Jeff and Linda Relitz never intended for it to be this big.

Jeff and Linda Relitz never intended for it to be this big.

Then again, they’re not surprised.

When the Blue Springs couple started sending care packages  to troops in 2003, there was the slightest anticipation that it would become more than what just they could handle.

They were quite right.

Since 2003, the U.S. Troop Support Foundation has sent packages to more than 200,000 troops – and it appears to be getting bigger each year.

“I was military, my husband, too, many of our family members were,” Linda said. “We just feel like it’s the right thing to do.”

The couple’s son, Joshua, got his orders in December 2002. He would be part of one of the first U.S. Marine battalions going into Iraq in March 2003. Having served in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam era, Linda knew the severity of the mission.

But like most parents, she wasn’t willing the accept the reality that her son, her only son, may not return home.

“I remember asking and being told there was that possibility,” she said. “I just bawled. I cried all the way home.”

And then she recalled a vivid memory of discovering discarded boxes of rations while in the military in the 70s.

“It was just being wasted, all those supplies,” she said. “All of it was just being wasted, all the stuff stuck in one place and not being of any use.”

So she approached her son’s battalion commander shortly before he left and asked for addresses, locations of where her son would be.

“I told him we wanted to do something or I’d end up in a rubber room.”

It wasn’t easy; addresses and locations were forbidden, but Linda kept calling, kept pleading. It must have worked: a list of 131 addresses was presented to her under strict orders to not share the information.

“At that point, people began to show a lot of support, asking what it was they could do to help, what they could send.”

That year, they served more than 187 Marines.

When Joshua returned home in October 2003, injured after a hatch had struck him in the head, the family thought it was done. Then he got additional orders: February deployment for Afghanistan.

Working with a Blue Springs organization who understood nonprofit establishment and tax arrangements, the foundation would eventually become official in 2006.

It’s been non-stop since.

The foundation, comprised of about 30 volunteers, now has about 8,000 troops on their list. In addition, the foundation also helps local families with financial and domestic difficulties while family members are overseas.

“We’ll help with electric bills, gas bills, but we don’t give out the money directly,” she said. “We help with home repairs, too. We get information and try and find a contractor who will donate.

On Dec. 5, the couple plan on being at the Blue Springs Hy-Vee to solicit the public in paying the $11.95 postage for one box to be sent overseas.

She urged anyone interested in giving to the foundation to visit to read the full list of items in need or call Linda at 224-4729.

The Web page is loaded with information, including  photographs and troop letters, contact information to volunteer and a schedule of upcoming events. There are links to military sites and addresses to support groups for parents and spouses.