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CARE Package Central supplies holiday cheer to deployed troops

Goodies sent off via CARE Package Central

Air Force District of Washington personnel and family gather to pack care packages at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, Nov. 13, 2018. The care packages are being shipped to deployed AFDW Airmen in time for the holidays. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Michael B. Keller/released)

Goodies sent off via CARE Package Central

Staff Sgt. Amanda Harris, Air Force District of Washington personnel management division assistant Non-Commissioned Officer in Charge, left, and Annette Martiny, AFDW unit deployment manager, prepare care package items at Joint Base Andrews, Md., that will be shipped to deployed AFDW personnel Nov. 13, 2018. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Michael B. Keller/released)

Goodies sent off via CARE Package Central

Chief Master Sgt. Melanie K. Noel, Air Force District of Washington command chief, right, fills a stocking as Annette Martiny, AFDW unit deployment manager, gives instructions at Joint Base Andrews, Md., Nov. 13, 2018. The stockings are going into care packages that will be shipped to AFDW Airmen. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Michael B. Keller/released)

Goodies sent off via CARE Package Central

Items destined for care packages are displayed at Joint Base Andrews, Md., Nov. 13, 2018. The care packages will be shipped to deployed Air Force District of Washington Airmen. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Michael B. Keller/released)

JOINT BASE ANDREWS, Maryland -- As the holiday season makes its swift approach, Air Force District of Washington members rallied once again recently to make deployed service members feel a little bit closer to home during an annual tradition to send packages during the holidays.

AFDW Unit Deployment Manager Annette Martiny led the event, and coined the phrase “Caring for Airmen, Remembering Everyone” known as CARE. The latest CARE Package Central event featured more than 100 items per package. So far, more than 500 packages have made their way into the hands of U.S. warfighters around the world.

“The thought that someone won't receive a care package while they are deployed breaks my heart,” Martiny said. “So, I do everything I can to ensure that doesn't happen if I know someone is deployed.”

Martiny sent the latest shipment to the combat zone Nov. 16, with additional donations sent from partner organizations such as St. John Baptist Church, Operation Gratitude, The Package Brigade, The Hugs Project, 4H Club, and the Girl Scouts of America.

Although CARE Package Central and its partners have sent a boast-worthy 775 packages this year, AFDW members didn’t rest on their laurels. Their most recent effort ensured additional packages will be sent to service members serving in 13 different locations among six countries.

As a solemn homage to those who will no longer be able to return home to their families CARE Package Central honors a different fallen hero with each shipment.

This season’s honoree was Army Sergeant 1st Class Alwyn C. Cashe.

In 2005, Cashe was amid his second tour in Iraq when, while conducting combat patrol operations, an improvised explosive device detonated beneath his armored vehicle. The blast caused the fuel cell to ignite, which doused Cashe and his comrades in gasoline as the vehicle burst into flames.

Fuel-laden and injured from the explosion, Cashe undauntedly rescued each of his fellow Soldiers who remained trapped in the vehicle. By the time Cashe had pulled everyone from the veritable Hell on wheels, he had suffered second and third degree burns to 72 percent of his body, his smoldering uniform melted into his skin.

Three weeks after the explosion and his medical evacuation to Brooke Army Medical Center, Texas, Cashe took his last breath while still under care.

With so many similar stories on which to reflect, Martiny said she’s subsequently motivated less by the “what” than the “why.”

“Honestly, it doesn’t even really matter what’s in the package,” Martiny explained. “The fact that someone took the time to think of them, think of things that might bring some comfort or joy, well that’s just priceless – nothing compares to that.”