By Richard Whitby
The Daily Star
---- — A Burlington Flats couple whose son serves with an Army medical unit in Afghanistan have taken matters into their own hands after hearing that their son’s unit no longer received hot breakfasts.
Arthur and Joy Miller have been sending food each week for about six weeks to Staff Sgt. Jared Miller and his fellow soldiers in the 691st Forward Surgical Team, an Army Reserve Unit based in Utica. The team has been in Afghanistan since October.
“Oatmeal packets, Pop Tarts, Rice Krispie bars,” Arthur Miller said this week. “My wife sends jars of jelly, jars of our maple syrup, she sends pancake mix, bread mixes, basically everything.
“My wife’s been going shopping, picking up $30, $40, $50 worth of food, putting it in a box (and) sending it over. It cost us $20 to $25, depending on the size of the box. And New York Central Mutual Insurance Co., they have a policy down there … if their employees donate, they do the shipping. So they’ve been shipping the boxes over.”
Their concern grew out of reports that Army units serving in Afghanistan were not receiving hot breakfasts anymore as a result of budget cutbacks, although the Pentagon — as recently as last month — has denied that is the case.
The military said that only forward operating units aren’t served hot meals for breakfast, and that the reason is logistical not financial. Those units, officials say, are being pulled back and replaced by Afghan troops.
Still, the Millers carry on. They send at least a box a week, Arthur Miller said.
“Some weeks, it’s two,” he added. “Right now, there’s two in the car waiting to go. … and we have probably six more waiting to go.”
They’re not doing it alone. In addition, to New York Central Mutual, Hannaford supermarkets have donated food, they said.
Jared Miller, a co-owner of Prolifiq Sign Studio on River Street in Oneonta, is serving his second tour with the 691st in Afghanistan. In addition to being the senior staff sergeant, he works as an operating room technician.
After the last deployment, much of the unit left the service, his father said.
“My son and one of the doctors, Col. (Gino) Trevisani, are the only two from the original unit that were there nine years ago,” Arthur Miller said.
It’s a long-term commitment.
“He’s been in the unit since his junior year of high school,” Arthur Miller said. “He joined under the split-op (split option) program, they call it.
He did his basic training in Oklahoma after his junior year in high school and then went for advanced individual training in Texas, his father said.
“Then, he was home for a year and went to college for a year and then they deployed him,” Arthur Miller said.