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WASHINGTON — To give troops in Iraq some of the comforts of home, Nicole Vargas has been sending care packages filled with candy, cookies and notes of encouragement.

But she didn’t mean to send her wedding ring.

And she’d like it back.

The 33-year-old from Roswell, N.M., lost her brand-new ring while mixing candy into care packages the week of July 25. Before she realized it had fallen off, the boxes were out the door and headed overseas.

“I’m over the crying part now,” she said. “My husband was upset at first, since it was a gift for our 16th wedding anniversary, but now he’s just kidding me. He keeps telling our friends he’s going to ship me over there.”

Vargas has been sending care packages to troops since 2003, when a pair of friends were deployed to the country. She renamed her operation the Roswell Rocha and Vargas Adopt-a-Soldier program after one of them, Marine Sgt. Moses D. Rocha, was killed during a mission on Aug. 5, 2004.

“My father was a Vietnam veteran, and my grandfather served in the Korean War,” she said. “I heard stories about how they were treated harshly when they came home, and I wanted to make sure our troops now didn’t feel that way.”

Vargas said the care packages usually consist of eye drops and aspirin, along with snacks. Family and friends from the neighborhood usually help pay for postage.

Now, they’re all calling to tease and console her. Vargas said less than a week after telling friends about the accident she has received calls from everyone in town, and a number of requests from national news and talk shows.

But what she is really hoping for is to get her ring back.

Vargas doesn’t know which unit the last shipment was headed to, since she mails them to troops and units listed by other local charities. But she is sure the box with the expensive ring inside is headed to a unit with New Mexico ties, possibly based out of Camp Pendleton, Calif.

She’s optimistic a sharp-eyed servicemember will spot the jewelry before “ripping apart” the goodie bag, and promised an extravagant care package to the kind soul who sends the ring back.

But even if it doesn’t get returned, Vargas promises she’ll keep sending out the care packages.

“This has just got me going even more,” she said.


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