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News from CNREURAFCENT

In the Spotlight

29 December 2022

From Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Josh Cote, Naval Air Station Sigonella Public Affairs

Every year around the holidays, many service members are separated from their family and friends. Deployed service members aren’t the only ones to include the thousands of others stationed all over the world. Luckily there are people back stateside who keep those military members in thoughts around this time of year and want to make sure they know people are thinking bout them. This is the case for Richard Honan, from Winthrop, Mass., who takes it upon himself every year to send care packages to military members stationed and deployed all over the world. Specifically, Honan has sent care packages for the last three years to the service members stationed here at Naval Air Station Sigonella.
Every year around the holidays, many service members are separated from their family and friends. Deployed service members aren’t the only ones to include the thousands of others stationed all over the world. Luckily there are people back stateside who keep those military members in thoughts around this time of year and want to make sure they know people are thinking bout them. This is the case for Richard Honan, from Winthrop, Mass., who takes it upon himself every year to send care packages to military members stationed and deployed all over the world. Specifically, Honan has sent care packages for the last three years to the service members stationed here at Naval Air Station Sigonella.

In 1968, Honan had just left art school while the draft was active for the Vietnam War. Honan decided to enlist in the Army on his own terms with hopes of choosing a better job instead of being drafted. He was sent to construction drafting school to apply his art school expertise to drawing plans for bridges, buildings, walls, etc. After completing three months of training for his job, he was sent to Vietnam. Honan finished his time in the Army in November 1970.
After serving in Vietnam, Honan knew what it could felt like for other service members during a time of war. When the next big conflict started, he knew he had to help service members anyway he could. During that time, a friend of his daughter that he had known her whole life joined the military.

“I started this program of supporting our military men and women in Iraq and Afghanistan about twenty years ago in the middle 2002,” said Honan. “It all began with a young girl by the name of Kelly Kneeland. I had seen this young woman grow up and go through kindergarten, grade school and then onto high school with my daughter Christine. She then went off to study nursing at Syracuse University. While studying at Syracuse, she became a member of Reserve Officers Training Corps and when she graduated, she was commissioned as a lieutenant in the United States Army. When the second Gulf War broke out in 2002, she was off to Afghanistan as part of the initial invasion force.”

After serving in a major conflict himself Honan knew exactly how service members felt and what they were going through themselves.

“Being an Army Vietnam veteran myself, I remembered not only the danger of war, but also the loneliness of being away from home,” said Honan. “I took it upon myself to write to Kelly and send her a care package every month for her entire deployment. I sort of adopted her and kept her under my wing until she came home. Kelly was no sooner home than I connected with another soldier, which led to another soldier, to another, one soldier came home, another one led to two more and so on.”

Honan fills the packages with the basic items like mac n’ cheese, black socks, energy and protein bars, canned pastas, cookies, peanut butter crackers, fruit cocktail, canned chili, beef stew, individual serving packets of powdered drink; along with little bags of beach sand and shells from Winthrop Beach, little plastic capsules of American soil, toiletries, magazines and newspapers.

Along with all the goods, Honan has school children from the local elementary and middle schools write letters or short notes and draw pictures that he places in the care packages. Honan also personally writes each of the service members a letter each month.

“In twenty years, I have personally packed and shipped over 4,000 care packages weighing over 43,000 pounds,” said Honan. “I have also handwritten over 13,000 letters. It’s a year-round project, shipping two or three dozen care packages every month. This year’s Christmas Tree Care Packages went to Korea, Okinawa, Romania, Jordan, Djibouti, Germany, Abu Dhabi, Kuwait, Sicily, Niger and the Persian Gulf.”

For Honan it is not about recognition but instead just knowing that the people receiving the care packages know that no matter where they are, there is someone that cares about them.

“Who are these men and women that I send these care packages too?” said Honan. “They are your father, your brother, your niece, your aunts and uncles. They are Soldiers, Marines, Sailors, Airmen and Coast Guardsmen. They are not necessarily from Winthrop. I like to think that I can put a smile on their face, a smile in their heart and a smile in their stomach.”

All of this would not be possible without the tremendous support of the people of Winthrop, the Massachusetts State Daughters of the American Revolution and the surrounding communities. Honan does his best to let our service members know that we appreciate what they do, whatever it takes.
 
 

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