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Volunteers observe Veterans Day by making soldiers care packages

A cadet looks over her friend wrapped up flag as Veterans JROTC programs celebrate Veterans Day Victory Monument 35th

A cadet looks over at her friend wrapped up in a flag as Veterans and JROTC programs celebrate Veterans Day at the Victory Monument, 35th & King Drive. Monday, November 12, 2012. I Brian Jackson~Sun-Times

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Updated: December 14, 2012 6:17AM

They’re made with markers and crayons, drawn on construction paper and postcards.

And the messages are simple: “Thank you and come home safe.”

And, “I hope you guys are all right.”

They were piled in boxes Monday in Union Station’s Great Hall, drawn by children like Tyler Mansker, of New Lenox, in observance of Veterans Day. He folded his paper to make a card and drew an American flag on the front. Inside he wrote, “Thank you for fighting.”

Roberto Montano, a medic who served in the Army from 1990 to 1998, remembers receiving care packages when he was serving overseas. He said troops would playfully fight over notes inside like the ones from Tyler. He said they remind soldiers of home.

“This was gold,” Montano said. “Way more important than anything else.”

Now Montano works for Fifth Third Bank. His colleagues assembled care packages nearby while he and Tyler spent Monday morning writing notes to soldiers serving overseas.

Their messages will be tucked into the packages along with staples such as canned chili and ravioli, ramen noodles and tuna; some sugary sweets, and even athletic socks.

“Socks are something they go through like crazy,” said Barbara Matsukes, spokeswoman for the Heart of a Marine Foundation.

That foundation, led by Roy and Georgette Frank, of Elk Grove, has assembled care packages for soldiers for years and helps Fifth Third with its program. The Franks started their foundation in memory of their son, Lance Cpl. Phillip Frank, who was killed in action in April 2004 while serving in Iraq.

They’ve surveyed troops to find out exactly what they want and need in care packages, Matsukes said.

As important as the chili, tuna, ravioli or even lollipops might be, Roy Frank said it’s special for soldiers to know people back home are thinking about them.

He said a note from a child — one his son never knew — was found among Phillip Frank’s personal effects. It came in a care package.

“It was just a schoolchild,” Georgette Frank said.

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