PYONGTAEK, South Korea — When Army Pvt. Jessica South first heard of the tsunamis that wrought havoc across South Asia in late December, she felt an immediate urge to somehow do something from her duty station in Taegu, South Korea.

More than 130,000 were killed after an earthquake triggered giant tidal waves that devastated coastal regions across South Asia. A massive international relief effort quickly got going, one that saw a large involvement by the U.S. military. Even some U.S. troops based in South Korea were put on stand-by for possible relief missions.

South, 20, a preventive medicine specialist with the 154th Medical Detachment at Camp Walker in Taegu, soon figured out what she could do: Organize a clothing collection drive.

“I was just kind of overwhelmed” by the disaster, South said. “I never heard of anything like this before, and when I was watching the news and looking at pictures online, it was just heartbreaking. Because I saw lots of people crying … mourning for the people they lost.”

Since the drive began about three weeks ago, donors have given more than 300 items of clothing and about 50 pairs of shoes, South said.

“I’ve got so much stuff,” she said. “I’ve got lots of little kid clothes, ’cause pretty much everybody’s donated kids’ stuff. I’ve got lots of jackets, I’ve even got nice suits, lots of shirts … lots of jeans and shorts.”

South’s hope that the drive would spread to other installations on the peninsula also is moving forward.

Spc. James Partch, South’s friend, said he will set up a clothing donation box inside his office at the 38th Medical Detachment headquarters, Building 1112, on Camp Coiner.

Prospective donors can contact Partch at DSN 724-6276.

South says there’s still time for more.

Those wanting to donate clothes or help set up a collection point on a military installation can phone South at DSN 764-3964, or visit Building 328 at Camp Walker.

For a time, it seemed unclear how South could get the clothing to the victims.

But she soon had her solution. At the Camp Walker Chapel, where she attends Protestant services, she heard that a mission trip called “Operation Love Thy Neighbor” would go to Thailand. The group said they’d take the clothes when they go early next month.

But South said she plans to continue collections even after that.

“When I found out the church was going, that was perfect,” she said. “I know the people that are taking the clothes, and I know that they’re gonna get there just fine.”

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