all over,” Kemp said. “We received boxes from Arizona, Kentucky, California, Ohio, Florida, Middle Tennessee and the Cheatham County community.”
VKDCPA made a Facebook post about the project and several Nashville television stations mentioned it.
“The response was incredible, and we even received $800 online to be used for purchasing any additional supplies,” said March, a 2006 graduate of Sycamore High School whose husband is in the military.
Each of the 51 soldiers will Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops have contributed. The Ashland City real estate office of Amanda Bell donated 52 blankets and Kim Caldwell’s family supplied snacks and shower curtains for the welcome home baskets.
Kemp and March said they are grateful for the huge outpouring of support.
“There was a teacher in San Diego, Calif., that sent in 51 welcome home letters, one for each soldier,” Kemp said.
There were so many boxes that the kitchen and other rooms at VKDCPA were filled.
“There are rooms at home that are full of boxes,” said March, who is expecting a baby on Sept. 21.
“This community always responds,” Kemp said. “The soldiers have started trickling in and will continue to do so throughout September.”