Group is starting a military mail call

MERRIMACK – Residents are launching plans to make sure Merrimack military personnel serving overseas hear from supporters at home.

A new organization called Merrimack Mail Call aims to expand current efforts to reach active duty military in the form of letters, care packages and phone cards, said Dave McCray, one of the group’s founding members.

“We, as people, get too caught up in our own lives – out of sight, out of mind,” McCray said. “We want to put a face to it. Who are these kids? Where do they live? How can we help them? What do they need?”

McCray said he and fellow organizers Dan Dwyer, Mike Malzone and Phil Straight know that other individuals and groups in town have long supported troops in similar ways, such as schools, civic and military organizations. One of Merrimack Mail Call’s goals, he said, is to centralize those efforts to generate a more concentrated response to the troops.

To do that, the group plans to start a Web site. Families of service people with Merrimack connections would post details about their military relative’s needs, hobbies and other personal information.

Next, people wanting to send cards or initiate pen pal relationships would contact Merrimack Mail Call for further details on how to reach the service person.

“When we talk to kids recently served, they talk about loneliness, boredom, detachment from place they’ve known their whole lives,” McCray said. “There’s nothing like getting a postcard or a letter from home.”

Eventually, the group wants to organize care package deliveries. Residents would volunteer to buy items specific to a service member, and the group would offer boxes, mailing labels and once-a-month “packing parties” to assemble the boxes.

“We’re not looking for money or anything to change hands,” McCray said. “It would just be a conduit to make things easier for people to recognize the guys out there. More people would do more if they understood how to do it easily.”

Typically, McCray said, he reads announcements about military members returning home through the police department’s outdoor sign.

“Sometimes, we just hear about the end game: they served a year in Iraq, Afghanistan, and that was it,” McCray said. “I wanted a way to show support for them during (their tours of duty).”

People interested in volunteering to help design the organization’s Web site, volunteer or learn more about Merrimack Mail Call can call McCray at 424-2282 or e-mail