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Fort Drum families receive meal kits, gift cards for holidays

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For Michelle N. Shaw, the holidays can be hectic as she watches her three children while her husband, Spc. James P. Shaw, serves overseas.

Though he and other soldiers from the 277th Aviation Support Battalion, 10th Combat Aviation Brigade are expected home soon, for the time being she has to carry many responsibilities on her own.

One responsibility she won’t have to worry about: Going out for groceries to make a Christmas meal. She was one of many soldiers and military family members who received meal kits Wednesday in Watertown.

“I wasn’t expecting as much as they’ve given,” she said. “It’s amazing. I was shocked.”

A total of 175 meal bags were available for distribution, containing a collection of canned and packaged items, coupons, vouchers and Walmart gift cards.

“It’s essentially a complete meal in a box,” said Daniel L. Hooker, executive director of Operation Homefront’s Tri-State region.

The organization partnered with Walmart to put on the giveaway Wednesday morning at the Holiday Inn Express, Arsenal Street.

The event is in its third year. The meal kits were valued at about $150, putting the value of the two organizations’ efforts at more than $26,000.

“By doing this, we give tangible proof of the gratitude of the American people,” Mr. Hooker said. “These families go through so much, it’s nice to know there’s a grateful nation backing them.”

Crystal R. Mazuera could barely contain her son Michael, 2, as his high energy and his enthusiasm for the collection of sweets available during the event quickly won over several of the volunteers.

“He likes candy,” she said.

Mrs. Mazuera, whose husband, Sgt. Michael Mazuera, serves in the 543rd Military Police Company, said she participated in the program last year.

She said the generous collection of items was a big help during the holidays.

“It means a lot that people appreciate the time my husband has put in for his country,” she said.

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