Joan V. Cusimano Lindquist
Let me take you back to the war years in the 1940s once again. In my previous article “Silk to Metal: Jamestonians Answered the Call,” the citizens of Jamestown responded to the call for silk and nylon stockings and metal and rubber items that could be re-manufactured and turned into materials needed to support the war effort. The Jamestown Salvage and Victory Committee was headed by Richard P. Shearman.
But there was another call that Jamestonians answered. The Service Men’s Committee, chaired by Dr. Homer M. Wellman (a surname well known in Jamestown), launched the “From the Home Folks” campaign that provided local service men and women in any branch of the military with a package every month from his or her home town committee—EVERY MONTH!
My source, an article and ad in the Jamestown Post-Journal, stated that this campaign began on April 1 probably around 1942-43. At the time, according to Howard N. Donovan, treasurer of the committee, a total of $1,165 had been received from the citizens of Jamestown since the inception of the program for the express purpose of raising money for gift packages to be sent to area men and women in the various branches of the armed forces. The Service Men’s Committee reached out to practically every home in the city to provide a campaign folder stating the purpose of the program and an envelope to be used for donations. Dr. Wellman reminded Jamestonians of the importance of their support and cooperation in this endeavor. As the wife and mother of a husband and son who served in the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam years and the Gulf War, many of you readers, who took it upon yourselves to send packages to your loved ones overseas, know full well how a service man and woman can have their hearts touched by the remembrance of those who care enough to send a bit of home to someone in a faraway place. The ten-day campaign spoken of in the Post-Journal took the place of the annual benefit party that was cancelled out of necessity because of war shortages and transportation difficulties. Nevertheless, the work went on.
Dr. Wellman stated, in reference to the monthly shipment of gift packages to service personnel in and out of the country, that “the money value of the gifts is small but the effect on the men is far out of proportion to the cost. It cannot be measured. It is proof positive that the home folks not only care—but are concerned enough to show it. Not just once—but every month. The answer to the question ‘Do we care?’ is a loud and ringing ‘Yes!’ The answer to the question ‘How much do we care?’ is up to each one of us. It’s up to YOU.”
The reaction of some of the “hometown” boys to these gifts can probably be summed up in a letter from Marshall B. Shantz, Jr. Luddock, Texas: “’My dear Colonel Wellman: A few days ago I received a parcel from the Jamestown Service Men’s Committee, containing a package of cigarettes and a cigarette case. It was a pleasant surprise and a most useful gift. However, more pleasant was the fact of receiving the package. For, even though Jamestown is only my adopted home-town, I hold it and my friends there in very special regard—and it’s nice to be remembered by them through you.’”
An ad space donated by a Jamestown merchant noted that “last year forty-eight thousand items were mailed out in monthly installments—average mailing cost 30 cents—3,000 men in the service at 30 cents each month equals $10,800 or $900 per month. This was all paid for by voluntary contributions. Let’s keep this fine work up.”
To this day, a package from home—whether from a mother, a wife, a sweetheart—means so much to our men and women who serve in the military. It often contains, quite literally, a bit of home in so many ways—a photograph, an article of clothing, a book, a favorite food—that speaks to the very humanity of that person who is so far away and who longs for the comforts of home. Like Marshall Shantz’s letter that expresses his humble thanks, our military people will thank those of us who care for and remember them through the constancy of our listening to their voices in calls, texts, or letters; the words of courage we give; and the simple knowledge of seeing in a friend’s eyes or hearing in an acquaintance’s voice the concern that makes them understand and appreciate their place in our lives. Don’t forget, especially this month on Memorial Day, originally known as Decoration Day, as we meaningfully acknowledge and honor the U.S. military men and women who died while serving in the United States armed forces.