The mother of a Stephenville soldier has become a crusader for the U.S. troops. Operation Camouflage is under way.

Sgt. John D. Lane, a 1991 Stephenville graduate and son of Virginia and John Lane, was deployed in August from Maryland to northern Iraq for a year or more tour of duty. He has served in the Armed Services for fifteen years. At approximately the same time, John's cousin received orders in Arkansas and her husband received his in Dallas. Both are in Kuwait awaiting assignments.

Lane said commissaries are often short on supplies, and items are expensive considering a soldier's pay. Even phone cards must be purchased to call home.

“Many send money home to families, and their pay just doesn't stretch far enough to buy personal necessities,” she said.

Pastor Edward Dittfurth of the Stephenville First Assembly Church said that his members are sponsoring a “support the troops” bake sale with booths at both entrances of Wal-Mart, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 13. Donated baked goods can be delivered to the church until 4 p.m. Friday and until 5 p.m. at Apple Tree (in the former Cook's lumber building) or taken to Wal-Mart on Saturday.

Lists of needed items will be available if supporters would prefer to make purchases and deposit them in the containers provided.

Also planning to assist with the sale will be Stacy Riley of Mineral Wells, the group leader of Stephenville's Family Readiness, a support group for families of those in foreign conflicts.

Going that extra mile, Lane has received permission from fourteen businesses thus far to display canisters for donations. These include CiCi's pizza, Taco Casa, Chicken Express, both Wranglers, DJ's, Super Century Dry Cleaners, Lone Star Lanes, Cotton Patch restaurant, Castillo's restaurant, Apple Tree, and convenience stores at Shell and Exxon-Mobil stations.

“The nickels and dimes add up, “ she said. “The donations will be used to purchase and ship items to be distributed on various military bases.”

Lane hopes the community will join her effort to help those protecting the homeland.

“This has developed into a huge project, but I didn't want it to be just for my family members, nor just a one time effort,” she said. “I have been encouraged by those who have contacted me to volunteer their services, and I hope this project will continue on a regularly scheduled basis until our troops come home.”

Pam and Gene McMillan's son Myles is scheduled to return to Ft. Bragg, North Carolina, in November after 15 months in Iraq, and his mother is airing out the suitcases for the trip. She said her son was always appreciative of anything received from his Glen Rose hometown. McMillan said that whatever can be provided for the troops is a Godsend from America.

“The only thing I couldn't send that he wished for more than anything was fresh milk,” she said. “And he will soon be able to have all he wants.” McMillan hopes to be in Stephenville Saturday to help in any way she can.

Meanwhile,schools are joining the campaign. Chamberlin students are writing letters and thank you notes to the troops. Hamilton's Ann Whitney Elementary School will also be corresponding with them. The Stephenville Christian School's project is to send get-well cards to those in military hospitals.

Lane said volunteers would be welcomed to assist with canister pick-ups, sorting, packing, and transporting packages for shipment. She has been in contact with an organization in Killeen that has provided information for proper packing. Additional drop-off locations would also be appreciated, she said. Apple Tree has volunteered to accept items during business hours. The Stephenville First Assembly Church will receive items on Sunday during the hours of services.

A large portion of donations will be used for shipping costs. A Stephenville postal clerk advised Lane there is no discount for mailing packages to those in the overseas military.

“The government welcomes recruits to fight for our country,” she said. “It encourages citizens to do everything possible to boost morale. Then, there is no discount to do so by mail. Someone in Washington, D.C., needs to step up to the plate with the increasing number of deployments.” Lane said that not everyone can afford to pay $30 postage for a large box of items in short supply or unavailable on the bases.

Pack & Mail Plus has offered to mail packages at a special rate. Lane said community support is evident in many areas for the success of this project.

Merchants who wish to participate can contact Lane at 254-965-9898. Donations may be mailed or taken to Stephenville First Assembly, 950 Glen Rose Hwy. Checks are to be made out to Stephenville First Assembly Church with a notation on the memo line that it is a donation for the troops in order to be properly recorded for disbursement.

Some items requested by soldiers are unique, Lane said, and must be special ordered. One item is extra long pipe cleaners ordered by James Jackson, owner of JJ's Cowboy Tobacco, and can be purchased at 2009 W. Washington.

Among other duties, Sgt. Lane serves as the chaplain's assistant and told his mother that Bibles and religious CD's and DVD's are almost non-existent and would be appreciated.

Items needed include: unscented baby wipes (many), individual pocket sized tissues, canned chips and snacks (John D.'s favorite is Pringles), hard candy (none available there), beef jerky, toothpaste, deodorant, women's feminine products, dental floss, razors, envelopes, writing tablets, pens, and religious items. Troops would also appreciate: CD's, DVD's, magazines, puzzle books, playing cards, dominoes, baseballs and gloves (no bats), footballs, and soccer balls. No aerosol sprays or hazardous chemicals can be shipped.

Lane said items people take for granted and are readily accessible here in the U.S. are usually considered necessities to those on foreign soil. “We have hard candy in all types of containers in possibly several rooms in our homes,” she said. “There is none to be found there.”

This mother is dedicated to her son's service to his country, as is his dad. She says that she will do whatever she can to make 124-degree days more comfortable. After the day is done, she wants her soldier, as well as others, to remember that the hometown is rooting them on.

“There are many in Stephenville who have connections with U.S. soldiers in Iraq, as well as in other conflict areas. Our military forces are committed to their posts,” she said. “Regardless of whether or not we support the war, we must support our troops.”

SHERRY BOARDMAN is a staff writer for the Empire-Tribune and can be reached at or 254-968-3124, ext 229.