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Soldier meets scouts behind the packages

Army Sgt. Alex Laroche signs a tie-dyed t-shirt for one of the Girl Scouts he met in Whitefield on March 10. Each child present has a shirt signed by the soldier with hopes they can get signatures from each of the eight service-members they have been sending car packages to. (Photo by Melissa Grima) (click for larger version)
April 07, 2010
WHITEFIELD — A group of local scouts have spent the winter collecting items to send to soldiers deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan. Last month, those same scouts received a rare treat. The chance to meet one of those soldiers face to face.

The Junior and Cadet Girl Scouts of Troop 10252, hosted a small party complete with entertainment, cake and punch for Army Sgt. Alex Laroche of Whitefield on March 10, while he was home on leave. Sgt. Laroche is an infantry sniper currently deployed in Iraq.

The group of 11 Girl Scouts, two Boy Scouts and a handful of members from the local VFW post gathered with Sgt. Laroche at Whitefield School on that Wednesday afternoon. Those in attendance talked about the care packages the Scouts have been sending to Sgt. Laroche and others who are in Iraq and Afghanistan and were also treated to a question and answer session with the soldier.

He patiently fielded questions like, how long he's been in the Army? what is war like? And how many others were in his Platoon? Company? Batallion? and Bridgade? Of course some of the youngsters asked about meals, living conditions and "if he liked the war."

The 24-year old White Mountains Regional graduate informed the scouts that in his nearly six years of service he had been to Afghanistan for three months, and Iraq twice. He told them of the grueling desert temperatures in the summer months averaging 130-140 degrees and also explained how he weighs 170-pounds, but in full gear that skyrockets to 280-pounds. He also told them of how each deployment has been a completely different experience and that currently he has the benefits of an air-conditioned trailer to live in and internet access.

Sgt. Laroche responded to the tough question not shying from any of the children's queries. "I don't like the war and what happens in war, but I do like my job and the people I work with," he explained.

Sgt. Laroche is one of about eight soldiers that the Troop adopted to send packages to and communicates with on the social networking site Facebook. He said he was told by his mother that they had requested his address and started receiving packages in November or December. Those boxes contained everything from Beanie babies to candy to personal care products, he said. He told the youngsters that he most definitely shares with his comrades when a box comes. "The amount of stuff you guys send me I couldn't eat by myself," he explained.

Troop leader Wanda Dami said it's not just her scouts helping out. "People are always asking what they can do," she said. When she went to the post office with eight boxes, she found others immediately willing to help fill out the shipping forms and the postal workers even donated the majority of the $86 shipping fee. "The Troop only had to pay $6," she said. Mrs. Dami also noted that students, teachers, community members and businesses have all donated items for the boxes.

To keep track of the project, Mrs. Dami and her Troop have a bulletin board in the lobby of Whitefield School with photos and correspondence from many of the soldiers posted for all to see. Among the soldiers represented on the board alongside Sgt. Laroche is fellow Whitefield native Dustin Burnside, an Army paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne, who is deployed to Afghanistan sent his thanks on Dec. 13 in a Facebook post. "…there were 2 boxes from you guys waiting for me on my bunk. It changes my mood a lot when people from home show they care. Being so far away and doing such strange things makes it really hard to keep my mind on why I'm here…when its [sic] all for you guys!"

Also on the board are correspondences from Alex Olsmstead, whose mother is employed at Country Village in Lancaster, according to Mrs. Dami; Jacob Ragan, a soldier who serves with Sgt. Laroche; Sgt. Nina Crust of Massachusetts; and Specialist Evan Bruno, son of Sgt. Major Bruno, one of the JROTC instructors at White Mountains Regional High School.

Garnett Hill
Garnett Hill
Salmon Press
Martin Lord Osman
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