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updated: 12/22/2011 5:19 PM

Arlington Heights family collects for soldiers

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As families celebrate the homecomings of soldiers returning from Iraq, Dawn Hedrick wants people to remember that for many, the war isn't over yet.

For those with family members still in Afghanistan, this is another holiday season without their loved ones, which is why Hedrick, of Arlington Heights is collecting stuff for the troops still overseas.

Along with her husband, Hedrick's drive is in memory of her late son-in-law, Marine Lance Cpl. James Stack, who was killed in action on Nov. 10, 2010.

"It's great that that war (in Iraq) ended, but they're still in full swing in Afghanistan," she said. "I just don't want people to forget."

Stack, 20, left behind his young wife, Katie, and now-2-year-old daughter, Mikalya.

As Stack's relatives prepare to mark the second holiday season without him, they are hoping to bring comfort to soldiers still overseas.

Hedrick is asking area residents to donate toiletries such as toothpaste, shampoo or eye drops; food such as gum, candy or trail mix; entertainment such as sports or entertainment magazines, books or batteries; and clothing, including black heavy duty socks, hats or gloves. She also encourages children to make cards for the soldiers to brighten their day.

The collection will continue through Jan. 15.

Once the collection finishes, Hedrick, her husband and a few friends will pack the boxes and ship them to Helmand Province in Afghanistan.

Even smaller items like a sports magazine and a pack of gum can bring the soldiers a sense of normalcy, Hedrick said.

Over the past year, in response to the generous outpouring that came after Stack's death, Hedrick and her family have sent nearly 100 boxes of supplies overseas, but now want to get the entire community involved.

"They give us so much. Freedom comes at a very, very high cost and I don't think I realized that until James went over to Afghanistan and later lost his life," she said.

Donations are not limited to the items above and Hedrick said she has heard from friends of her son-in-law that every little bit helps.

"Hopefully they all come home safely and they come home soon, but until then we need to continue to support love and honor what they're doing," she said.

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