FORDLAND, Mo. - A Fordland woman has made it her mission to make sure Ozarks soldiers know we're thinking of them.
Rhonda Luttrull watches as every single box is filled with more than just snacks, toiletries, and basic everyday needs. They're also filled with heart, and letters of appreciation for men and women serving overseas.
"It says, 'Dear soldier, I like what you're doing for us. You are risking your life for us,'" reads Luttrull.
She started in 2008 with just one box. It was for her 18-year-old Dustin who was serving in Afghanistan. Weeks later, Dustin told her he was the only one in his unit who had heard from home.
"That just really broke my heart," recalls Luttrull. "Dustin was just 18 at the time and when you think of it like that, they were just kids, and I just felt like they were all my boys."
So Rhonda got the names of every single member of Dustin's unit and sent them all special packages - 40 of them.
"Morale was pretty shot and a truck pulls up on Christmas Day and these boxes start getting handed out," recalls veteran Sam Ledbetter. "They said form a line."
Ledbetter received a care package when he was serving in Iraq. He was deployed four days before Christmas.
"When you're there, you are completely disoriented. You don't know want to expect what's going on and so when something like that arrives, it's just a piece of home. That's what it means to everybody. I know it did to me. I still have the guy's letter."
Rhonda started with just one box full of smiles, then 40. Today, thousands of shoeboxes for solders have been sent to our local troops.
Her mission continues to grow. Strafford High School students honored our veterans and collected money and donations to help Rhonda send as many boxes as she could. They presented the check and boxes to Rhonda during a special ceremony.
"We decided it was a really great thing and it's a way to show our gratitude to our soldiers and kind of let them know we are still thinking about them here at home," says Lainie Vicant.
Rhonda has two campaigns every year to send boxes overseas -- one on July Fourth and the other at Christmas. She says while her soldiers are there, she will always be there for them.
"My son has been out of the Army now for a year and half and we're still doing it until they all come home."
Rhonda says there are 2,600 soldiers on her list this year. The next shipping date is December 6.