Just two years removed from his high school graduation and one from his wedding, Sequim’s Bo Pinnell is part of the 68,000-person U.S. military force serving in Afghanistan during the holiday season.
And they could use some support, says Pinnell’s mother, Angie Dickson. Even if it’s a bit of candy.
She and her employer, Chris Frankfurth of Agnew Grocery, are collecting items for Pinnell and his U.S. Army squad, platoon and company as the soldiers prepare for some of the coldest weather Afghanistan has to offer.
Dickson says she hopes to have a kind of community care package ready to go by Nov. 30; after that, it’s packaging up everything and filling out customs paperwork that needs to be filed for each box. Everything needs to be on its way by Dec. 3, she says.
It’s the kind of busywork that helps keep a mother focused on something, anything, other than her son’s safety.
“As a parent, you have your good days … (and not),” Dickson says. When her daughter Samantha often asks why she works so much, Dickson says, “I have to keep my mind busy.”
Frankfurth owns the grocery store off Old Olympic Highway. He says that though he has relatives in the military he “didn’t give it as much thought until being around Angie (and seeing) a mother’s perspective.”
That perspective, he says, puts the meaning of the holidays in a whole new light when thinking about soldiers like Pinnell.
“Hearing about the needs of the soldiers, it seems to me the country is more concerned about Black Friday than (them),” Frankfurth says. “We need to remember what’s important.”
What’s important for soldiers, Dickson says, can come in the form of the smallest things like hand-warmers, small bags of candy, medicine and chewing gum. She says her son and other infantry could use small items that they can take when they are out in the field, commonly for three days at a time.
“Especially if they are going out on patrols and eating local food,” says Staff Sgt. Tristan Ryan.
Ryan is a recruiter based in Port Angeles who’s helping with the effort to send items to Pinnell and other local men and women serving overseas.
She says that often soldiers don’t have access to much because of their location and circumstances out of their control.
“That’s just the way it is; they (military officials) don’t know what everyone needs,” Ryan says. “Everyone’s been hit by budget cuts. The military is absolutely no different.”
Pinnell is the son of Angie and Scott Dickson of Sequim and Louis S. Pinnell of Burlington. He graduated from Sequim High School in 2010 and a year later married fellow SHS grad Johanna Ewing.
He’s normally stationed in Vicenza, Italy, with the 2-503rd Skysoldiers 173rd Airborne Division.
Dickson says her son was practically destined for a military career. He was born on the 50th anniversary of Pearl Harbor; his father and brother both served; and right after high school he enlisted and already is talking about reenlisting before his 21st birthday.
He never complains, Dickson says. “What good does it do?” Pinnell asks his mother.
But like any soldier — and particularly a relative newlywed — being overseas can’t be easy, Dickson says.
Ryan can relate. After enlisting at age 19, she spent a year in Iraq with Task Force ODIN, a reconnaissance and surveillance effort combating insurgents who use improvised explosive devices (IEDs), and then served for six months in Afghanistan helping build local security forces.
Like any other job, she says, serving as a soldier has good days and bad days.
“At the end of the day,” she says, “if you and your buddies are still alive, it’s a good day.”
Ryan says she appreciates projects like the one going to Pinnell not only because it’s for her fellow soldiers, but because he’s a local.
“It’s nice to know we’re appreciated,” Ryan says. “Some soldiers don’t have families. It still doesn’t amount to what it does back home, (but a care package) is a great morale boost.”
That’s what has Dickson and friends busy gathering items to distribute to Pinnell’s platoon and squad and company. It can take up to three weeks to get from the states to an operations base, Dickson says, what with other holiday shipping and poor weather possibly delaying mail service.
“If planes can’t fly, mail’s not going anywhere,” Ryan says.
Donations can be as simple as a small package of chocolate — “It won’t melt on the way,” Ryan insists — or a handwritten note or Christmas card. Other items, such as shampoo and deodorant, should be in regular size, as the travel-sized ones don’t last long.
Says Ryan, “That one package, I promise you, will make a difference.”
To help out, drop off items through Nov. 30 at Agnew Grocery, 2863 Old Olympic Highway, between 7 a.m.-8 p.m., or at the Sequim VFW building, 169 E. Washington St., between 1-10 p.m.