While Army Staff Sgt. Madonna Tartt was talking with fellow students at a training course in Korea last spring, she picked up a good deal of insight into the hardships of troops in the desert.

The training was the basic-level course for noncommissioned officers, and nearly all her classmates had served in Iraq or Afghanistan.

One of the things she heard from them was how tough it can be for troops in Southwest Asia to make a phone call home to family or friends. Tartt hit on an idea: Why not hold a donation drive in which soldiers from her detachment would ask people to donate phone calling cards for troops in Iraq?

“When having casual talks with my classmates about how it was over there, the thing that kept coming up over and over again was having the ability to call home,” said Tartt, platoon sergeant with Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, Area IV Support Activity, at Camp Henry in Taegu, South Korea.

“Since not all of the units have satellite phones, it is more difficult for some soldiers to make calls to their friends and family.”

Soon, soldiers from the detachment were at the Camp Walker post exchange, soliciting phone card donations.

“I think it will bring morale up over there,” said one of the soldiers, Spc. Brandon Hildreth. “It is good for the soldiers to know that people care about them.”

And, Tartt thought, to further boost troop morale, why not ask members of the local military community to sign a holiday greeting card addressed to the troops? That way, when soldiers received calling cards, they’d also receive the more personal touch of a greeting card.

Tartt got in touch with Chester Hires, exchange business manager for the Army and Air Force Exchange Service Southern Exchange. He in turn contacted someone at a greeting card company in Cleveland. The firm donated 1,000 holiday cards.

“It has been awesome,” said Tartt. “I didn’t expect this much support. The community has really responded and everybody in the unit is contributing to make this successful.”

“This is great because my husband is over there,” said Faye Hobson, a teacher at Pusan American School in Pusan. “It’s exciting for them to receive things from people back home.”

The troops were planning to mail out the cards Monday, said Galen Putnam, a spokesman for the Area IV Support Activity in Taegu.

It could not be immediately learned just how many phone cards and greeting cards were to be mailed off on Monday, Putnam said.

“Staff Sgt. Tartt has shown remarkable initiative in seeing a need,” said Capt. Matthew Bowman, detachment commander.

“The soldiers are not getting calling cards there, so meeting that need as well as showing some support and caring for the holiday season is very meaningful,” Bowman said. “Besides getting a calling card, the soldiers will also see that other soldiers, civilians and families are thinking of them and wishing them the best during the holiday season.”

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign up to receive a daily email of today's top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign Up Now