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Parrish woman’s care packages go to son, soldiers overseas

PARRISH -- Army PFC Nicolas Dugan doesn’t know Doreen Bennett.

That doesn’t change a thing.

The soldiers in Dugan’s unit at Camp Liberty in Baghdad don’t know her, either.

That’s OK, too.

Come Christmas, however, they’ll realize who Bennett is and offer a distant thanks to this thoughtful woman for her generosity.

“What she’s doing is admirable,” said Jack Fowell, a friend and veteran.

On Monday morning, six 12-inch-by-12-inch cardboard boxes filled Bennett’s living room, packed and ready for mailing overseas.

“I call them, ‘A little love in a box,’” she said.

They contained toiletries like baby wipes, deodorant and toothpaste, as well as snacks like beef jerky, peanut brittle and sunflower seeds.

A Christmas card, too.

Bennett estimates she has mailed 25 such boxes monthly for more than a year.

It started when her son, PFC Robert Kohlmeier III, was deployed to Afghanistan 14 months ago.

“It was just for me, just my therapy to get me through each day, knowing where my son was and the danger he was in,” she said. “It kept me occupied.”

When Bennett’s son told her he was sharing with comrades who weren’t getting care packages from home, she went into overdrive.

“I said, ‘Give me a list of everybody you know, all their names.’ He said, ‘Mom, there are so many.’ Before I knew it, I started to send something to every single one of them,” Bennett said.

That included soldiers in other units -- and not just in Afghanistan.

Like PFC Nicolas Dugan in Iraq.

Bennett got his name from a friend and has names of other soldiers, but is awaiting their Army Post Office information.

“I’m going to do as much as I can,” she said. “My son said, ‘Mom, don’t ever stop. You don’t understand how people forget us over here.’”

So even though Kohlmeier is out of Afghanistan, Mom carries on.

Cost be hanged. She says she and her husband have the means to undertake this noble gesture.

She’s also held a big garage sale every fall to help defray the expenses.

Does Bennett ever hear from those soldiers?

“Not really, but it’s OK. I know the smile it puts on their faces,” she said. “You can’t put a price on that.”

Vin Mannix, local columnist, can be reached at 745-7055.