SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

March 19, 2013

A decade of giving

Group looks back at 10 years of supporting troops overseas

BY ETHAN FORMAN
STAFF WRITER

---- — DANVERS — Even with the end of the war in Iraq and the drawdown in Afghanistan, Dick and Christine Moody’s Operation Troop Support still sends out 200 or more care packages a week for troops serving overseas.

As far as the Moodys can tell, there’s still a need.

“Five thousand troops left from Fort Stewart (Georgia) this month, they are going somewhere,” Christine Moody said.

The nonprofit Operation Troop Support turns 10 this year, and the Moodys and others are planning a dinner in Middleton on Saturday to celebrate.

A video will be shown during the dinner that chronicles the group’s efforts over the past decade to mail 79,000 weekly care packages and more than 146,000 holiday packages to servicemen and servicewomen.

The Moodys’ Trinity Street home is jammed with donations of socks, movies, fleece blankets, snacks, gum, pens, puzzles, personal hygiene products, writing materials and more — everyday items scarce for military personnel serving on the front lines or at far-flung bases.

Through letters, Facebook and Twitter, the Moodys learn names of soldiers in need and send care packages to Afghanistan, Germany, Guantanamo Bay, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, South Korea and elsewhere. Many times, the Moodys do not know where their packages go until a thank-you note comes back.

The organization also holds support groups for military families.

Dick Moody, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel who served in Vietnam and Desert Storm, and his wife founded the organization in 2003 because they had children serving overseas.

Daughter Christina-Marie Pennington was an Air Force combat medic who has served in Iraq. In 2003, she was deployed to the intensive care unit at a medical center in Germany, where she treated soldiers wounded in Iraq. She told her parents that the soldiers needed comfort items like magazines to keep their minds off their recovery.

She has since joined the Air Force Reserves and become a registered nurse. Her husband, Ben, is an Air Force combat medic and tech sergeant stationed in Missouri. He, too, has been deployed several times during the wars.

The Moodys’ son Scott, a senior master sergeant serving at a base in Albuquerque, N.M., has served three overseas tours in the Air Force.

“It’s one thing when you go overseas and you fight in a war, and you are in harm’s way and your loved ones are at home,” Dick Moody said. “But this troop support brought us into a realization that we are sitting at home and our daughter and our son are in the war zone. I would tell you, any day of the week, I would much rather be in the war zone than sitting back here. This is terrible, because you don’t know what to expect.”

When their efforts started, daughter Amy Lynn Knapp, who now lives in California, and son Dave, of Danvers, helped pack the boxes. Then, members of the Danvers VFW pitched in, and other residents stepped up. The Moodys worked out of their home because they assumed “the war wasn’t going to last that long,” Christine Moody said.

Over the years, the Moodys have won accolades both locally and nationally, including the Very Important Patriot Award by the National Military Family Association in 2006. The same year, they were featured on a box of Frosted Flakes. Former Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, now secretary of state, read a citation honoring their efforts into the Congressional Record in December 2009.

The Moodys said they are especially thankful to those who have stepped up to raise money or wrap packages at large public events. Schools, churches, Scouts, businesses, civic organizations and former soldiers have all contributed in one way or another. Donations are still coming in to cover the $1,000 to $2,000 needed for postage each week.

“We are still 100 percent volunteer, so it’s all about the volunteers,” Christine Moody said.

One of those dedicated volunteers is retired Danvers Patrolman Jim George, who, from spring to Christmas, stands out in Danvers Square every Saturday collecting donations to help cover postage.

Stephen and Ellen Godzik once turned the downstairs of their Brookwood Lane home into the place to sort items for the holiday wrapping sessions.

Godzik’s husband served in Vietnam, and she said he felt troops were ignored when they came home. That’s why they are involved.

“It’s hard to believe it’s 10 years,” she said of Operation Troop Support’s anniversary.

Dick Moody continues to juggle his work with Operation Troop Support with a full-time job as a regional contracts manager with Aecom, a design and engineering firm. When might he stop sending packages overseas?

“Every day, people come to the door and drop off boxes,” he said. They are constantly getting letters from soldiers looking for some help.

“When we get a letter that says: ‘Can you help me?’ we just don’t feel like stopping. Somebody needs what we are doing,” he said.

Staff writer Ethan Forman can be reached at 978-338-2673, by email at eforman@salemnews.com or on Twitter at @DanverSalemNews.

If you go

What: 10th Anniversary Dinner for Operation Troop Support

When: Saturday, 6:30 to 11 p.m.

Where: Angelica’s Restaurant, 49 S. Main St., Middleton

Donation: $40 per person

To learn more: Go to www.troopsupportusa.com or call Dick Moody, 978-836-2395.

To donate: Go to Operation Troop Support’s website. Dinner organizers are still in need of gift cards and other items for the raffle. These may be dropped off at 16 Trinity St., Danvers.