Military Swamped With Gifts for Servicemen With AM-Gulf Rdp, Bjt
NORFOLK, Va. (AP) _ Members of the Air Force’s 1st Tactical Fighter Wing don’t have to worry about satisfying a sweet tooth while on duty in Saudi Arabia.
″The guys tell me, ‘We’re cookied out,’ ″ said Sgt. Dana Flores, a spokeswoman for the wing stationed at Langley Air Force Base in Hampton.
Americans have opened their hearts - and their baking ovens - to military personnel involved in Operation Desert Shield.
Among the offerings: 3,500 peanut butter cookies baked by the 14 nuns of the Monastery of Poor Clare. The nuns said many of the airmen deployed last month have volunteered to help around the monastery.
Ms. Flores is responsible for seeing that donations from the public get to the wing while it is stationed overseas. Sometimes that means not sending everything that comes in, she said, especially if the offering could clash with Saudi culture.
″What people might not realize is that our troops are working side-by-side with the Saudis. One of our people might put down a book and a Saudi pick it up and read it and perhaps be deeply offended by some part. It could lead to an incident,″ she said.
So Ms. Flores has been going through the thousands of donated paperbacks, weeding out those that might be a problem. The books are judged by their covers, suspected contents and author.
″The Saudi culture is a very religious one with very serious proscriptions against alcohol, pork and what is perceived as pornography,″ said Mary Anne Tetreault, an associate professor of political science at Old Dominion University in Norfolk.
″Anything of a political nature, especially anything to do with Israel, is also banned,″ said Ms. Tetreault, who has spent several years in Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates.
Ms. Flores has had to discard numerous paperbacks whose covers are adorned with women wearing racy outfits. Magazines, especially those with sexually suggestive advertisements, are another headache, Ms. Flores said.
″One young lady tried to send a pair of lacy panties to her man. I’m afraid that just won’t get through Saudi customs,″ she said.
However, packages sent to sailors and Marines aboard ships stationed in the Red Sea or Persian Gulf do not have to go through Saudi customs, said Major Tom Johnston, a spokesman for the Navy’s Atlantic Fleet.
The Air Force has been flying donated supplies to the fighter wing as space allows, Ms. Flores said.
Johnston said the Navy has been encouraging people interested in sending things to the troops to write directly to them.
″When you’re overseas, you’re always looking for a letter from home, even if you don’t know the person who sent it. I know from personal experience what an empty feeling mail call can be when you don’t get anything,″ he said.
Johnston recommends a small set of checkers or chess, a deck of cards or science fiction or western paperbacks for the Navy men and women.
However, Ms. Flores asked that no more paperbacks be sent for the airmen. ″We’re covered up in books right now. ... What they are asking for is drink mixes ... anything powder they can mix with the water. Drinking straight water is apparently getting pretty boring.″
Talcum powder, sports equipment and personal hygiene items also are appreciated, Ms. Flores said.