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Tina Nelson, a program manager for the Environmental Health and Safety Center, supports our troops through the “Wolfpack Gives Back” charitable campaign.  Here’s why, in her own words:

In 2007, I was deployed as a mental health provider to what I call “the middle of nowhere Afghanistan,” traveling from base to base providing assistance and support to our troops.

No matter how bad things were, receiving mail was like Christmas for many of us. We all gathered around with our letters and packages in a circle to show what we received and see what others had. Unfortunately, not all of us received regular mail and packages from our friends and family—maybe only periodic e-mails.

Photo showing mail on gray walls of living quarters in Afghanistan

Mail from home helped brighten up the living quarters for Tina Nelson, deployed to Afghanistan as a mental health provider in 2007.

Morale is important when you are deployed. Knowing that there are people out there who support your sacrifices can make a world of difference. When I was going on a mission to an isolated base, we were told that they were receiving incoming rounds from enemy insurgents. They had been attacked quite often in the last two months.  Initially, our helicopter was only supposed to bring a few of us in to provide support, but we found out that they had not received mail for two months, morale was low, e-mail wasn’t working and, because of the constant attacks, no one was able to communicate with those at home.

We gathered letters and packages that they were to receive. Because organizations such as Support Our Troops had sent the mental health clinics letters and care packages, we were able to ensure each of those troops received something in the mail.

You see, I knew what it was like to not receive mail. I didn’t receive anything for a month. Letters, even from strangers, were wonderful. Just hearing “Thanks for your service” means a lot. Not many people would be willing to sacrifice their life and rights for their country, and it’s important that we thank the ones who do every day.

Care packages that included popcorn, magazines, baby wipes and movies were extremely helpful. Popcorn was used by all of us for movie night. Flea collars and treats were provided for the local dogs that some had adopted. Many times we would all trade things with others.

To this day, I still have all the letters, pictures and journals that people sent to me.

So, I continue to donate to organizations such as the USO and Support Our Troops because I know that my brothers and sisters who are still serving will benefit and know that there are veterans and civilians out there who care about them and support their service. It helped me a lot, and I could see how much it positively benefited the men and women that I treated.

Tina Maria Nelson, LCSW
Risk assessment case manager

Editor’s note: Use the State Employees Combined Campaign online giving guide to find nonprofits that help soldiers and veterans. Use the pulldown menu under “Area of Service” and choose “Armed Forces.” You can designate a gift to Support Our Troops with agency code 2962 or to USO of N.C. with agency code 3628.

Read more inspirational stories by fellow employees:

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