Four years ago Hershel Colwell departed from his home in Hardburly, intent on beginning his career in the United States Army, deciding to join the military one evening while watching the news on television, seeing a report detailing the death of an 18-year-old soldier. At 33 years old he was the oldest recruit in his class but made it through boot camp at the top.
Now a sergeant in the United States Army, Colwell departed for Afghanistan in March, but returned to Perry County last month for two weeks of rest and relaxation before he is to return to his duties next week on his birthday, September 9.
But while he was home, he was able to take part in sending a small bit of Americana to his fellow troops in the form of roughly 500 boxes of girl scout cookies, donated by the local Girl Scouts unit in Perry County.
Stephanie Wooton, a volunteer Girl Scout leader with the Perry County service unit, said officials at the armory help with the activities of the scouts often, and being able to give back in some way to the military is a remarkable thing in which the scouts can participate.
“This is wonderful for the Girl Scouts of Perry County because the armory does a lot for us. They allow us to use the facility and we’re happy to give back to them,” she said.
Wooton noted the importance for the girls involved in the Perry County Girl Scouts unit to give back, and being able to donate so many boxes to the troops is one way of illustrating that to the scouts.
“It’s important, we think, for the girls to know what’s going on around them and in their community and how that they can help, that it’s important for everybody to be involved,” she said. “The girls really do appreciate when they receive things, and it’s important for them to give back.”
Colwell, who has spent the past five months in Afghanistan, said receiving packages from the states means a lot to him and his fellow soldiers, and knowing that people are taking time out of their own lives to send them the items “makes it that much more special.”
“You can have the worst day of your life, and everything feels down and out, but when you go in and they holler mail call and you’ve got four or five packages, it just brightens your day up,” Sgt. Colwell said. “We get tobacco, newspapers, you know, just little fruit cups, stuff you can’t get over there. It means a lot and I thank them all.”
Being home and knowing that he will soon have to leave his family again and return to Afghanistan is tough, he said, having to say good bye to his two children and his wife again. But he has also formed a bond with his fellow soldiers, and in a way can’t wait to get back to see how things have been going while he has been away.
“Sometimes we’re up 18-20 hours a day with our fellow soldiers. They’re my brothers and sisters and I say moms and dads ‘til we get back,” he said. “We’re just as close over there as we are at home right now. Every night I worry, since I’ve been home, how my boys are doing over there. I can’t call them, don’t know what’s going on. It’s bad to say, but I can’t wait to get back to them so I know I can do my part.”
Sgt. Colwell said following his return to Afghanistan later this month, he should be due back in the States in March of 2009. And just for the record, Sgt. Colwell said his favorite Girl Scout cookie is of the peanut butter variety.