Phone calls home for Jan Finney were both rare and quick when her son J.D. Finney served in Iraq. Every month, she’d load 3,000 minutes onto a phone card for him to use.
"If they get a card that’s 100 minutes, it’s worth 10 minutes,’’ said Finney, a Chandler resident, about the cost ratio. As a retired member of the Arizona National Guard, she now oversees its family assistance program, which sends care packages overseas.
The Arizona Guard has nearly 600 troops in Iraq, alongside almost 300 reservists from the state, said Finney. Her son, who served in the Guard, returned home four months ago.
With Christmas less than two weeks away, the deadline to mail items to troops is now.
"We’re sort of on the bubble,’’ Finney said. "Keep the packages coming and keep the phone cards coming.’’
Two Mesa brothers want to get phone cards into the hands of every Arizonan serving.
Aaron Forrest, 13, and Daniel Forrest, 15, donated almost 400 cards to the Guard on Monday as part of an ongoing effort they call "Project Gratitude.’’ Letters of gratitude, written by people of all ages at a Mesa Soccer Club tournament in November, will accompany these phone cards mailed by the family assistance program.
Each card costs $5, and Aaron still hopes to meet the original goal. Daniel started the project two years ago to earn his Eagle Scout award with Troop 155, reeling in enough money to buy more than 1,300 phone cards. This time, Aaron is leading the way as he pursues Eagle Scout honors.
Their mother, Debbie Forrest, said total phone card collections between her two sons clock in at 1,752 to date. The project’s impact became clear when a soldier once dropped by their home.
He showed them a picture of other troops who also received phone cards, and said that being able to keep in touch with their loved ones helped boost morale.
• To contribute phone cards or money toward Project Gratitude, call the Arizona National Guard Family Program at (602) 629-4344, or Aaron Forrest at (480) 735-9414.
• Checks made out to Boy Scout Troop 155 can be mailed to 1440 N. 40th St., Unit 4, Mesa, AZ 85205.