When her son went to war, a Ponchatoula woman went on her own mission, and for the past eight years she has been on the front line for the support of our troops.
A monthly routine for Sheri Stephens is sending care packages to the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. She founded Operation We Care on the Northshore after her son was deployed to Iraq in 2003.
And the happiest day of her life? "When my son came home March 13, 2004," she said.
But Sheri's mission didn't end. She and other Operation We Care volunteers have sent more than 14,000 care packages to the troops since 2003, raising money for postage through donations, the sale magnets and a t-shirt that was designed by a soldier.
"It's the land of the free because of the brave," she said.
They carry on even though donations have fallen off in recent years.
"Every bit of our money goes to our soldiers. Everybody here is a volunteer," said Stephens. Volunteers like Brenda Ogden whose son is also an Iraq war veteran.
"What have you heard from the soldiers about the need for these pillows? They're sleeping on helmets. They're sleeping on anything," said Ogden.
Each month Operation We Care volunteers send soldiers pillows, snacks, toiletries and other things they need such as biofreeze for sore muscles. And they also send messages of hope.
"It says be brave, be strong. It goes on their dog tag and they hold that when they're scared," said Ogden.
And every year they send troops something else, and this year Sheri surprised everyone by setting a goal to send more than ever.
"And they said 1000? And I said 1000 and I knew it was going to happen because God's going to make it happen," said Stephens.
Early in the morning, Randazzo's Bakery in Slidell was command central for troop support. Five hundred king cakes were mailed Tuesday and supporters hope to come up with the money to pay postage to send 500 more king cakes to soldiers later this week.
The payback? A letter from a soldier at war.
"Thank you so much for the care packages and bringing a little bit of home half way around the world,” Colleen Smith read a letter.