Beth Copp only wanted to send one care package.

The Windham woman was gathering the razors and deodorant, the beef jerky and Spaghetti-O’s, to send to her nephew, Spc. Justin Buxbaum. He had arrived in Afghanistan in April with his Army unit, and the 23-year-old missed the stateside comforts of quick snacks and everyday toiletries.

The package would never reach Buxbaum, who was killed Memorial Day, but the love behind it is now being spread to his fellow soldiers. Soon after Buxbaum’s funeral, Copp began to call on friends, family and the wider community for donated items to send to Buxbaum’s unit, the 62nd Engineering Battalion, Alpha Company.

She now has 32 care packages sealed and ready to ship, and by the time she is done, Copp may have as many as 100. She will have a table Saturday, June 28, at Wal-Mart in Windham where she will collect items to fill the packages.

“In the wake of Justin’s death I thought I had to follow through with what he asked,” said Copp, who sees her efforts as a way to honor her nephew, and as an outlet for her grief over his death. “If he wanted it and needed it, then the others do too.”

Copp knew she wanted to help, but didn’t know where to begin. She was unsure of how to collect items and send multiple packages, and she knew nothing about working within the Army’s system. So Copp, a school bus driver in Gorham, reached out to the people around her.

“I wrote a card to the parents looking for help,” said Copp. The request reached more people than she ever imagined. Her niece, Erica LeSiege, organized a three-day drive for goods at her school in Vassalboro, filling seven packages. Residents of Chebeague Island, where Copp’s parents live, will collect items at the summer craft fair on the island. Copp’s sister-in-law, Lynn Copp, sent out a mass e-mail to Gorham School Department staff asking for help.

“They just gave and gave and gave,” said Lynn Copp.

The response amazes Copp, who only set out to do what she could to honor her nephew.

“It has become much bigger than I thought,” Copp said. “The snowball just got bigger as it rolled down the hill.”

Brittny Taylor, whose husband Joshua served with Buxbaum, said she is proud of what Copp and the rest of the soldier’s family has accomplished in just the short time after his death.

“We are just amazed at how well everybody is pulling together,” said Taylor, who serves as a liaison between Alpha Company and the soldiers’ families, and who came to Maine from her home in Texas for Buxbaum’s funeral. “They came together at a time of tragic loss.”

Taylor’s husband was with Buxbaum when he died, and the entire unit has taken the loss hard, Taylor said. For Taylor, it has been difficult to be so far from her husband when she knows he is suffering.

“You can’t get over there to be with the ones you love when they need help,” said Taylor. Care packages are one way for families to show their love and support, she said.

“It’s a little piece of home,” Taylor said. “Morale just picks up miraculously.”

Taylor has sent her husband and other troops a steady stream of packages since the troops arrived in Afghanistan in April.

“We are needing supplies there because we are out in the middle of nowhere,” Taylor said.

While toiletries and snacks come in handy in the desert, so do toys and games which help stem the soldiers’ boredom when they are not at work. Taylor recently sent the unit the game “Rock Band” in which allows players to perform popular rock songs, though for once she is glad she is not with her husband.

“They used to have tournaments when they were here,” Taylor said. “‘Wanted Dead or Alive’ by Bon Jovi? I could go the rest of my life without hearing that song again.”

Not all the soldiers’ families can afford to send care packages, Taylor said, so efforts like Copp’s help fill the void.

“Mail day is always an exciting day,” said Taylor. “It’s terrible to see the ones who don’t get anything.

“Now, everybody is going to get something.”

Spaghetti-O’s and granola bars are among the goodies in the care packages Beth Copp of Windham is sending to soldiers overseas. Copp was putting together a care package for her nephew, Justin Buxbaum, when he was killed in Afghanistan last month. Copp, with the help of friends, family and community members, is now collecting goods to fill boxes for the soldiers from Buxbaum’s unit in Afghanistan. Each of the boxes comes with a photo of Buxbaum, along with a poem written by Copp that honors fallen soldiers and the families they have left behind. Army Spc. Justin Buxbaum was awaiting a care package from his aunt, Beth Copp of Windham when he was killed in Afghanistan May 26. Copp is gathering items for care packages for everyone in Buxbaum’s unit. Donations will be accepted at the Windham Wal-Mart Saturday, June 28.


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