By Jean Lotus
Members of the Forest Park-based Army Reserve 300 Human Resources Company got a sendoff reception at the Forest Park Community Center Sunday afternoon.
Afghanistan is on the horizon for 21 "Spartans" in the 3rd Platoon, who oversee mail movement and delivery in U.S. military theaters.
The unit was given their activation orders after words by Forest Park Mayor Anthony T. Caldrone, Brigadier General Arlan DeBlieck, and 300th HRC Commander Brandon Singleton and 300th Sgt. Broaderick Gantt.
After singing the "Hi, Hi, Hey, the Army's on its way" song, soldiers and their families enjoyed lunch and cake.
Staff Sergeant Jasmine Farrar, 28, of Oak Park was there with sister Jackie Goggins. Farrar is on her second go-around with the Army reserves, having completed an eight-year term with the Spartans that already took her on two one-year tours of Kuwait and Iraq.
She said the Army works with U.S. delivery companies Federal Express and DHL to transport parcels and letters to and from troops stationed overseas.
As a postal inspector, her job in the past was to make sure soldiers weren't shipping home souvenirs that should stay in the country.
"We fine-tooth search everything that leaves the theater," she said. "There's an approved list [of souvenir items] for personnel."
The oddest things she's ever inspected shipped by soldiers?
"Dirty clothes," she said. "When soldiers are coming home they just stuff everything into packages and send it home by mail."
Farrar just finished her master's degree in human services at Concordia University in River Forest, she said. She'd eventually like to be a military chaplain or military social worker, where she sees a need.
She said it was important for soldiers to keep lines of communication open with their families once they get to an overseas deployment. They need to take time-zone differences into account, she said, when calling, skyping and emailing.
But even with electronic communication, soldiers still love to get real mail, Farrar said.
"Postcards, birthday cards, pictures, Girl Scout cookies. We love it," Farrar said. "If I want to text someone, it's about $4 per text. Everyone loves getting mail."