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Sunday, May 1, 2016

Fate, care package spawn fast friendship

Friday, July 29, 2011

Welcoming Indiana National Guard Master Sgt. Kim Disbro (center) of Reelsville to Ladies Day at the Putnam County Fair are members of the Merry J's Home Extension Club (from left) Sharon High (aka Uncle Sam), Priscilla Adams, Violet Schopmeyer and Margaret Nelson. The Hoosier soldier and the Merry J's have corresponded for approximately two years since she first received a random care package from the group while stationed in Afghanistan.
Imagine being halfway around the world, hunkered down in a war zone where Osama bin Laden feared to tread. Hot, tired, unable to get even a bad night's sleep.

Then mail call comes, and with it are care packages from home. Parcels from people who truly care, stuffed with snacks and goodies and personal items. Even color comics from the Sunday paper.

Then you look at the return address and realize it's not just from the United States. Not just from the Midwest. Not just from Indiana. But right from your home area -- Putnam County.

That's exactly what happened to National Guard Master Sgt. Kim Disbro of Reelsville while stationed in Afghanistan.

"It was just a happenstance," Merry J's member Ella Marie Torr said in recalling how the group got acquainted with Disbro. "When she got the box, she said, 'Oh my gosh, this is from my home county.'"

The local club, which was in charge of Wednesday's Ladies Day program at the fair, has been corresponding with the 50-year-old master sergeant ever since.

"She wrote me right back," said Evie Zeis who was in charge of the Merry J's ongoing efforts to collect supplies, package and mail the boxes to U.S. service men and women in Afghanistan and Iraq. "And we've become really good friends. I think my husband (Jim) has adopted her as another daughter."

As guest speaker at the Putnam County Fair Ladies Day festivities, Disbro noted how she was a "refugee from Avon," moving to the Reelsville area 11 years ago to escape the urban sprawl of eastern Hendricks County.

While her Guard unit is due to go back to Afghanistan next July, Disbro won't be making a third trip overseas. She's a grandmother now, and will retire in 2012 after 22 years in the military.

The first time she came home from Afghanistan, Disbro had lunch at Evie Zeis' home and then attended a Merry J's club meeting to meet all the women who had become her "little piece of home" group.

"She is absolutely one of the most wonderful people I have ever met," Mrs. Zeis said of Disbro. "She is such a great representative of our service men and women."

One of the career soldier's early emails to Mrs. Zeis was profuse in its thanks for the club's kindness, and ended with "I wish I could do something for all of you ladies."

And she soon did.

"She sent us all friendship bracelets that the children in Afghanistan had made and were selling in the marketplace," Mrs. Zeis noted.

Thrilled by the million-to-one shot of blindly mailing a care package that ended up going to a local soldier 7,000 miles away, Mrs. Zeis is nonetheless disappointed that the project has come to an end. The club's connection for sending the boxes has ceased operations, and the women can't afford the cost of postage on top of buying all the supplies.

But that won't detract from memories already made.

Mrs. Zeis proudly detailed how she would decorate the insides of the boxes relative to what holiday was upcoming, even packing the goodies in Easter grass or in wrapping paper with "do not open until Christmas" tags.

She would always include a little note about the Putnam County club, along with a self-addressed envelope, paper and pen to encourage the recipient to write back.

"I got the most wonderful letters back," Mrs. Zeis said.

"But this is not like World War II. They don't have the benefits and thoughtfulness from home that the men in that war had," she added.

That's one reason the club has so lovingly embraced its unexpected relationship.

"I always silently said a little prayer that one of the soldiers who didn't get much mail from home would get one of our boxes," Mrs. Zeis said, "and often it worked out very well."

Especially for Kim Disbro.

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