Sisters send care packages to dad, fellow troops in Afghanistan; classmate lend a hand
by: Jim Clark Catie O’Halloran, 9, and her sister, Mary Margaret, 10, show off cards they and their fellow students at West Gresham Grade School wrote for soldiers in Afghanistan, including their father, Army Reserve      Master Sgt. Patrick O’Halloran.

Catie O'Halloran and her sister, Mary Margaret, agree on one thing - they miss their dad's sense of humor.

'It's not that it's his jokes,' Mary Margaret says. 'Sometimes he'll make really funny mistakes, and we'll all laugh at them.'

'He trips over his stuff a lot,' Catie adds. 'It's fun.'

Catie, 9, is in fourth grade at West Gresham Grade School, 330 W. Powell Blvd., and her sister, Mary Margaret, 10, is in fifth.

Their father, Army Reserve Master Sgt. Patrick O'Halloran, was recently deployed with the 445th Civil Affairs Battalion to Afghanistan. It's his third deployment, having previously completed two tours in Iraq.

O'Halloran says he's the senior non-commissioned officer at the Civil-Military Operations Center at Forward Operating Base Pasab in western Kandahar Province. And in an interview conducted via email, O'Halloran confirmed his daughters' observations.

'I'm usually funny when I trip over stuff, which is a lot.'

O'Halloran's girls recently worked with their classmates to put together care packages for Operation Christmas Glory, which is in the process of changing its name to Mission Mahalo.

'Mahalo' means 'thank you' in Hawaiian. Jennifer Fair, the charity's founder, was born in Hawaii and says her group is changing its name to let people know it's operating year-round.

Mary Margaret's teacher, Ashli Bjugan, learned of Operation Christmas Glory/Mission Mahalo through a TV news broadcast and contacted Fair. West Gresham sent home letters to parents to let them know students would collect items for care packages.

Bjugan says Mary Margaret appreciated the help.

'It really meant a lot to her to have the class surround her and support her while her dad is gone,' she says, adding the children learned about the realities of how soldiers must sacrifice creature comforts to serve overseas.

Students wrote letters for the troops, she says, noting they also wrote 'adventure stories' about a stuffed toy raccoon included with the shipment.

Act of appreciation

Fair says she founded Operation Christmas Glory/Mission Mahalo because her father is a disabled veteran, and she wants folks to know how much it means to the troops when they receive a gift box or care package.

'They deserve every ounce of morale boosting we can do for them,' Fair, a King City resident, says. 'They put their lives on the line for us.'

Students and staff members at West Gresham collected such items as snacks, candy bars, energy drinks and stuffed animals for the troops, the O'Halloran girls say.

Mary Margaret adds she hopes her father gets the Clif peanut butter bars she packed for him.

'He eats five in a week,' she says.

Her mother, Angelea Storey, says the troops appreciate the time and effort that went into creating the care packages. Soldiers in war zones live bare-bones lives and enjoy knowing somebody at home is thinking of them, she says.

'It's not the items in it - it's that somebody cared,' she says.

O'Halloran wrote: 'The day-to-day life here consists of pretty Spartan conditions. We live in tents improved with plywood.' The care packages mean a lot, he adds.

'The care packages are the little things that make life a little easier, by getting us things that are hard to get here at the PX, or by providing us things that remind us of home,' he wrote.

He also sent this message home.

'I miss my kids a lot,' he wrote. 'This is my third trip overseas, and it doesn't get any easier. In some ways, each time is harder. Knowing my kids are thinking about me, and that they're helping organize things for me and the other soldiers here, lets me know they're doing OK.'

How to help

Since September 2010, Jennifer L. Fair and Renee Atkins have sent more than 250 care packages containing an estimated $25,000 worth of toiletries, food and morale items to military personnel in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait and Bahrain.

A majority of care packages sent include deodorant, toothpaste, body wash, laundry detergent, baby wipes, snacks and other items.

For more information, call 503-841-3418, visit or search for 'Mission Maholo' on